Yazers Choir - Where Music Meets Joy (YAY!)
For those who have attended past BW Monastery’s events where there are stage performances, you may have had the chance to be serenaded by their sweet voices. Or you may simply have had a hundred questions sprung up in mind, likely in the same way as many of us in the audience, as we watched them sing beautifully in awe, wondering from where did this youthful group originated from, who they are, how did they learn to sing so beautifully….
Our Media team gets up close and personal in an exclusive Q&A “interview” with Yazers, the very first youth choir group in BW Monastery, and brings you answers to the many questions that everyone is eager to find out about the group.
1. Tell us more about yourselves. Who are Yazers?
We started out from just 6 BW Monastery’s youth-class Lamrim students who were interested in singing and decided to enter a national singing competition together. That was back in 2013. The competition required us to submit a group name, thus we came up with Yazers which is an acronym of the names of our first 6 members (You Yu, Amelia, Zhao Hong, Elisse, Raymond and Shu Qin). We termed our Mandarin name to be 乐者 as it sounded like the pronunciation of “Yazers” and we aspired to be a music group who will use music to create or bring forth positive karma.
Since then we have expanded and recruited many more music lovers from all walks of life including students, NSF, working professionals etc. aged from 17-29. Our big family currently consists of around 20-plus members.
2. How has Yazers’ music journey been? Share with us what you have been doing so far?
Yazers’ first major performance was in 2014 where with blinding courage, we decided to host our own concert at the Art House (四季之赞 – The Voice Within). Then, we did not have any formal music training and focused mainly on aspects such as highlighting our youthfulness and energy through singing, movement and dance. We were very inexperienced. For many of our members, it was also their first time performing on stage!
Retrospectively, it was a fruitful and interesting journey that allowed us to bond and learn more about ourselves. Unknowingly, the most special thing about that performance was that it helped us plant the seed to meet a very special person. Little did we know that the Venerable from Kong Meng San Monastery whom we invited, really liked our group’s concept but felt that we needed help to refine our voices. He thus introduced us to a renowned music teacher in Singapore, Mr Albert Tay, or who we call Teacher Albert.
(Short background: Teacher Albert is a famous music teacher in Singapore, teaching many professionals and school choirs. He is regularly invited to grace choir events and judge in singing competitions all around the world.)
It was truly a blessing to have met Teacher Albert. Despite his busy schedule, he agreed to teach and help us with our singing once every month. It was also around that time that our Executive Committee (Exco) made an important decision. Our Exco decided that we needed to prioritize the development of our voices first and to only add in dance moves after we had learnt the basic and proper way to sing. We knew this would be an unpopular choice amongst our audience, but it was necessary as we are first and foremost a “choir”.
So in late 2014, we began our journey with Teacher Albert and started to learn how to sing in parts ie. Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass. It was a huge challenge as we were unaccustomed to hearing different harmonies sung at the same time throughout a song. Another challenge we faced at the start was finding four-part arrangements of Insightful Praises as they were usually available only in two-parts. We resulted in having one of our more experienced member listen to a four-part arrangement of Insightful Praise song “Blissful Moments 幸福时刻” sung by 梦莲花文艺基金会 (Bliss and Wisdom’s Professional Choir in Taiwan) in a flash mob video they posted on Facebook, and tried to write out the score.
Our second four-parts Insightful Praise “Orchid of the Valley 觅幽兰”, was generously arranged by Teacher Albert. We took another 6 months of constant practicing before we were confident to perform the piece on Vesak Day in 2015.
From then on, we have been steadily progressing with the learning of other arrangements of Insightful Praises and healthy worldly songs. We also had the opportunity to be invited to perform at many events, even by external organizations. Some of our members were even selected to perform with Teacher Imee Ooi, a famous Buddhist musician, at her concert in May 2016. ️
3. What does Yazers hope to achieve? Any special intention for the youths of Spore?
Yazers’ motto is “Where Music meets Joy (*YAY*)…当音乐遇上了欢乐!”
