SYC Ensemble Singers


 

The SYC Ensemble Singers, formerly known as the Singapore Youth Choir (SYC), is an award-winning and well-traveled amateur choir established in 1964. The group began as a combined school choir under the Music Department of the Ministry of Education. In 1972, the SYC became the first Singaporean choir to compete at an international choral competition. Two years later, they came in first at the Youth Choir section of the Welsh Eisteddfod in Llangollen, making them the first Singaporean choir to win at an international choral competition. Since then, the choir has performed on numerous occasions in Singapore and other far-flung places such as Melbourne, Manila, Honolulu and Vancouver. In recent years, the SYC has been instrumental in promoting Asian choral music through commissions and programming. They have also been actively involved in the National Arts Council's Arts Education Programme for primary and secondary schools. In 2004, the choir was renamed the SYC Ensemble Singers to better reflect the age of its members and its new music direction.

History of the SYC
In the 1950s, some specialists at the Ministry of Education, who were also leaders with the Singapore Musical Society, introduced choral singing to some schools. An elite group of a capella singers emerged, leading to the establishment of the Singapore Youth Choir (now called the SYC Ensemble Singers) in 1964. The choir began as a combined school choir under the Music Department of the Ministry of Education, and its members were drawn from the various school choirs in Singapore. Its first conductor was Benjamin Khoo. In 1968, David Lim took over as conductor, a role which he held till 1986.

In 1969, the Young Musicians' Society was constituted under the Ministry of Education and the choir came under its auspices. In 1972, the choir made its first overseas trip when it participated in the Teesside International Eisteddfod. The trip was part of the Young Musicians' Society efforts to give young musicians international exposure. The choir was placed in fourth position. Two years later, the choir competed at the Welsh International Eisteddfod in Llangollen. The choir came in first at the youth section, making them the first Singaporean choir to win at an international choral competition. The competition was also their first win.

In 1981, the Young Musicians' Society and the Singapore Youth Choir moved out from the Ministry of Education's Extra-curricular Activities Centre. The choir practiced at various locations until the Young Women's Christian Association offered their premises. The choir was to settle into a permanent home only in 1997 when the Young Musicians' Society secured the use of three shop houses under the National Arts Council's Art Housing Scheme. The society's new residence at Waterloo Street was named the YMS Arts Centre.

In the same year, the Singapore Youth Choir became the only arts group to be named a President's Charity by the President of Singapore. In 2000, they were awarded the Excellence for Singapore Award by the Singapore Totalisator Board. Over the years, the membership of the choir had shifted from secondary and junior college students to undergraduates and young working adults. To better reflect the age of its members and its new music direction, the Singapore Youth Choir was renamed the SYC Ensemble Singers in 2004. Its current director is the National Arts Council's Young Artist Award recipient Jennifer Tham.

Performances and Achievements
The choir has sung on many occasions both locally and abroad. In Singapore, they have staged concerts and performed at local festivals, broadcasting stations, community projects, private and state functions such as the President of Singapore's Annual Reception, the 1st ASEAN-European Ministers Conference, the United States-Singapore Bilateral Talks and the Europe-Asia forum. Overseas, the choir has traveled to neighbouring and far-flung places such as Wales, Malaysia, Manila, Melbourne, Honolulu, Vancouver and Spain.

The choir has also worked with renowned musicians such as Laszlo Heltay, Eric Ericson, Jeremy Jackman and hosted the Gregg Smith Singers, Elmer Iseler Singers, Western Wind, Vienna Boys' Choir and the Tapiola Choir among others.

In 2000, they released their first album, Asian Choral Works 1, which contains all but one a cappella work. They have also recorded local and regional folk songs for UNICEF and the Asian Youth Ship, Asian choral music for broadcast companies such as the BBC, Bayerischer Rundfunk and Radio Sweden, and vocal soundtracks for national events like National Day celebrations and Sing Singapore campaigns.

Among their many achievements, the choir won first prize again in the Youth Choir section at the Welsh International Eisteddfod at Llangollen in 1989, first prize in the Light Music section at the International Koorfestival in Holland in 1991, and second prize in the Folk Music section at the International Music Festival of Cantonigros in Catalonia, Spain in 2000.

Contributions
In recent years, the SYC has been instrumental in promoting Asian choral music through commissions and programming. Some of the Singaporean composers whom they have worked with include Leong Yoon Pin, Phoon Yew Tien, Joyce Koh and Elaine Chan.

