SYC Ensemble Singers



The SYC Ensemble Singers, formerly known as the Singapore Youth Choir (SYC), is an award-winning and well-travelled amateur choir established in 1964.1 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 cities such as Melbourne and Manila.2 In recent years, the SYC has been instrumental in promoting Asian choral music through commissions and programming.3 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
The SYC was started by the Ministry of Education as a combined school choir in 1964,4 and its members were drawn from the various school choirs in Singapore.5 Its first conductor was Benjamin Khoo.6 In 1967, David Lim took over as conductor, a role he held till 1986.7


In 1968, the Young Musicians’ Society was constituted under the Ministry of Education and the choir came under its auspices.8 In 1972, the choir made its first overseas trip when it participated in the Tees-side International Eisteddfod.9 The trip was part of the Young Musicians’ Society efforts to give young musicians international exposure. The choir came in fourth.10 Two years later, the choir competed at the International Eisteddfod in Llangollen, Wales.11 The choir came in first at the youth section, making them the first Singaporean choir to win at an international choral competition.12 The competition was also their first win.

In 1979, the Young Musicians’ Society and the Singapore Youth Choir moved out from the Ministry of Education’s extra-curricular activities centre.13 The choir practiced at various locations until the Young Women's Christian Association offered their premises.14 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.15 The society’s new residence at Waterloo Street was named the YMS Arts Centre.16

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.17 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.18 To better reflect the age of its members and its new music direction, the Singapore Youth Choir was renamed the SYC Ensemble Singers in 2004.19 Its current director is the National Arts Council’s Young Artist Award recipient and Cultural Medallion Recipient  Jennifer Tham.20

Performances and Achievements
The choir has performed on many occasions both locally and abroad.21 In Singapore, they have staged concerts and performed at local festivals,22 broadcasting stations, community projects, private and state functions such as the President of Singapore’s Annual Reception and the first ASEAN-European Ministers Conference,23 the choir has travelled to neighbouring and far-flung countries such as Wales, Malaysia, Manila,24 Melbourne, and Spain.25


The choir has also worked with renowned musicians such as Laszlo Heltay, Eric Ericson, and Jeremy Jackman.26

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,27 and vocal soundtracks for national events like National Day celebrations and Sing Singapore campaigns.28

Among their many achievements, the choir won first prize again in the Youth Choir section at the Welsh International Eisteddfod at Llangollen in 1989,29 first prize in the Light Music section at the International Koorfestival in Holland in 1991,30 and second prize in the Folk Music section at the International Music Festival of Cantonigros in Catalonia, Spain in 2000.31

Contributions
In recent years, the SYC has been instrumental in promoting Asian choral music through commissions and programming.32 Some of the Singaporean composers with whom they have worked include Leong Yoon Pin,33 Phoon Yew Tien, Joyce Koh34 and Elaine Chan.35


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.36

Timeline37
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, Wales.
1977: First prize in the Youth and Open choir competitions, Singapore Festival of Arts.
1979: Participated in the Australian Youth Music 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: Moved out from the Ministry of Education's Extra-curricular Activities Centre.
1983: Lim Yau took over as conductor.38
1983: Participated in the Third International Choral Festival in Manila.
1984: Performed in Kuala Lumpur and Kelang.
1984: Participated in the Cleveland Inter-TIE, Middlesborough.
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.39
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.40
2000: Excellence for Singapore Award by the Singapore Totalisator Board.
2004: Renamed as the SYC Ensemble Singers.
2007: Participated in the 39th Tolosa Choral Contest, Tolosa, Spain
2010: First place in the contemporary category of the 58th Concorso Polifonico Internazionale, Arrezo, Italy.
2011: Top prize in Adult Secular Music and Adult Sacred Music categories, and Festival Grand Prix at the 7th International Choir Festiival, Mundus Cantat Sopot, Poland
2014: Participated in the 46th Tolosa Choral Contest, Tolosa, Spain.



