His musical journey has been characterised by acclaim but a magnum opus by this homegrown choral composer and conductor revolves around an appreciation of choral music that he wants to nurture in others.
For that purpose, Darius Lim — the only Singaporean composer whose works are published internationally by Edition Peters, the same publisher behind Bach, Beethoven and Mozart — started Voices of Singapore (VOS) in March 2019.
“I want to bring people together through music. I have travelled to many countries for performances and competitions, and learnt that music transcends differences in race, language and religion,” he says.
A non-profit, VOS comprises different choral groups. Besides one for men’s, ladies’, multinational and special needs, it also has a non-auditioned community choir. Of the last, Lim feels it can help to further push choral singing as all-inclusive. Eventually, he wants VOS to not just grow into a platform where members can experience different genres of music, but into an ecosystem where members can support one another as well.
There’s even a Dementia Prevention Research Choir. In 2015, Lim was the head programmer for this research project — a collaboration between NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music — to examine how choral singing can help delay onset of the illness. Some of the original members are still involved in the choir.
“Through VOS, I want to help build a singing Singapore by encouraging people from all walks of life to sing. From several singers, we’ve grown by a few thousand. I feel invigorated knowing and seeing how music positively impacts lives,” he says.
In fact, the Singapore Virtual Choir was started to foster solidarity and unity among Singaporeans during the Covid-19 pandemic. One member was quarantined due to exposure to the coronavirus, while several had to spend time away from their families.
Shares Lim: “With many of our performances cancelled, we got thinking about how to sustainably keep people together and help Singaporeans reconnect with their families. That was how the idea came about.”
That music video for Home… wow.
When we asked for submissions in March, we were expecting 150 at most but we ended up with 2,000 sign-ups! We worked over five days with little sleep in between to pull together 900 singers for the music video. Seeing the incredible support and passion of Singaporeans from all over the world further motivated us to see the project through. The day before it launched in April, when everyone was looking at the final draft, some of us were tearing.
How has this project inspired you to take VOS post-pandemic?
This virtual choir reflects our mission and vision to bring people together through music. It shows how, by making choral music accessible to all, we can even reach out to Singaporeans living outside of the country but who want to come together to sing. The Covid-19 pandemic taught us the importance of diversity, flexibility and creativity. We have had to find a different way to communicate — online, where we couldn’t do much singing as a group. Instead, we focus on improving individual skills; this has opened up a new dimension to choral music for our singers and for VOS. Another example is VOS Festival 2020, which takes place 1 August to 6 September. Unlike past years, where we watched performances live at Chijmes Hall, we’re exploring a different format for this year’s edition. It features a decade’s best performance from each choir — on video, of course.
What do you listen to when trying to get out of a bad patch?
Since I’m a pianist, I love pieces by Rachmaninoff, Liszt and Chopin. Enya’s music also helps me calm down, as well as songs like If We Hold On Together and When You Believe. The only genre I don’t get is heavy metal — all that screaming can harm your vocal chords!
This is part of our series on super positivity spreaders. For the full story, click here.
This story first appeared in the June 2020 issue of A Magazine.