️We are a group of youth voices formed in March 2013, seeking to re-ignite the love and passion for music among Singaporean youths.
In a highly cosmopolitan society like ours, we believe that music is the universal language capable of transcending all boundaries and differences.
With our love and zest for music and the arts, we envision Singapore to be more than just a concrete jungle, but a paragon of artistic exuberance and vibrancy!
4. Describe Yazers‘ music style and direction?
Our style of music is choral (choir). Our performance items include Buddhist songs and healthy worldly songs.
5. Tell us briefly what events have Yazers performed at so far?
We have performed at various dinner events for external organizations and for government bodies (close to 20 in total).
Our very first concert was “四季之赞 – The Voice Within” @ The Arts House in June 2014. We also performed at Teacher Imee’s “Sadhu for the Music @ The Esplanade in May this year.
6. Yazers performed beautifully at BWM’s first public concert “Joyous Rhapsody” in September this year, what sort of practice did Yazers put in for the concert? Any difficulties encountered and how were they overcome?
We practiced for about 2 months. Our biggest difficulty came in the form of prior performance commitments.
Before the performance of “Joyous Rhapsody” in September, we had been invited to perform for another Buddhist organization’s gala dinner event in July, and a CC National Day event in August. Each performance required us to learn different songs.
Therefore, we were really squeezed for time during our preparation for “Joyous Rhapsody”. Some of our members also experienced fatigue due to our hectic performance schedule. We tried our best however, we still had to change our song line-ups and simplified some of our arrangements for the concert performance.
7. How did Yazers decide on the final song selections for “Joyous Rhapsody”? What did Yazers hoped to bring to the audience?
We chose “The Gaze 凝眸” as we were mesmerized by the song’s beautiful melody and insightful lyrics since first hearing it last year. “Dream Lotus 梦莲花” was a song that Yazers had performed two years back. We chose this Insightful Praise as we could really connect with it. In fact, we were planning to perform a different arrangement of the Insightful Praise however, we did not manage to learn it in time unfortunately.
We had hoped to evoke in the audience, emotions for our Master Venerable Jih Chang and Teacher. We wished that such feelings of gratitude help to plant the cause to be free from sufferings, and to gain happiness through establishing connections with the Triple Gems
8. Was Yazers satisfied with your performance at “Joyous Rhapsody”? Describe how Yazers felt after the concert.
We felt that we could have definitely done better. There was so much more we wanted to present. However, we are also mindful not to forget to rejoice with the effort we have dedicated to make this performance possible!
The period of July to September was not easy for us and we were glad we pulled through. We now feel even more determined to practice harder and hopefully bring better performances to thank our audience for their support.
9. What do Yazers hope to achieve in future? Any immediate plans or other upcoming projects?
In the near future, we plan to –
- Hone our singing skills
- Present more challenging song pieces
- Recruit more members and grow the choir
Immediate projects will be “Master’s Remembrance Day” in end November and “Blissful Luncheon” in December.
We hope to stay together as a family and grow together, training and performing as Yazers, as our Master and Teacher’s disciples for a long long time to spread the teachings of the Buddha and the Bodhisattvas
10. Any final thoughts from Yazers?
Currently, though not perfect in terms of our voices, we have already improved by leaps and bounds and we strive to do even better. We have also started to slowly incorporate dance steps back into our performances, most notably in July 2016 during an event at Mahasukha Temple where we did a dance and song of Glee’s “Don’t Stop Believing”. Hopefully, we can showcase more of such items in future performances.
Looking back, our journey thus far has been of much joy, happiness and growth as a family. We have been blessed to meet many special people and garnered many amazing learning opportunities. We truly and sincerely appreciate all the help and support that we had received.
Lastly, a heartfelt rejoice to each and every single one of our members who have put in so much time and effort to make everything possible for Yazers.
They had sacrificed a lot and at times prioritized Yazers over many other important commitments. Many of our members joined without having any prior music background, only relying on their passion for music, supplication and dedication to the Triple Gems and sheer determination to pull through the hardship venturing into the unknown music field just to bring Insightful Praises to all.