Clara Lai reviews a musical on how spiritual personalities across the centuries responded to God’s call
If Mother Teresa could just sing away all the problems of the world, how great that would be.
In a Dec 20 concert staged by the St Francis Xavier Youth Choir, a choir member acting as Mother Teresa comforted a child dressed in rags.
“Just rest now, don’t worry, I’m here to hold you, my little one, God loves you so, just like He told you,” she sang in a soothing voice.
But of course, everyone knows that the work Blessed Teresa of Kolkata did in her lifetime was far from easy. Halfway through the song, another choir member, dressed in a white robe and acting as Jesus, appeared and sang the same reassuring words back to her.
The melodious duet that followed, Just Rest Now, from American Fr Francis O’Brien’s musical Can You Hear Me Now?, was simply beautiful.
Denis Leong, the choir’s resident conductor, said he chose this musical, staged at St Joseph’s Institution (International) Chapel, as “it’s quite a good theme for our modern generation”. People today experience many “distractions and a lot of noise” and it is “not easy” to hear God’s voice, he said.
The two-hour production started with a voiceover of Singaporeans lamenting the irritations they face, such as having their food orders delayed or facing slow traffic on the roads. “I waited very long leh” was one complaint.
Then a different voice, apparently representing the voice of God said, “Hi. Remember me? I know it is tough to listen to me through all the distractions. Well, I hope I’ve caught your attention. My children, can you hear me now?”
The audience is then transported centuries back in time to see how familiar biblical characters answered God’s call for them – characters such as Abraham and Isaac, Angel Gabriel and Mother Mary, St Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa and even an angst-filled Judas.
Each soloist performed his or her part well with the choir producing a well-polished sound. The group’s clear enunciation of words and smooth changes of key between verses were particularly impressive.
At the end of the musical, the voice representing God speaks in a voiceover, “My child, we are coming to the end of our journey. I have brought you back to where we began. Please do not shut me out. You know where to find me, and you know how to find me.”
The choir sang six songs for the encore, including a graceful O Holy Night, which saw the sopranos hitting the high notes powerfully, and When You Believe from the 1998 animated movie, The Prince of Egypt.
To sum it all up, the heart-warming concert made for an inspiring Friday evening.
The St Francis Xavier Youth Choir was established in 1987, and has garnered numerous accolades on the international front. Its biggest choral achievement was from the Grand Prix St Petersburg (World Choir Festival) 2010 in Russia, during which it became the first Singaporean church choir to clinch three Gold awards.