From Palestrina to Hula

Yesterday I got up at 6:00 (on a Saturday), walked through the absolutely pouring rain to the MRT, and went to the Esplanade Theaters to see a group of six men perform Gregorian chants.  That’s a crazy way to start the weekend, but at least 150 other people were there doing it with me.  And the music was beautiful.

IMG_1856This group, Schola Cantorum Sancti, was performing chants for the Octave of Easter as part of the Tapestry of Sacred Music festival being hosted by the Esplanade.  This festival had offerings that ranged from a group chanting Quasidah (Islamic devotional poetry) …


… to the Mahasha Ram and the Meghwal Singers of Rajasthan (from the village of Chhatangadh in northern India) singing traditional bhakti poetry:

They were a huge hit.  And Singaporeans famously love anything that’s free, so all of this was incredibly well attended.

The Esplanade — the building that looks like two durians — is a sprawling set of spaces that include multiple theaters, studios, a mall (this is Singapore, after all), and a rooftop garden:


Just inside those windows, I took my first hula class!  It’s something I should have done when I lived in Hawai’i — the hula is a dance better suited to younger hips and knees — but I had a great time.


The troupe performed out in the courtyard later that night:


I also attended a guided meditation session and then went to see a trio of women called La Voix Medievale perform motets, lullabies, and love songs from medieval Europe.

As a side note, every single troupe I saw performing sacred music was single-sex.  I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising — most religions have segregated worshippers by sex in some way for thousands of years. There’s also a stereotypical divide between the sexes in this display, which I found at an instrument store in the Esplanade mall:


Still, I have a nostalgic fondness for Smurf figurines — they bring back memories of a wonderful, tiny toy store that used to be just a few blocks from my house in my hometown of in Hamden, Connecticut.


There was down time between performances, so I did a little wandering.  I always like it when I find unexpected things in Singapore.  I passed by this group of people who were being trained by members of the Singapore military to march in formation (the guy in fatigues on the left was yelling a lot about elbows).  I have no idea why they’re carrying flags in Pan-African colors.


I also wandered by this memorial to the Singaporean victims of the Japanese occupation during World War II:


I took an early evening break to have a drink at Anit:Dote, a fancy bar that serves some of the best drinks I’ve had in Singapore.


If you’re ever there and want something refreshing, I highly recommend The Mariner’s Julep.

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