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Director's Notes: Interview with Ian

For “YKLS ROCKS!” director Ian Chow, this will be his fourth performance outing with the community choir,  ever since he first mustered enough courage to pick up the phone to book a slot for auditions back in 2002.

Since then, Chow has produced or been on the advisory committee for almost all YKLS productions, and even stage-managed a few.

Some productions which have stood the test of time for Chow include “Through the Barricade” (2004), performing excerpts from Les Misérables and Miss Saigon musicals; “Beat It, Sing It” (also 2004) a high energy performance singing ethnic music with a 3-piece percussion backing; and “Together As One” (2010), which had YKLS members from different walks of life singing songs from different faiths and religions.

The last one, Ian recalls, was pretty groundbreaking in 2010. If the choral production was not handled well, it could have drawn lots of flak due to the sensitivity of the repertoire.

All three, perhaps unsurprisingly, were not directed by him.

“Possibly, as a director, after the production finished, I always feel there are numerous things that I could do better hence always felt that something is lacking and not my best.

“Meanwhile, as a performer or a producer, I see things differently and possibly not too critical on the artistic side hence easier to satisfy my expectations (mind you, my top three productions has high artistic and production values as well),” said Chow.

Working with YKLS has been a very different experience from working with another theatre or performance group, regardless of the role, Chow said, due to the group’s composition and the fact that YKLS is both a community choir and a choral course the members are learning.

“Hence, in terms of commitment level and skill, it can make me vomit blood at times. But always, what drives me is the end-product. That is always magical and what kept me going, I always try to push the limit and set a substantial amount of ground rules/discipline within the group.

“Because at the end of the day, the individual gain something positive by joining YKLS and the brand gain positive awareness or popularity,” Chow explained.

For every production, Chow tries a different approach to keep it from being boring, especially for returning members, and even himself.

Hence for this year’s “YKLS ROCKS!”, Chow, Artistic Director Susanna Saw and Music Director Mak Chi Hoe decided to go with two contrasting halves of the show, resulting in a more interactive production from the choir members and even the audience.

“We wanted to devise it together with the members, and audience participation in a big way. After a lot of brainstorming, debate and wasted paper, you may not believe this nearly ended up as a two-week concert to showcase both halves before we felt it was both too ambitious and taxing for the members,” said Chow.

This will also be YKLS’s first time working with a full rock band, which was a conscious decision when the directors and producers decided on the rock theme for 2017.

“It was a conscious decision from day one, and we didn’t even think much about the cost or sound balance back when we first discussed it, but we were adamant this had to be one component we cannot omit out. Otherwise, what’s a rock concert without a full band?”

“Plus we were ‘tired’ with the conventional one piano accompaniment, what a boring way to celebrate our 15 th anniversary,” Chow joked.

Despite the different styles of work, temperament and ideas from YKLS’s members, the 15 th anniversary production has been a breakthrough and successful attempt in getting out of one’s comfort zone for Chow and the production members.

“YKLS ROCKS”, despite its teething problems, has also been a source of strength for Chow as family tragedy struck half-way through the rehearsals period.

“Particularly for this 15th anniversary, to be able to be part of it, in a lot of way has been a blessing for me. Some of you may know that half way through the rehearsal process, I actually lost my brother due to brain tumour. We found out over the weekend and two days later, he was gone.”

“Things were of course pretty morbid back home. Attending rehearsals and being able to work creatively with the members certainly helped through these difficult times. It is almost an outing that I look forward to every week in order for me to stay sane, strong  and fit for my family (especially my mother)….it rejuvenated me,” Chow explained.

Even so, Chow and his colleagues have already conceptualised the production for next year.

“I may not be involved directly with it, but if you thought the 15 th anniversary is mad, wait till you see the 2018 production. It will be crazy!!!!!”

by Vincent Tan