A Cappella in the Red Dot
On being surrounded

Posted by Derrick ( The leader and tenor of Acappuccino, a Singapore-based A Cappella group. He spends time teaching, reading, writing, and singing. He occasionally wishes he could still sing a decent Alto range like he used to. )
Date: 2014-02-09

I’m glad I had the chance to share a piece of my memory of the local A Cappella scene in Singapore – which is actually a very exciting start that lead to where I am today. I’m breaking the story into a few shorter sections, the start being a look back at the short history when I first got to know about the “underground” movement that is now sweeping the population.

I remembered when I first heard an A Cappella group. Not a quintet from a bigger mass of a choir singing an arrangement for five voices, but a more stylish and polished group of singers brought together with a message in their song.

Not that it’s a feat, but then I was in a state of amazement by the execution of voices blending together and the energy in the performers. There I was, a few months shy of being 13 years old, and I was alone watching the sauve and charismatic Try-tone at the AKA A Cappella Festival concert series.

I never really got a chance after to hear much of it as the mainstream music scene didn’t really carry or promote anything of such. I really thought I was just that one time lucky, until my school finally got an A Cappella group to perform that my journey started.

I remembered I was the only “idiot” in the whole class who put my name on the sign up sheet for the newsletter. I also remembered being called to the staff room the next day.

It was really only my name and email on that list in the whole school. The teacher, who was my Geography teacher then as well, shared that she didn’t want to send just one name, so I gamely told her that I would email the vendor.

The response the next day arrived, signed off by Angie, who eventually became a good friend of mine. I forgot what it was in Angie’s first response to me that started this obsession.

I hounded my music teachers, my choir instructor (gasp!), church friends and also older family friends who would/might have gotten their hands on tapes or cassettes and I found really good stuff – old AKA A Cappella albums, a national songs compilation CD, and also eventually the chance to watch Budak Pantai at the “Sing! Singapore” competition, held at the old World Trade Centre auditorium.

I received a Christmas compilation album (Mistletoe) for Christmas that year, and it was awesome sharing it around (until it got lost).

It was also an eye-opener to suddenly be in the know of the latest happenings through the newsletter. That was accompanied by the occasional personal emails and invites to watch The Notations, nanu, Tic Tac Tone, Vocaluptuous, amongst other local groups as well as foreign acts like The Swingle Singers, m-pact, The Real Group, The Idea of North and also the godfather of it all, Deke Sharon.

The local community would congregate at some point every month for the monthly Sunday Vocal Jam, which was also the setting for the annual Championships, which I’d attend to watch local groups battle it out at Mox Bar. The fact that it was a bar became central to a lot of rumours and plot thickeners during my college days, when I was barely legal to enter one.

In 2010, at the intermission of the International A Cappella Festival performance by their new team Coffee on Sunday, some of us caught up thought back and recalled our first meeting at Mox Bar through the A Cappella Championships.

The community is filled with interesting people, talented and all ready with a song in their hearts. Some provided loads to laugh with (or at), while some were really nice and generous with their stories. I remembered going for an A CappellaFest and I found myself next to a theatre full of screaming females when nanu performed a medley of Destiny’s Child songs.

Well, all these while I was singing in my school choir, as well as with my church choir. It was not until about 8 years since I watched Try-tone that I formed a full A Cappella group with a few friends, which I will share in due time.



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