Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Christmas Songs: Peter Low The Risen Christ Choir: Joyce Gan

I was searching for an article about Peter Low with The Risen Christ Choir and chanced upon this article. It appeared in THE CATHOLIC NEWS Singapore in January 2006. I have extracted it and put it together with a Long Play vinyl that I own (image 1). Details are below. 
Thanks to JOYCE GAN who wrote this article and the Catholic News for publishing it.
The Risen Christ Choir has recorded seven albums under the WEA label. A 1984 AVE MARIA record that includes Where Are You Bound, Magnificat, Marian Medley, Regina Caeli, Ave Maria, Ave de Fatimah, Mary Immaculate, The Baker Woman, Mother of Christ and many others.
The Cathedral Choir of the Risen Christ is synonymous with beautiful church music. Their singing adds to the sublimity of Sunday Mass at the cathedral.
EVERY SUNDAY MORNING the choir processes in stately fashion into the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd for the 10am Mass. They bear the standard, which was blessed in Rome by Pope John Paul II. They are the Cathedral Choir of the Risen Christ. Many Singaporeans would call them the Peter Low Choir after the man who has been associated with them as choirmaster since 1971.
The choir was at the Risen Christ parish - hence its name - from 1970 until its installation at the cathedral in April 2002 at the request of former Cathedral Rector, Msgr Eugene Vaz. "After 32 years at one place, it's time to move on especially since Risen Christ had other choirs in place," Mr. Low remarked. 
Almost all the choir members moved with the choir. They are a dedicated group and Mr. Low holds them in high esteem while setting high standards for them. "In anything that you do, you have got to be dedicated," he shared. "That's the one thing that makes the difference." For example, choir members do not go on holiday during Christmas and Easter as their singing is "a gift to the worshipping community and to the Christ child."  

Every Sunday, members show up unfailingly and punctually at 9am to practice before Mass. They also practice at Mr. Low's house once a month for three hours. Group cohesion may be another reason for the choir's excellent quality. There are whole families who sing together in the choir. Recently, two members, Rebecca Ang, and Karen Mong chose to come back to sing after one month of maternity leave although they were allowed to go on two-year maternity leave from the choir.

New members are accepted into the choir on a trial basis and they will only be confirmed if they have the right attitude, an attribute which Mr. Low considers very important. "I believe a choir should be able to sing competently and not just to sing hymns but to lead the congregation. Our job is to sing parts of the Liturgy that will bring beauty to the liturgy and enhance the sense of worship," Mr. Low said. 

As the mother church in Singapore, the cathedral deserves a proper choir to provide a musical standard which would be expected of a cathedral, Mr. Low explained. Among the contribution of the choir to making the liturgy beautiful and reverential is the use of Gregorian chants and Latin. 
Mr. Low learned Gregorian chant and Latin in his younger days. He was Bishop Michael Olcomendy's personal alter boy at daily Mass from the age of 10 to 18. Back then, Masses were celebrated in Latin. "We were singing in a language we did not speak but that doesn't mean we didn't understand it (the worship)," he said and likened the practice to that of Buddhists who chant in Sanskrit and Muslims in Arabic.  

"I'm in favor of selective use of Latin as it's strongly endorsed by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI as the language of the Roman Catholic Church. It's a connection not only between nations but with our past." He feels that singing the "Our Father" and the "Creed" in Latin adds a sense of the sublime. Singing in Latin will link us across frontiers as it is "international practice in cathedrals all over the world," he added.

A lifetime's contribution

Peter Low has spent much of his life making beautiful music for the church. He conducted his first youth choir in 1965 at the Church of St. Michael before conducting his full choir in 1971 at the Church of the Risen Christ. What keeps him going? 

"The word is grace," he asserted. He believes that everyone is given gifts and must use these gifts to serve the Lord. "Some people are born to do social work, some to teach, some to visit the sick. Music is a gift of God to me and I must give it back".  

And he has, not just to the church but to Singapore as well, which is in keeping with the Cathedral Choir of the Risen Christ's motto Pro-Pontifice et Patria which means "For Pope and Country". The choir has often performed to raise funds for worthy causes such as schools, homes for the aged, hospitals and international relief. 

At home, the choir performed at significant occasions such as the opening of Changi Prison War Memorial and Singapore's 25th National Day celebrations. The choir has also made its mark internationally. It sang in Bethlehem at the invitation of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism in 1995, and again in Israel at the "Concert for Peace" in 1999. It has played its part to promote Singapore tourism by performing in international events held by the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board and Singapore Airlines.
These contributions to promote international relations and to the church earned Mr. Low a knighthood from the Vatican in March 2003.
A 1979 album that includes Silent Night, Deck the Halls, Calypso Carol, Pablo The Reindeer, Doing the Christmas Thing, Glory to the God in Heaven, The First Noel and others.

Read these accolades from the Singapore Books of Records:
In 1966, Peter Low started a youth choir at Church of St Michael’s. The group moved to Church of the Risen Christ in 1970 where it was augmented to full strength of 80 singers. Popularly known as the Peter Low Choir, it was installed at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd in Apr 2002. Low has served in the same choir since 1970. Low was awarded the Papal colors by Pope John Paul ll in 1995. He was knighted Knight Commander with Star of the Order of St Gregory the Great in 2003.
The Risen Christ Choir has recorded seven albums under the WEA label. It was the first junior choir to participate in the Llangollen Eisteddfod where it won a distinction award. It performed for Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 1985 and 1998, in Disneyland at Anaheim in 1982 and in the Merv Griffith Show in Hollywood in 1992.

A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2019 to you.

Images from Church Websites and A Personal Collection.

This posting, taken from the mentioned website, has been published with good intention. If there is any objection to its publication, let me know with reasons and I shall delete it immediately.



Thanks, Andy

It brought back pleasant memories.
I was staying at Toa Payoh in a rented flat from 1973 Jan. to April 1975.

I witnessed the early formation and development of the choir as I attended mass at the Risen Christ Church.
I enjoyed the singing of the choir.
It was an experience never to be forgotten.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you, Jerry.
Glad it's nostalgia time for you.
And a very interesting comment indeed.


Hi Andy,
And a Merry Christmas to you too.


Appreciate your sharing.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you both ladies for the response.
I thought it's an appropriate piece for Christmas.


Wonderful piece of history Andy!
You probably have an amazing & priceless archive of the broader Singapore music scene.

Thanks for what you do?

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks, Alex.
Coming from a professional singer,
your comments are precious.

Anonymous said...

I must say Peter Low invested a lot in that Choir and did a great job bringing them up to a world-class standard.


Yes I know Peter Low

He was in the same Papal Visit committee as me. Organizing the visit of Pope John Paul. He was of course in charge of all the music and coir segments and I headed the communications section covering souvenir sales, sponsors, advertising, video production with TCs, sound systems for the National Stadium.

One big headache I'll only do once ever.
And coincidentally it was then Fr. Eugene Vaz that submitted my name.

I still remind Msg. Vaz when I saw him at the beginning of the year, the big headache he caused me. 😄