Music has always had a way of touching hearts and drawing people from different walks of life together. It was precisely that which brought Mr Raymundo Yu, Founder of Abilities Beyond Limitations and Expectations (ABLE), Friar Derrick Yap, OFM, Custos of the Custody of Saint Anthony (Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei) and local Catholic band Mystic Font together.
Mystic Font drew the attention of Mr Yu when he heard them at concerts organised by the Church of St Mary of the Angels (SMOTA) in Nov 2019, and by CANA The Catholic Centre at the Church of St Bernadette in Jan 2020.
So, in commemoration of ABLE’s 10th anniversary, Mystic Font was commissioned by ABLE to produce an album comprising eight original tracks featuring Fr Derrick on vocals. The album entitled ‘From The Start’ takes listeners on a journey of faith, hope and love.
What’s in a name? Mr Ethan Hsu, 42, executive producer and songwriter of Mystic Font, explained that the band’s name is meant to convey “a spiritual apprehension of truths that are beyond the intellect, driven by a deep sense of contemplation and self-surrender so as to be in unity with the Source of living water, all creation and humankind”. Indeed, he continued, “This album was driven by the Holy Spirit and everything fell into place even amidst the pandemic. We hope that the community can benefit from these songs.”
The other band members comprise Mr Jacob Teo, 39, who is a singer, songwriter and musician, and Ms Ruby Chen, 34, who is also a singer and songwriter. They all serve in the Te Deum Laudamus Choir at SMOTA.
“From the start”
The title track of the album was originally written for a Franciscan Young Adults pilgrimage to the Holy Land in Dec 2019. Fr Derrick wanted Mr Hsu to write a song that pilgrims could sing at the Sea of Galilee. As it turned out, the song which Mr Hsu ended up writing did not match the brief, but became instead ‘the’ song of the trip that touched the pilgrims’ hearts the most.
The duet features Fr Derrick and Ms Chen on vocals, and is sung as a dialogue between God and man. The lyrics speak of man’s perennial desire for purpose and belonging in life, and God’s response of unconditional and merciful love. “The song urges us to go to the beginnings of our existence, which is from God, who is Love,” said Fr Derrick. For Mr Yu, the title track was very apt for the album as it expresses the presence and the hand of God in ABLE’s work since its inception in 2010.
“All that I have”
Written specifically with the physically challenged and their caregivers in mind, the final number ‘All That I Have’ is an upbeat and contemporary piece: Mr Hsu wanted to write an anthem for them which they could call their own. He wanted a tune that could provide them with strength and consolation to overcome the challenges of daily life.
Mr Yu said, with much joy and satisfaction, that “This song is truly inspired by the Holy Spirit! It encapsulates the spirit of ABLE which believes that anyone who walks through the door – be it a beneficiary, caregiver or volunteer – is important, loved, has a purpose and is uniquely made by God.”
Pulling the album together
The circuit breaker brought about an unexpected but well-received period of silence and solitude for the band members. The time spent at home meant there was more time for band members to reflect and fine-tune pieces that had already been written, and also to compose new songs. Musical scores were also sent to musicians to record their instrumental parts.
When the circuit breaker was lifted, band members gathered with Fr Derrick to record the songs in the studio. This was an emotional experience, especially for Fr Derrick who poured his heart and soul into each piece. “I must admit, the band even prepared a ‘crying corner’ for me with a chair and boxes of tissue paper,” said Fr Derrick with a laugh.
Back to the future together
Fr Derrick underscored the importance of the laity in the work of evangelisation. He shared that no one is excluded from sharing the Good News of the Gospel with others and that each should harness their unique gifting from God to do so. He asked for more Catholics to support local Catholic talents as “A local Catholic voice or piece of art has twice the ability to speak to the Singaporean Catholic.”
Mr Hsu also expressed his desire to provide a platform for individuals or groups to share their talents with the community through music. He prays that more would come forward so that more lives may be touched. Indeed, Mr Yu believes that this is not the end, but the beginning, of many more projects to come. He hopes that this album brings not just comfort and consolation to listeners, but also encouragement and inspiration to all who want to serve and give back to the community and society.
Where to get the album
‘From The Start’ by Mystic Font is available in digital or CD format at www.inspiredcollectivemusic.com. Listen to the full interview on the Kopi Talk Podcast on the CatholicSG Radio app or radio.catholic.sg.