AT first glance, Voices - A Festival of Song, the Esplanade's latest addition to the string of arts festivals under its belt, may seem just like another choral festival. You get pretty standard performances: a concert by the Grammy Award-winning Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, an a cappella performance by various local ensembles, singing workshops and outdoor concerts at the Esplanade's Outdoor Theatre.
But then the festival, which will run annually, throws you a curve ball by tossing a traditional Khoomii performance by Mongolian ensemble Khusugtun into the mix. Khoomii, or throat singing, is a traditional technique that allows the singer to belt out two or more notes at the same time.
"It is quite an amazing feat," says Christel Hon, programming officer at The Esplanade, of the unique singing technique. "The group adds another level of complexity in their art by using this technique to sing together, harmonising with each other, both with and without accompanying instruments. This show will be a very special aural experience for the audience."
It's all part of the festival's mission of bringing a wide variety of singing ensembles from different genres and cultural backgrounds together. This is something, Ms Hon points out, that no one in Singapore is doing right now.
"There are existing festivals for commonly known genres such as choirs and a cappella singing, but Voices goes beyond that by featuring traditional ensemble singing, folk a cappella, show choirs and more. The world of ensemble singing has rich diversity and this festival highlights the core similarities between the different forms - a feeling of connection between people," she says.
The festival will feature three ticketed performances, kicking off with a concert by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, followed by Colours - An Evening of A Cappella, which brings together four local a cappella groups - MICappella, Vocaluptuous, Juz-B and Key Elements - and, finally, the award-winning Khusugtun with Khoomii - Throat Singers of Mongolia.
These were specially selected to showcase three different styles of ensemble singing: choral, a capella and folk.
"We wanted to show how people can sing in different ways and use their voices differently," Ms Hon says. "A relatively young and exciting ensemble like Khusugtun demonstrates this point well."
Each performance also comes with a corresponding talk or workshop to better engage audience members.
"Like other festivals we present, organising such activities help build a deeper understanding and appreciation of the various forms presented," Ms Hon says. "This is a rare opportunity for them to experience the beauty of Mongolian folk song, sung by an ensemble of consummate artists, in an intimate environment."
'Voices - A Festival of Song' runs from Dec 13 to 15 at The Esplanade. Ticket prices vary. Available from Esplanade Box Office and Sistic authorised agents from Sept 26.