A Tapestry of Sacred Music 2019

A Tapestry of Sacred Music 2019

Sacred music connects with people at a fundamental level of human expression and the 11th edition of Esplanade’s A Tapestry of Sacred Music.

Not only showcases the artistry of various faith communities, it presents them on a common platform, reflecting the shared humanity underlying our differences. This year’s festival looks at the dualities of joy and sorrow, darkness and light, good and evil.

We invite you to revel in the rich diversity of cultural expressions that convey suffering, exultation and hope, as we reach out to something greater than ourselves.

About the festival

A Tapestry of Sacred Music was first launched by Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay in 2009. The festival offers the rare opportunity for everyone to encounter the beauty of these varied cultural expressions practised by communities all over the world, in a secular setting. Over the past ten years, we have showcased as many as 23 different spiritual traditions, as well as 56 different cultural communities, creating a rich tapestry of some of humanity’s most affecting and powerful musical expressions.

In our 11th edition taking place over four days from 18 – 21 April 2019, the festival looks at the dualities of joy and sorrow, darkness and light, good and evil—ranging from our first-ever performance literally held in darkness in the acoustically resonant Esplanade Concert Hall, to colourful ritual theatre in the outdoors with gods battling multi-headed serpents. Many of these artists practise within places of worship not commonly accessible outside of the community; others come from further abroad and are torchbearers of their own traditions. Their art comes in a myriad of forms, from meditative chants to melismatic devotional songs, ceremonial percussion and ritual theatre.

Since 2017, we have gone a step further and made this festival a completely free one for all to enjoy, so that there are no barriers to this aural and visual celebration. Esplanade is a charity and not-for-profit organisation, and this year, A Tapestry of Sacred Music is made possible with the generous support of Principal Sponsor Carl Zeiss. Help keep this festival free by making a contribution at donation boxes placed around Esplanade, or donate online through Giving.sg.


Morning Chants: The Lotus Sutra

Shan Guang Buddhist Vihara (Singapore)

Saturday, 20 April 2019 - 9am - 45min @Esplanade Concourse

The recitations of sutras and mantras are part of the daily practice of ordained Buddhists. At Shan Guang Buddhist Vihara,  the morning begins with a series of melodious chants called patha in Sanskrit, from the Lotus Sutra, one of the most important texts that expounds on the teachings of the Buddha.

Free Admission

Beginner's Guided Meditation

Yvette Tee (Singapore)

Friday & Saturday, 19 & 20 April 2019 - 10am - 45min @Esplanade Concourse

Start your long weekend with a beautiful guided meditation session led by Yvette Tee. Learn and understand the importance of developing good mental health and discover how to create and enjoy peace of mind with reduced stress, worry and anxiety.

Free Admission

Morning Ragas - Hymns to the Beloved

Sathya Sai Centres (Singapore)

Friday, 19 April 2019 - 9am - 45min @Esplanade Concourse

Bhajan is a Sanskrit word meaning “singing to glorify God." The term covers a wide range of devotional music, from a simple mantra to more complex compositions. They are lyrical and express love for the Divine as well as an intense yearning for oneness with the self.

Free Admission


Tevaram: Devotional Songs of Shiva

S. Vaithyanathan, Viknash Balakrishnan (Singapore)

Thursday, Saturday & Sunday, 18, 20 & 21 April 2019 -  30min @Esplanade Concourse
18 Apr 2019 : 7.15pm
20 Apr 2019 : 8pm
21 Apr 2019 : 7pm

In the early seventh and eighth centuries, the Pallava and Chola kingdoms of Southern India were at the height of their power and influence. A movement that cut across the prevalent trends of established Hindu practices emerged, developed by the Tamil-literate poets of the South. This movement, which eventually entered the literature of other languages of the region and the languages of non-literate people, was called bhakti(devotion). It stemmed from Tamil saint-poets’ rejection of hegemonic ritualistic worship, and was developed to provide a more personal encounter with the divine, one that focused on the physical, visual, and thereby visceral presence of a deity.

