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Conductor Jonathan Velasco leads the 108-member choir in Mei Ann Methodist Church, Miri.

by James TC Wong

MIRI – The 5th Methodist Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference (SCAC) Choral Festival was held at Mei Ann Methodist Church from Sep 13-16.

Jointly organized by the SCAC Board of Worship and Music and the Miri Methodist District Commission Board of Worship and Music, the focus of the event was to promote and raise the standard of choral singing in the Sarawak Methodist churches.

Coaching clinics on choral singing was conducted by Jonathan Velasco, a most-sought after choral conductor, clinician and adjudicator from the Philippines.

After four days of practice and rehearsing, the grand finale was held on Sep 16.

The evening commenced with a congregation singing followed by the Hananiah Youth Choir of Mei Ann Methodist Church presenting an anthem conducted by Bong Wui Choo, the Music Director of Miri Methodist District Commission Board of Worship and Music.

Rev. Dr. Lu Chen-Tiong, the Chairman of SCAC Board of Worship and Music, warmly welcomed the audience at the sanctuary of Mei Ann.

In his opening message, the good shepherd talked about the functions and importance of church choirs. “The role of the church choir is to lead congregation in singing, as well as to offer musical gifts to God on behalf of the congregation and to portray truth and theologies in singing. Furthermore, choir also gives different musical experiences to the congregation and it also plays an important role in mission,” he said.

The evening’s highlight was performance by the 108 choral singers conducted by Velasco.

Missa Brevis in F Major by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was the chosen piece. Written when Mozart was only 18 years old, this Mass is a wonderment of brevity and childlike simplicity of spirit.

The soloists were Lybia Su (Soprano), Ting Kee Ling (Alto), Wong Bak Zhen (Tenor), Bong Shin Sik (Bass) and Irene Lai (Pianist).

Lau Sing Hung, one of the participants shared on what she had learned from the choral singing clinic. “During the clinic, we learned from Velasco that singing whole-heartedly and naturally is the best. Also we often harbor the perception that the best vocalists are always standing at the front but our coach tells us that this is not true. The most important thing we need to do is to sing harmoniously to capture the essence of the music.”