from The Jakarta Post
Harry Nazarudin, Contributor, Jakarta | Fri, 05/14/2010
link to original article on the web here
Although it is common for children to sing, youth choirs are comparatively rare in Indonesia. However, each of us can still remember a lullaby we learned when we were younger.
It is a pity then that although singing is a common activity for children, there are very few professional children choirs in Indonesia. This is what prompted Aida Swenson to establish the Indonesian Children and Youth Choir “Cordana” in 1992. The Cordana choir has two main goals: to be a center of excellence for professional children’s choirs in Indonesia and to represent traditional Indonesian music to the world.
Seeing a performance of the Cordana choir is always special because it is very easily enjoyed by all, especially children. One does not have to worry about sons or daughters falling asleep at this concert, because almost all children pay full attention to each performance.
This is because the music is transformed into a stunning singing and dance performance, with colorful costumes, brilliant choreography and last but not least, superb vocal skills.
This year, the Cordana choir is preparing to perform in Germany and Belgium to represent Indonesia at the 10th Musica Sacra Music Festival, from May 14 to May 31, 2010. Cordana has the honor of being invited to this festival, after their stunning performance at the 8th World Symposium of Choral Music in Copenhagen, Denmark (2008), and the Incheon International Choir Festival in Incheon, Korea (2009).
The theme of the Musica Sacra Festival is a celebration of sacred music from different religions in the world that promote peace and harmony.
To convey Indonesia’s religious diversity and culture of tolerance, the Cordana choir will feature music from different ethnic and religious backgrounds in Indonesia. Their masterpiece this time – which was performed at their pre-concert event held in Jakarta’s Goethe Haus on May 6 – is Ummah, Sallih, a choral interpretation of the Al Araf, or sura (chapter) 7 from the Holy Koran by John A. Pamintuan. The performance opens with a muazzin (a person who performs the Muslim call to prayer in Arabic), chanting the holy verses of the Koran in the foreground. Then the choir, dressed in black with white veils and a tasbih (Muslim prayer beads) on their right hand, sings the majestic vocals, starting with a strong alto solo section in Arabic.
Then, some staccato acapella singing follows as a background for the solo. A choreography representing the movements of Islamic prayer (sholat) accompanies this piece. The movement stresses the majestic nature of the composition, beautiful yet full of respect, which represents the greatness of Allah.
The Cordana choir also performs a tribute to Javanese culture, as they sing Sinden and Ilir-ilir, both traditional Javanese folk songs. This time, a beautifully choreographed Javanese dance accompanies the choral music. The mood quickly changes into a more relaxed atmosphere, with a slow Javanese pentatonic melody. The singers appear in green and red kebayas, a traditional Javanese dress, complete with long scarves used to add to the graceful dance. The song Ilir-ilir is performed in a canonic style, as the parts of the choir start singing at different times, but then flow into a harmony.
As a native North Sumatran, Aida Swenson has prepared something from her hometown. The song Palti Raja, a Batak folk song by Tilhang Gultom, is performed alongside the flagging of the ulos, a scarf central to the culture of the Batak people. This performance is supported by a Batak flute and a gondang (a drum from wood). From the slow moving Javanese music, the mood jumps as the thumping gondang beat picks up. The vocal of Palti Raja involve a cheerful but very fast-paced pronunciation, which is not easy for the children, but the fortissimo volume is performed with perfection and keeps up with the vibrant dance.
The Cordana choir will also perform two of their favorite masterpieces: Rampai Aceh from the province of Aceh and Janger, a folk dance from Bali. Janger is performed using a beautiful geringsing Balinese dress, together with a Balinese gamelan and a male dancer. Rampai Aceh is a synchronized dance from Aceh, which demands not only a very strong alto and soprano solo performance, but also a challenging, ultra-fast dance movement. Seeing these children performing with a great vocal piece and keeping up with the demanding choreography will give the world a new perspective of Indonesia as a world of color and music, peacefully blend into a rainbow of cultures, yet together as one.
We hope that the Cordana choir will continue their mission to promote Indonesia’s harmony in diversity to the world.
— Photos by JP/Harry Nazarudin