Free Admission

Kompang Jidor: Drumbeat of Devotion

Persatuan Kompang Kg. Parit Madirono and PUSAKA (Malaysia)

Thursday & Friday, 18 & 19 Apr 2019 - 7.45pm & 9pm - 30min @Esplanade Courtyard

Kompang jidor traditionally encompasses 12 interlocking kompang rhythms accompanied with selawat-based on the Kitab Barzanji, a book of praises to the Prophet Muhammad composed in the 18th century. The selawat, sung in Arabic, is structured into verses (rawi) and refrains (jawapan). The 12 rhythms of the kompang jidor are: jidor, babon, banggen, nelon, ngelimo, ngorapati, anak babon, paron, ngapati, ngentong, nyalahi, nyelangi.

Free Admission

Tenebrae: Shadows and Darkness

Schola Cantorum Sancti Gregorii Magni (Singapore)

Thursday, 19 Apr 2019 - 9.45pm - 45min @Esplanade Concourse

Coming from the Latin word for darkness tenebris, the Tenebrae is a unique liturgy in the calendar of the Roman Catholic Church that dates back to the fifth century. The custom of extinguishing candles one by one symbolises the diminishing faith and eventual abandonment of Jesus’ disciples during the final days of his earthly life.

Free Admission

From Darkness to Light: Intimate Sacred Music of Baroque Europe

Red Dot Baroque (Singapore)

Saturday & Sunday, 20 & 21 April 2019 - 1hour @Esplanade Recital Studio
20 Apr 2019 : 5pm
21 Apr 2019 : 1pm
Admission for ages 6 and above.

The origins of Western music as we know today trace its genesis to the medieval Church. It was inadequate to praise God merely by reading and reciting verses from the Bible; one had to sing. Churches, wealthy nobles and monarchs all had a music director or an organist to produce and perform music for religious services every Sunday and on feast days.

Free Admission

The Song of Life

The Bunun Mountain Traditional Music Chorus and cellist Annie Chang (Taiwan)

Saturday & Sunday, 20 & 21 April 2019 - 45min
20 Apr 2019: 6.45pm @Esplanade Concourse
21 Apr 2019: 9.20pm @Esplanade Outdoor Theatre

Singing is a central aspect of the Bunun Tribe culture in which daily activities of hunting, drinking and praying are captured in song. From chanting from the mountain afar to bringing news of a successful hunt to gathering to pray for an abundant harvest, singing for the Bunun is a form of communication as well as a means of expression among one another. The songs in this program capture the Bunun’s rituals, prayers, and depictions of life experiences and events. The singing of the Bunun is an oral tradition and they hope to further preserve their history.

Free Admission

Jubilate! Pipe Organ Recital

Jennifer Chou (Australia)

Sunday, 21 April 2019 - 3pm - 1hr(no intermission) @Esplanade Concert Hall
Admission for ages 6 and above.

This Easter, join organist Jennifer Chou in a celebratory and colourful programme of solo works for the pipe organ.

Free Admission

Buddhist Liturgical Music

Shan Guang Buddhist Vihara (Singapore)

Thursday,Friday & Sunday, 18 , 19 & 21 Apr 2019 - 45min @Esplanade Concourse
18 Apr 2019 : 8.15pm
19 Apr 2019 : 4.45pm
21 Apr 2019 : 5.45pm

Han Buddhism was introduced from India to the Han Dynasty through the western region some 2,000 years ago. As it spread and developed through the northern and southern dynasties, many Buddhists emperors had a large number of scriptures translated, giving rise to its study and scholarly activity.

Free Admission

Arvo Pärt PASSIO: St John Passion in the Dark

Soloists from The Choir of St James', Sydney , Schola Cantorum Singapore, Conductor: Michael Leighton Jones (Australia)

Friday, 19 April 2019 - 8pm-  1hr 15mins(no intermission) @Esplanade Concert Hall

The performance will occur in darkness for the duration of 70 minutes. As a courtesy to fellow audience members, attendees are encouraged to stay in their seats throughout; please refrain from leaving in the middle of the performance. Re-admission will only be at selected intervals and patrons who leave the hall after the performance has started will be relocated to another section of the hall when they return.

