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Saigon Choir members say classical music can be for everyone

Update: November, 25/2018 - 09:00
Each concert requires several months to practise. Photo courtesy of Sài Gòn Youth Orchestra’s fan page
Viet Nam News

By An Phương

HCM CITY – Classical music is difficult to listen to, many people say.  But the truth is, if it is performed creatively, it can bring joy to audiences, especially young people.

The Sài Gòn Choir is one of the outstanding groups that have brought classical music closer to the young public in HCM City.

The three-year-old group, which operates under the HCM City Music Conservatory, schedules about three classical music concerts with different themes every year.

Huỳnh Quang Thái, vocal coach at the conservatory, and leader of the choir, says it takes several months to practise for one concert.

“Most team members are students at the conservatory and each person has a different schedule,” he says, adding that they must have extensive musical skills.

Hoàng Huy, a sophomore at the conservatory, says that classical music cannot be performed carelessly.

“This is to retain audiences’expectations, especially those that are serious about this musical genre,” Huy says, adding that rehearsals and practice are essential to good performances.

Some hundred seats are sold at each concert, with tickets ranging from VNĐ100,000 to VNĐ400,000.

“Though I know a standard ticket might cost less than a movie ticket, and that we should charge more, we can’t do this because people wouldn’t come to the show,” choirmaster Thái says.

The amount of revenue gained on the group’s luckiest days is only enough to cover production costs of one concert.

“Sometimes we need to use money earned from other commercial shows to cover our losses at the concert,” he says.

However, all of the choir members are truly happy to be able to pursue what they genuinely love.

“To be able to perform is the greatest gift,” Thái says.

Nguyễn Tương Việt Tú, a group member who works both as a neurologist and artist, says: “Whenever I’m on stage, I feel ’alive’. And that’s the very moment that I don’t just ’exist’.”

To many people, especially youth, classical music can be difficult to relate to or understand.

However, to Thái and other classical music lovers, the genre is no different than others in that its melodies can lift people’s moods.

“It’s up to the listeners’ imagination to picture what is being played or sung. Keep that in mind, and it is much easier to ‘feel’ the music,” Huy says.

Interestingly, many soundtracks used for epic blockbusters use classical music.

“You might not notice it, but what you’ve heard and felt good about is mixed on the basis of this kind of music,” choirmaster Thái says. “I think it is not only the older generations or others who desire academic music.”

“Classical music cannot be performed carelessly,” many artists agreed.

To reach out to the young generation, the Sài Gòn Choir not only adds modern twists to classical tunes but also remixes trending or popular songs.

“We’ve covered some folk songs such as Qua Cầu Gió Bay, Say Something and The Moon Represents My Heart that have received positive feedback,” Thái says.

Many people do not expect a popular song to sound this way, so that has helped break people’s stereotypes about classical music.

That being said, remixing is just one of several ways to attract the audience. The group still performs purely classical pieces.

The Sài Gòn Choir’s Facebook fanpage also receives a lot of interest as they regularly post teasers about their upcoming performances.

“This was an intelligent move because I was able to experience the music before deciding to commit,” Thu Thảo, 21, says.

Ngọc Anh, a friend of Thảo, says: “I first knew about the Sài Gòn Choir three months ago when a friend of mine shared a short video in which the group sang my song.”

The choir mostly performs at the HCM City Music Conservatory.

“Since we do not have enough of a budget to rent another concert hall, and we require particular setups, we’re happy with our space so far,” Thái says.

Discussions are still being held over construction of a new theatre in HCM City’s Thủ Thiêm Peninsula. The Sài Gòn Choir, among several music groups, hope to be able to perform there without bearing a financial burden.

“We’ll never get tired of intense practices as long as we can be on stage and deliver what we’ve got to the crowd,” Thái says. – VNS

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