Authors
Marsita Omar & Joy Loh




References
1. Ng, Y. F. (1999, March 18). Memories and music with sparkle and precisionThe Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Wei, P. (1983, January 11). Choir makes it through the rain. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Tom, K. (2004, December 16). A jazzed-up MassThe Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Choir that loves going to X-tremes. (1999, December 20). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.; Koh, T. (Eds.) (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 502. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
5. Lee, H. S. H. (Ed.). (2014). This song of mine: The SYC Ensemble Singers celebrates 50 years. Singapore: Singapore Youth Choir Limited, p. 10. (Call no.: RSING 784.0605957 THI); Wee, L. (2000, August 5). Give them a big hand, folksThe Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Tan, S. E. (2004, February 26). Hark! A new nameThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Koh, T. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 502. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
7. Koh, T. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 502. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
8. Seah, L. (1997, October 11). Young voices reach homeThe Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.; Koh, T. (Eds.) (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 502. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
9. SYC Ensemble Singers (2013). Historia. Retrieved June 10, 2016 from http://www.syc.org.sg/#historia
10. SYC Ensemble Singers (2013). Historia. Retrieved June 10, 2016 from http://www.syc.org.sg/#historia
11. Koh, T. (Eds.) (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 502. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
12. Koh, T. (Eds.) (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 502. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
13. Seah, L. (1997, October 11). Young voices reach homeThe Straits Time, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chou, C. (Interviewer). (1994, April 11). Oral history interview with David Lim Kim San [Transcript of cassette recording no. 001471/6/3, p. 1]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline; Chou, C. (Interviewer). (1994, April 11). Oral history interview with David Lim Kim San [Transcript of cassette recording no. 001471/6/4, p. 2]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
14. Seah, L. (1997, October 11). Young voices reach homeThe Straits Times, p. 8; Wei, P. (1983, January 11). Choir makes it through the rain. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Seah, L. (1997, October 11). Young voices reach homeThe Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Seah, L. (1997, October 11). Young voices reach homeThe Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. SYC Ensemble Singers (2013). Historia. Retrieved June 10, 2016 from http://www.syc.org.sg/#historia
18. Wei, P. (1983, January 11). Choir makes it through the rain. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Tan, S. E. (2004, February 26). Hark! A new nameThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Koh, T. (Eds.) (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 502. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
20. Koh, T. (Eds.) (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 502. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
21. Kumar, M. R. (1989, July 17). Youth Choir’s triumphant tuneThe Straits Times, p. 21; Tan, S. E. (2004, February 26). Hark! A new nameThe Straits Times, p. 4; Wei, P. (1983, January 11). Choir makes it through the rain. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Kumar, M. R. (1989, July 17). Youth Choir's triumphant tuneThe Straits Times, p. 21; Tan, S. E. (2004, February 26). Hark! A new nameThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Lee, H. S. H. (Ed.). (2014). This song of mine: The SYC Ensemble Singers celebrates 50 years. Singapore: Singapore Youth Choir Limited, pp. 50–53. (Call no.: RSING 784.0605957 THI)
24. Wei, P. (1983, January 11). Choir makes it through the rain. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. SYC Ensemble Singers (2013). Historia. Retrieved June 10, 2016 from http://www.syc.org.sg/#historia
26. SYC Ensemble Singers (2013). Historia. Retrieved June 10, 2016 from http://www.syc.org.sg/#historia
27. SYC Ensemble Singers (2013). Historia. Retrieved June 10, 2016 from http://www.syc.org.sg/#historia
28. Lee, H. S. H. (Ed.). (2014). This song of mine: The SYC Ensemble Singers celebrates 50 years. Singapore: Singapore Youth Choir Limited, p. 27. (Call no.: RSING 784.0605957 THI)
29. Kumar, M. R. (1989, July 17). Youth Choir's triumphant tuneThe Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Koh, T. (Eds.) (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 502. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
30. S'pore Youth Choir hits a winning note. (1991, July 12). The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Wee, L. (2000, August 5). Give them a big hand, folks. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Tom, K. (2004, December 16). A jazzed-up MassThe Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Kumar, M. R. (1989, July 17). Youth Choir's triumphant tuneThe Straits Times, p. 21; Ng, Y. F. (1999, March 18). Memories and music with sparkle and precisionThe Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Choir that loves going to X-tremes. (1999, December 20). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Lee, H. S. H. (Ed.). (2014). This song of mine: The SYC Ensemble Singers celebrates 50 years. Singapore: Singapore Youth Choir Limited, p. 29. (Call no.: RSING 784.0605957 THI)
36. SYC Ensemble Singers (2013). Historia. Retrieved June 10, 2016 from http://www.syc.org.sg/#historia; Lee, H. S. H. (Ed.) (2014). This song of mine: The SYC Ensemble Singers celebrates 50 years. Singapore: Singapore Youth Choir Limited, p. 28. (Call no.: RSING 784.0605957 THI)
37. SYC Ensemble Singers (2013). Historia. Retrieved June 10, 2016 from http://www.syc.org.sg/#historia; Lee, H. S. H. (Ed.). (2014). This song of mine: The SYC Ensemble Singers celebrates 50 years. Singapore: Singapore Youth Choir Limited, pp. 50–53. (Call no.: RSING 784.0605957 THI)
38. Wei, P. (1983, January 11). Choir makes it through the rain. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. S'pore Youth Choir hits a winning note. (1991, July 12). The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. Wee, L. (2000, August 5). Give them a big hands, folksThe Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resource
Singapore Youth Choir. (1981).

(Call no.: RCLOS EPHE O919)



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 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
Music
Arts>>Music>>Voice
Choirs (Music)--Singapore
Arts>>Performing Arts>>Music