The story of the Passion of Christ tells of the last days of Jesus, specifically his arrest, trial and suffering, leading up to his crucifixion. The biblical narrative has inspired countless artists, including Estonian composer Arvo Pärt who wrote one of the bleakest and most visceral musical settings of the Passion.

Free Admission

Qasidah: Poems of Praise

Al Khidmah Qasidah Ensemble (Singapore)

Thursday, Friday & Saturday, 18 – 20 Apr 2019 - 45mins(no intermission)
18 Apr 2019 : 8.15pm @Esplanade Outdoor Theatre
19 Apr 2019 : 8:30pm @Esplanade Concourse
20 Apr 2019 : 9.00pm @Esplanade Concourse

Al Khidmah Qasidah Ensemble comprises mainly youths below the age of 25 from various secondary schools and tertiary institutes. Formed from a Dzikir and Selawat Majalis (a weekly congregation which recites remembrances of Allah and praises to Prophet Muhammad), the group members are united in their passion for Islamic music. The ensemble aims to showcase the unique musicality of qasidahs from the Southeast Asian region, as well as its relevance to mainstream society today.

Free Admission

Hebrew Biblical Songs

Yamma Ensemble (Israel)

Saturday & Sunday, 20 & 21 Apr 2019 - 1hr(no intermission) @Esplanade Concourse
20 Apr 2019 : 10.15pm
21 Apr 2019 : 4.15pm

From early songs inspired by ancient Jewish devotional poetry; to the songs of the Yemenites, Babylons, Hasiduts and Sepharads; and to original and contemporary numbers that speak of the Jewish diaspora, the music of the Yamma Ensemble is rare, esoteric and niche.

Free Admission

Mangala Vaadhyam

Friday - Sunday, 19 – 21 Apr 2019 - 5.30pm - 45mins(no intermission) @Esplanade Forecourt Garden

In Tamil culture, mangala vaadhyam is music that accompanies auspicious occasions such as weddings, child-naming and house warming ceremonies. Dating back to 1500BCE, it was first a nomadic bard’s tradition that became defunct after Indian temples became patrons of music and dance.

Free Admission

Sikh Kirtan: In Harmony with the Divine

Gurmat Sangeet Academy, Sikh Centre (Singapore)

Friday-Sunday, 19 & 21 Apr 2019 - 45mins(no intermission)
19 Apr 2019 : 7.15pm @Esplanade Concourse
21 Apr 2019 : 7.55pm @Esplanade Outdoor Theatre

Regarded by the Sikhs as one of the highest forms of devotional music, the kirtan (meaning “glorification” or “praise of the divine”) is a meditative call-and-response form of chanting that originated in the 15th century and is performed at every important occasion in all Sikh households.

Free Admission


Entrance of the Barong and Rangda

Gamelan Pinda Sari & Eka Suwara Santhi (Indonesia, Singapore)

Thursday, 18 Apr 2019 - 7.15pm - 30mins(no intermission) @Esplanade Outdoor Theatre

The village of Pinda has a long history of Balinese gamelan gong kebyar music. Known for its exuberant style of playing and bursts of sound, gong kebyar has become the orchestra of choice for many Balinese theatrical forms. Efforts to increase the awareness of the musicianship of Pinda began in the 1930s when the King of Saba, I Gusti Ngurah Djelantik decreed that the villagers of Pinda had to attend compulsory music programmes. Pinda became so well known for its gamelan that it attracted the attention of many well-known ethnomusicologists, such as Michael Tenzer (University of British Columbia, Canada) and Peter Mark (Leubeck University of Music, Germany) who came to study the signature music style of Pinda’s gamelan.

Free Admission

Tari Topeng: Mask Dance of Bali

Gamelan Pinda Sari & Eka Suwara Santhi (Indonesia, Singapore)

Thursday, Saturday & Sunday, 18, 20 & 21 Apr 2019 - 45mins(no intermission) @Esplanade Concourse
18 Apr 2019 : 9.30pm
20 Apr 2019 : 4.45pm
21 Apr 2019 : 8pm

An indispensable performance in any Balinese temple festival is a masked dance called the Tari Topeng. Topeng is considered a sacred artform, usually danced in the innermost sanctum of Balinese temples as entertainment for the gods, ancestral spirits, and human spectators. Contrary to the solemnity one might expect from ritual theatre, comedy is integral to topeng, which often comes as a character study of 3 to 4 stock characters – a prime minister, an old man, the king, and a clown that normally closes the performance.

