Alphabet Series: B is for Garden

The Sing Song Club
The Arts House
Saturday (19 May 2012)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 21 May 2012 with the title "Blooming thrills".

The Sing Song Club has firmly nailed its colours to the mast. Its raison d’etre is to further the appreciation for art songs by presenting as wide a variety of songs as possible in its well-planned recitals. B is for Garden is the second such programme in its ambitious 26-part Alphabet Series. Its small audience was treated to a delightful hour and a half of 28 songs in five different languages.

Rebecca Li and Adrian Poon sang all of the solo songs, ably accompanied by pianist Shane Thio.

Lest one accuses its leader tenor Adrian Poon of being unable to spell properly, this ingenious garden-theme programme was inspired by blossoms, blooms, birds and bees, just to name but one bug. The beloved British bard of lyrical beauty Roger Quilter was represented by no less than seven songs; his melodies breathed a freshness and vitality that was hard to dislike. There were four duets, opening with Blossom Time and The Starlings, where Poon and soprano Rebecca Li were respectively paired with alto Ng Sheh Feng to delicious effect.

The German lieder were reserved for Li, whose bright-eyed and youthful ardour in Mahler’s Fruhlingsmorgen(Spring Morning) and Ablösung in Sommer (Change in Summer), and Hugo Wolf’s Die Gärtner (The Gardener) and Schumann’s Die Lotosblume (Lotus Blooms) were matched by excellent and idiomatic pronunciation. Her sung French, for contributions by Emmanuel Chabrier and Reynaldo Hahn, was no less vivid.

Rebecca hams it up for Adrian in William Penn's The Honeysuckle and the Bee.

Poon, who weighed in with 16 songs, was the most versatile, equally at home with Canteloube, Rorem, Britten, Ireland. Guastavino and Marx. He was also entrusted with three of four songs by local composers, including two World Premieres. Benjamin Lim’s My Lady’s Finger, set to texts garnered from the leisure and gardening pages of The Sunday Times, insinuated with several Freudian double entendres which Poon delivered with zest.

Alto Ng Sheh Feng (right) lent a supporting role for a number of duets.

In Wong Chee Yean’s To Daffodils, a deliberately darker hued approach was taken, well supported by pianist Shane Thio’s rich chord-laden accompaniment. For Zechariah Goh Toh Chai’s Flower, the seamless melody in C minor was intoned in Hainanese! Kelly Tang’s The Daffodils, with Wordsworth’s words sung by both ladies, ambled from the English pastoral tradition into a flight of fancy with a quote from Ravel’s Bolero thrown into the mix.

When the audience and singers are enjoying themselves, the evening breezed through effortlessly. The missionary zeal of The Sing Song Club deserves a wider audience. Its next concert E for English Excursion takes place at the same venue on 7 July. Be sure to come.

All the performers take a bow.

Origami blossoms. birds and butterflies sprinkled all round The Living Room lent a nice touch.