The choir has also led creative educational programmes on choral music for primary and secondary schools as part of the National Art Council's Art Education Programme. Some of the activities under the programme include giving lecture-demonstrations, holding workshops with school choirs, hosting a "Voice Station" at a music education fair, providing demonstration and "lead" choir at mass singing events organised for students.

The SYC has also lent their voices for charity events like World Hospice Day and the Sharity Christmas Street Carolling.

Timeline
1964 : Formation of the Singapore Youth Choir.
1968 : David Lim took over as conductor.
1969 : The SYC came under the aegis of the Young Musicians' Society.
1972 : Participated in the Teesside International Eisteddfod, Middlesborough.
1974 : First prize in the Youth Choir section, Welsh International Eisteddfod in Llangollen.
1977 : First prize in the Youth and Open choir competitions, Singapore Festival of Arts.
1979 : Participated in the Australian Youth Festival organised by the Melbourne Youth Music Council.
1980 : First visit to Malaysia. Gave goodwill concert at the University Kebamgsaan in Kuala Lumpur.
1980 : Won the Outstanding Choir Award at the Singapore Festival of Arts.
1981 : First performance with the SAF Music & Drama Company Orchestra.
1981 : Goodwill concert and tour to Manila and Baguio.
1981 : Moved out from the Ministry of Education's Extra-curricular Activities Centre.
1983 : Participated in the Third International Choral Festival in Manila.
1984 : Performed in Kuala Lumpur and Kelang.
1984 : Goodwill cum concert tour to France, Holland and England.
1984 : Participated in the Cleveland Inter-TIE, Middlesborough.
1986 : Gave performances in Honolulu, Disneyland and Vancouver.
1986 : Jennifer Tham took over as conductor.
1989 : First place in the Youth Choir section, second place in the Main Open competition, fourth place in the Folk Music section at the Welsh International Eisteddfod in Llangollen.
1989 : Guinness Stout Award for Effort, Singapore.
1991 : First place in the Light Music section, second place in the Youth Choir section, fourth place in the Open Mixed section at the International Koorfestival in Holland.
1996 : Staged concerts in Spain.
1997 : Moved into the YMS Arts Centre.
1997 : Chamber ensemble went to Manila to initiate the Singapore-Philippines Cultural Exchange.
1997 : Named President's Charity.
1998 : Second place in the Youth Choir section at the Welsh International Eisteddfod in Llangollen.
2000 : Second place in the Folk Music section at the International Music Festival of Cantonigros in Catalonia, Spain.
2000 : Excellence for Singapore Award by the Singapore Totalisator Board.
2004 : Renamed as the SYC Ensemble Singers.



Author
Marsita Omar



References
Koh, T. (Ed.) (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia (p. 502). Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN -[HIS])

Singapore Youth Choir. (1981).
(Call no.: RCLOS EPHE O919.v.1)

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Chee, F. (2005, December 17). Jingle sells, jingle sells. The Straits Times. Retrieved
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Choir that loves going to X-tremes. (1999, December 20). The Straits Times. Retrieved February 14, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Kumar, M. R. (1989, July 17). Youth Choir's triumphant tune. The Straits Times. Retrieved February 14, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Ng, Y. F. (1999, March 18). Memories and music with sparkle and precision. The Straits Times. Retrieved February 14, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Seah, L. (1997, October 11). Young voices reach home. The Straits Times. Retrieved February 14, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

S'pore Youth Choir hits a winning note. (1991, July 12). The Straits Times. Retrieved February 14, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Tan, S. E. (2004, February 26). Hark! A new name. The Straits Times. Retrieved February 14, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Tom, K. (2004, December 16). A jazzed-up Mass. The Straits Times. Retrieved February 14, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Wee, L. (2000, August 5). Youth choir wins award in international contest. The Straits Times. Retrieved February 14, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Wei, P. (1983, January 11). Choir makes it through the rain [Microfilm: NL 13885]. The Straits Times.

Xu, Y. C. (1986, May 12). Youth Choir prepares for overseas trip [Microfilm: NL 15439]. Business Times.

Youth choir wins award [Microfilm: NL 16794]. (1989, October 2). The Straits Times.

SYC Ensemble Singers (2008). SYC Ensemble Singers. Retrieved March 5, 2008, from http://www.syc.org.sg

Tan, S. E. (2008) Story of choirs in Singapore. Retrieved March 5, 2008, from http://www.nac.gov.sg (then click on Music > Local Directory > Choral Directory > Story of Choirs in Singapore).


The information in this article is valid as at 2008 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Arts>>Music>>Voice
Choirs (Music)--Singapore
Arts>>Performing Arts>>Music

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