Local amateur choir bags three golds at World Choir Games
Singapore's ONE Chamber Choir bags three golds at World Choir Games
Their supporters were all smiles, cheering on their compatriots and waving Singapore flags as the voices of ONE Chamber Choir soared.
Except this was not your typical choir concert, but the largest international choir competition in the world.
Home-grown amateur choir ONE eventually emerged a winner at the 10th edition of the biannual World Choir Games, which took place in Tshwane, South Africa, from July 4 to 14.
This year, there were more than 300 choirs from over 60 countries and regions.
ONE bagged three golds: It emerged category champion in the Mixed Chamber Choirs section placing first out of 12 choirs and was awarded two gold medals in the Musica Contemporanea and Pop Choirs categories.
Dr Michael Joseph Barrett, one of the artistic directors of the 10th World Choir Games, said in a statement: "ONE has mastered the art of truly connecting with the audience, making them feel something, (so) it is no surprise they were crowned World Champions.
"They truly deserve this honour and Singaporeans should be proud of these wonderful cultural ambassadors."
Under the baton of its conductor Lim Ai Hooi, ONE has gone from strength to strength since it was formed in 2009. Today, it is about 40-strong, with members aged between 20 and 45.
Ms Lim, 53, told The New Paper: "I really wanted (them)to experience that special feeling, to stand on stage at the World Choir Games and hear Majulah Singapura being played in a hall that seats 7,500 people.
"We felt so proud to be Singaporeans putting our country on the world stage.
"ONE hopes to continue putting Singapore on the map in the international choral scene, alongside other Singapore choirs, as we all strive for excellence while competing abroad."
On ONE's origins, Ms Lim - who has more than 20 years of experience in the local and international choral scene - said: "I wanted to provide my former students with a place where they could continue to sing and grow their voices after graduating from school.
"ONE is a labour of love for all of us. Sometimes, my members who are young parents will bring their spouses or children to practice."
Member Cherie Chai, a 30-year-old conductor who has been with ONE since its inception, told TNP: "Our participation in the World Choir Games was an eye-opener, especially for ONE's younger members, some of whom had their first experience travelling overseas for a choir competition."
She was part of the winning team and her trip to South Africa marks her sixth overseas trip with the choir, which has sent members to take part in competitions in Germany, Hungary and the Philippines.
Member Belle Ng, a 22-year-old undergraduate, has been with ONE since 2015.
Her journey as a chorister began when she joined Nanyang Girls' High School's choir in 2009 as a Secondary 1 student.
Miss Ng decided to divide her time between studying global studies at the National University of Singapore and singing in the soprano section.
Practice sessions are held at Goodman Arts Centre every Saturday afternoon, and in the lead-up to competitions, the choir will add another session on a weekday evening.
Said Miss Ng: "My commitment to ONE is not a burden. Hanging out and singing with my second family gives me a break from my daily routine."
ONE's next big gig will be a pop concert on Dec 16 at the Esplanade Recital Studio and marks the first time it will be performing a full pop repertoire.