FACING a 400-strong congregation and backed by the professional Cantus Musicus choir, 14-year-old Joshua Edward Raj William confidently rendered the first verse of Christmas carol Once In Royal David’s City.
In a clear sweet voice, the lad completed his small yet significant solo part with finesse before assistant music director Colin Day turned to the crowd, gesturing to them to stand up and sing the remaining verses with the Kuala Lumpur-based choir.
Joshua’s refreshing boy treble vocals provided a delightful opening to the service called ‘A Festival of Nine Lessons And Carols’ at St George’s Church in George Town, Penang.
The 200-year-old heritage church resounded with strong majestic vocals, giving many guests goosebumps.
Joshua, who is a member of the church, said he mustered up the courage when first approached by the choir’s music director Lisa Ho three months ago.
“Lisa did a vocal test on me and provided some vocal training. I later practised the verse over 500 times before the only rehearsal with the full choir a day before the service.
“I wasn’t nervous as I am familiar with the church crowd,” said Joshua, who plays the guitar and is taking carnatic (Indian classical) singing lessons.
Ho noted that Joshua was perfect for the part as his voice had not broken yet.
She said she was also fortunate to get UK-based organ builder Adriel Yap to play the church’s recently installed pipe organ for the service.
“Adriel, who was on holiday in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, agreed to help us out,” she said adding that it was the third time the choir, which was not church- affiliated, was performing at St George’s Church.
Ho pointed out that of the 28-strong choir at the event, four of the members — Ruedi Giezendanner (tenor), Dr Joshua Thomas (tenor), Jenny Giezendanner (alto) and Miriam D. Samuel (alto) — were talents from the church itself.
“I did a vocal test on them before inviting them to join the choir for the particular event.
“And they did remarkably well,” Ho said.
The nine carols performed were Unto Us Is Born A Son, Rosa Mystica, In The Bleak Midwinter, Angelus Ad Virginem, My Lord Has Come, O Holy Night, See Amid The Winter’s Snow, Verbum Caro and Torches.
There were also congregational carols — Angels We Have Heard On High, O Little Town Of Bethlehem and O Come All Ye Faithful.
The service also included Lo! He Comes With Clouds Descending (processional hymn), Maria Wiegenlied (prelude), He That Is Down (interlude) and Hallelujah Chorus (postlude).
Church vicar Rev Charles Samuel, who is the Anglican Bishop of the Northern Peninsula led the service.
Pastors from other denominations, laypersons, academicians and leaders of non-governmental organisations read out the nine lessons.