In a Singapore-first, internationally-acclaimed sand artist Lawrence Koh goes head-to-head with violinist extraordinaire Seah Huan Yuh, and soprano soloist Moira Loh, to perform scenes from top musicals through an amalgamation of sand art and music.
Happening on Nov 19 and 20 at the Sands Theatre, Grains of Glory — The Best of Musicals will showcase well-loved hits from musicals such as The Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon and Anastasia. Perfect for musical lovers or those looking for an unusual and incomparable live concert experience, the 75-minute show is the brainchild of homegrown concert promoter Base Entertainment Asia which has presented over 200 events from musicals to cabarets, ballets and circus shows.
Produced by Seah, who is also the musical director of the show calls this “a minimalistic modern fusion chamber concert” filled with good music and an experience like no other. In this interview with the three performers, we find out how a sand show at the Sands Theatre came to be, and the challenges putting it together in light of a pandemic.
How did the idea for a sand-themed concert come about?
Seah: Base Entertainment Asia came up with the novel idea of having a wonderfully talented local sand artist to perform with live music at the Sands Theatre. They appointed me music director but really it was a collaborative effort from all three of us in designing this concert. Each bringing our own experience and knowledge from different backgrounds. Moira Loh has directed and produced operas and musicals during her time in Boston; Lawrence Koh from his visual and fantastic communication to audience through his sand art that connects with state ministers to children; and myself as a classically-trained violinist who has worked in numerous musical tours to Singapore over the last 20 years.
Can you take us through the logistics of how you organised this?
Seah: Due to the small number of performers for the show, we were able to settle on ideas and sequence quite efficiently over video calls. Moira and myself did get together for a couple of rehearsals at my studio to work through the music and every step was discussed and conveyed to Lawrence as well as the team at Base Entertainment Asia, who have been so helpful and supportive. Given the safety regulations, plenty of work had to be done individually like the arranging of music, the sand sequence, lighting, staging and so on.
What kind of challenges did you face?
Seah: Too many! My biggest concern was the range of the vocalist, in both pitch as well as personalities. In these popular musicals like Miss Saigon, Anastasia, The Phantom of the Opera, the female singers are so varied in their characters and vocal qualities, it is almost impossible for one singer to deliver them beautifully and convincingly. I was totally blown away by the voice and abilities of Moira, who reminds me of Lea Salonga, and is so versatile to deliver these songs in her own way. Another challenge is her stamina to belt out these huge numbers for 75 minutes, but the initial plan of not being able to have a full orchestra on stage (due to Covid-19) turned out to be a rather serendipitous arrangement for Moira to sing without having to compete in volume.
Moira, how are you preparing yourself for the concert?
Loh: Singing is really physical, so to prepare for this concert, I have to keep myself really healthy and exercise often. I have to make sure my vocal chords are warm and Singapore’s humid weather actually keeps my voice in really nice condition. I try to stay away from air-conditioning as much as possible to prevent my voice from getting dry, but it can get really cold backstage so I bring a steamer for my voice (yes, those exist!) to keep myself hydrated. One day before the show, I tried not to make a single sound, not even speak! It is like a nap for my voice. On performance day itself, I suck on something sweet like honey to moisten my throat.
Lawrence, is it very stressful to do a sand show?
Koh: Yes. I have to avoid sneezing and sweating during a sand art performance, and sometimes hold my breath a lot especially on critical details! As an arts lover, I also have to accept that sand art is impermanent; nothing stays the same. It is an art form that requires letting go no matter how much you love it. The sand I use also has to be really pure, fine and clean; definitely not the kind you find at the beach. I have to filter my sand every time after the show to avoid any contamination.
Grains of Glory — The Best of Musical is showing on Nov 19 and 20, 7.30pm at Sands Theatre, Marina Bay Sands. Tickets start from $80 and can be purchased from Sistic or Marina Bay Sands