Free Admission

Kunitha: Ritual Dances of Karnataka

Karnataka Folk Ensemble (India)

Thursday & Friday, 18 & 19 Apr 2019-  45mins(no intermission) @Esplanade Outdoor Theatre
18 Apr 2019 : 9.30pm
19 Apr 2019 : 8.15pm

Nammoora Jaatré (our village fair) is a showcase that brings together four different sacred music and ritual theatre traditions from the state of Karnataka in Southern India. Traditionally, all the sacred arts traditions—be it dance or music or ritual theatre—are performed at local Jaatré (village fair).

Free Admission

The Sacred Drama of Kunti Sraya

Gamelan Pinda Sari & Eka Suwara Santhi (Indonesia, Singapore)

Friday & Saturday, 19 & 20 Apr 2019 - 60mins(no intermission) @Esplanade Outdoor Theatre
19 Apr 2019 : 6.45pm
20 Apr 2019 : 7.55pm

The Barong and Rangda are two mythical symbols of good and evil in Balinese culture. Portrayed playfully as a creature with big eyes, clacking jaws and layers of fur, the Barong is the protector against evil forces. In contrast, the Rangda is the frightful but respected witch-widow and the queen of black magic. With her fiery tongue, long pendulous breasts and hair down to her knees, she is frightening in every aspect of her appearance. The two characters feature in various ritual theatre, one of the most popular being the tale of Kunti Sraya – an episode from the Mahabharata.

Free Admission

Iwami Kagura: Heroes and Demons

Hamada Iwami Kagura Association (Japan)

Friday & Saturday, 19 & 20 Apr 2019 - 45mins(no intermission) @Esplanade Outdoor Theatre
19 Apr 2019 : 9.30pm
20 Apr 2019 : 6.30pm

The coastal region of Shimane is a land steeped in Shinto mythology and significance, said to be the place where all the gods and deities gathered once a year in conference. It is also the birthplace of one of the most dynamic and vibrant forms of Japanese ritual theatre—Iwami Kagura.

Free Admission

Iwami Kagura: Slaying of the Eight-Headed Serpent

Hamada Iwami Kagura Association (Japan)

Saturday & Sunday, 20 & 21 Apr 2019 - 45mins(no intermission) @Esplanade Outdoor Theatre
20 Apr 2019 : 9.30pm
21 Apr 2019 : 6.30pm

The coastal region of Shimane is a land steeped in Shinto mythology and significance, said to be the place where all the gods and deities gathered once a year in conference. It is also the birthplace of one of the most dynamic and vibrant forms of Japanese ritual theatre—Iwami Kagura.

Free Admission


Kamsale Workshop: Sacred Cymbal Dance

Karnataka Folk Ensemble (India)

Friday, 19 Apr 2019 - 3.30pm - 1hr(no intermission) @Esplanade Rehearsal Studio
Admission for ages 6 and above.

Kamsale, a cymbal-like instrument, is played by dancers as an offering to Lord Mahadeshwara. The workshop will introduce participants to the history and narrative of the tradition through discussions, demonstration and hands-on learning.

Free Admission

An Introduction to Jewish Music

Yamma Ensemble (Israel)

Sunday, 21 Apr 2019 - 1.30pm - 1hr(no intermission) - [email protected]

Jewish music stems from ancient prayer chants of the Levant some 3,000 years ago. The musical notation that developed and that we find in the Bible today is one of the most ancient forms of notated music, and yet it is still practised all over the world today. Jewish music has been constantly adapting to new conditions and yet retaining its identity in many widely differing ethnic, social and religious environments.

Free Admission

Posted in Updates HOME PAGE | Tagged , | Posted on April 14, 2019