Tuesday, 2 September, 2014

Published February 07, 2014
Classical opera child prodigy
BT 20140207 RACCOREY7 944927

Performing at Carnegie Hall: Corey Koh will be in New York City again in June, to sing at the renowned Manhattan School of Music's Summer Voice Festival 2014, taking on a major boy tenor role in two productions

BT 20140207 RACCOREY7 944927

HE'S just 11, but local classical opera singer Corey Koh has a lot more on his mind than his PSLE.

For starters, he wants to hold a solo concert here later this year, and is looking around for a suitable venue with "good acoustics", he says, before expertly detailing the acoustics of the various halls he has performed in.

Secondly, while his peers are off on vacation or catching up with their schoolwork in June, Corey will be in New York City, performing at the renowned Manhattan School of Music's Summer Voice Festival 2014.

There, the Nanyang Primary School student will take on a major boy tenor role in Leos Janacek's opera The Cunning Little Vixen, and Maury Yeston's musical Nine. He will be working under the direction of well-known opera singer- actor Neil Rosenshein, who also tutors him when he is in New York for the school holidays.

His father, Koh Chye Hock, was the one who persuaded Rosenshein to coach Corey in the first place. He explains: "When Corey first became interested in singing, we got him a teacher here in Singapore. But later on when he became serious, we realised there wasn't much Singapore could offer him to take him to a professional world level. So we had to look elsewhere.

"Initially, Rosenshein wasn't interested because he said he didn't take students so young. But after some correspondence, he agreed to listen to the tape to see if Corey was good enough. So we sent a tape, and he eventually changed his mind. At that time, Corey was only 10," adds Mr Koh, an in-house lawyer with Chevron.

According to him, Corey's first performance goes back as far as when he was two years old, when the family was living in Bangladesh for a period of time. Mr Koh was invited to sing at a concert and would have regular practice sessions at home, during which Corey would listen in.

On the night of the concert, even without officially learning the lyrics, Corey took the microphone from his father and sang two songs "pitch perfect" in front of a crowd of 500 - entirely in Bengali.

Since then, he has also performed at multiple iconic performance venues around the world, including Carnegie Hall in New York, Suntory Hall in Tokyo, and even Singapore's Marina Bay Sands Theatre last December as part of the annual ChildAid charity concert organised by The Straits Times and The Business Times.

But being a child opera singer is not always as straightforward as it seems - in fact, it takes a lot of discipline for someone his age to take proper care of his vocal chords.

For example, he refrains from drinking iced drinks, and stays away from fried snacks and chocolates, save for the rare treat at McDonald's every once in a while.

"All these things can easily hurt my throat. And if anything has even a one per cent chance of damaging my voice, then no way am I going near it," says Corey determinedly.

Corey Koh will perform with The Philharmonic Winds at the Esplanade Concert Hall on April 6 at 5pm. Tickets can be bought from Feb 13, at $15 each, with various packages and concessions available. Log on to www.sistic.com.sg for more information or to buy tickets.