Grateful thanks to our organisers this year Tom Baarda and Ben Rymer for all their hard work in creating a fantastic trip for the group. The choir also expresses its gratitude to alumnus Vincent Lam for his help in facilitating the Singapore portion of the tour. This was a wonderful opportunity for the choir to visit some amazing parts of the world, and we thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the vibrant cultures, beautiful landscapes and welcoming people of both Singapore and Aotearoa.
See below for a report of the trip from Tom Baarda
This year the choir travelled on a tour of Singapore and New Zealand (North Island), singing in venues of all sizes, from major concert halls and cathedrals to parish churches. Tour organisers Tom Baarda and Ben Rymer would like to thank all those in Singapore and New Zealand who attended our concerts, bought CDs, fed us before concerts and hosted us in their homes.
Departing Heathrow on July 1st, our group of 25 (a mixture of undergraduates and graduates, Christ’s students, students from other colleges, and alumnae - as well as Director of Music Prof David Rowland) enjoyed the food and hospitality of Singapore Airlines. Upon arrival in Singapore, our 44th floor rehearsal room offered panoramic views of the Marina Bay district - a majestic backdrop for the first singing of the tour.
The next day we gave our first concert, in the grand Victoria Concert Hall; Prof Rowland made full use of the organ in a solo performance, and our encore (an a cappella arrangement of Teresa Teng’s popular hit The Moon Represents My Heart) was particularly well-received. The choir wishes to record its gratitude to alumnus Dr Finian Tan for his generous support of this concert; members of the choir enjoyed the chance to meet Dr Tan and his guests at receptions before and after the performance.
The choir enjoyed some downtime to explore Singapore’s many attractions: favourites included the Gardens by the Bay and its evening lightshow, and the beaches of Sentosa Island. Our second performance was at the Steinway Gallery, where the audience enjoyed an intimate concert of a cappella works and pieces accompanied by Organ Scholar Nicholas Edwards on one of the shop’s fine grand pianos, interspersed with solos from soprano Hannah Littleton, and Simon Fraser on the oboe. That evening, many of the choir took the opportunity of visiting the SkyBar at the top of the new Marina Bay Sands hotel, with unparalleled views over the Singapore skyline. The next morning we sang at two morning services at St George’s Anglican Church alongside the church’s own choir, and enjoyed the chance to meet alumni and parishioners between the services.
Our week in Singapore was a great experience of this very diverse and multifaceted city. Sincere thanks are due to alumnus Vincent Lam for organising our week in Singapore and being so generous with his time in making us feel welcome. After three performances and plenty of rehearsal time to polish our repertoire for upcoming concerts, it was time to say goodbye to Singapore - and to Prof Rowland, who returned to the UK at the end of the week; Simon Fraser and Laura Dunkling (both choral scholars and Christ’s music graduates) took over the conducting of rehearsals and concerts for our two weeks in New Zealand.
We began with three concerts in Auckland: at St Matthew-in-the-City in the centre of town, and St Peter’s, Onehunga and St Luke’s, Remuera in the suburbs. We would like to thank members of these churches’ congregations (and many others over the two weeks) who hosted us in their homes during our stay; this is essential for the viability of the tour, but also makes our visits much more meaningful, with the opportunity to get the insider view of places we visit from those who live there.
Our first coach journey of the tour took us to Hamilton, where we sang at Waikato Cathedral. The choir appreciated the warm welcome we received throughout the day, and a highlight of the tour for many was the post-concert reception hosted at the home of David and Peter Lord Cowell (https://www.willowbrookpark.co.nz); Peter is a Cambridge alumnus who sang as a boy with the father of bass Sam Kittle. The appreciation seemed to be mutual, with one reviewer likening the concert to ‘complete aural ambrosia’.
Following this, we travelled up to the Bay of Plenty, to give two concerts that were ‘firsts’ for the choir. On a rainy evening in Whakatane we performed to an Anglican-Methodist Church that was packed to the rafters, and we enjoyed better weather the next day to climb the eponymous mountain before our concert at St Peter’s, Mount Maunganui; some choir members even went for a bracing swim in the Pacific!
After six concerts in as many days (and, for some, a captivating all-night Cricket World Cup final), we were now ready to fully appreciate our day off, which we spent in the scenic geothermal area of Rotorua. Activities included mountain biking, hiking, bathing in natural hot pools, and visits to the local Māori church. Many thanks to the hosts from St Luke’s church who gave up their time to show us around on our day off and before our concert at the church the following evening.
Rejuvenated by our break, we entered with renewed vigour into the second half of our tour, when once again there were six consecutive days of concerts. In Taupo, we expended some of our new-found energy in the annual football match pitting the two sides of the choir against each other. Following extensive negotiation over Organ Scholar Nicholas Edwards, Decani won the advantage of his college league experience for their team; unfortunately they were unable to carry this victory over to the match itself. After a game more closely-fought than in recent years, Cantoris won the day 3-1. All competitive spirit was laid to rest for our concert that evening at St Andrew’s church.
The drive down to Hawke’s Bay took us through some dramatic scenery before our arrival in Napier, constructed in art deco style after an earthquake in 1931. Organist Edward Lilley relished the chance to use Waiapu Cathedral’s organ, one of the largest in New Zealand, to accompany a magnificent performance of Parry’s I Was Glad. The cathedral choir took the choir out for a drink after the concert.
The following day, in another ‘first’ for the choir, we performed to a large and appreciative audience at St Peter’s, Palmerston North. Sales of the choir CDs were especially popular here, including of our most recent release, As a seed bursts forth. This records music by Annabel Rooney, an alumna of Christ’s, several of whose works we performed across New Zealand. This year, it was especially pleasing to perform the work of Annabel Rooney, and other music by women, given the prominent role played by members of the choir in this year’s Cambridge Female Composers Festival. We ended our tour in Wellington, with concerts at St James, Lower Hutt, and St Peter’s on Willis.