Kenneth Tay is a composer of contemporary choral, vocal and chamber works. He received his MMus with Distinction at the University of Aberdeen, specialising in composition and choral music under the tutelage of Phillip Cooke and Paul Mealor. He also studied harmony and counterpoint with Nirmali Fenn while reading for his bachelor’s degree in Political Science at the National University of Singapore. A recipient of the prestigious Carlaw-Ogston Master of Music Scholarship, his music has been described by reviewers as “exciting and refreshing” (Alan Cooper), and “original and harmonically engaging” (The Flying Inkpot). His compositions have been performed in venues such as Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge, and the Cineteatro de Macau, with performances and commissions by groups including the SYC Ensemble Singers, EVOKX, and the Choir of King’s College, Aberdeen. He has publications with Muziksea, a specialist in Southeast Asian choral music, and he also self-publishes many of his works.
His compositions examine the close relationship between words and music, the intimacy of universal themes such as love and loss, and is inflected by his own experiences as a long-time choral singer. He also infuses many aspects of his Singaporean identity with his lived experiences, like in Uwu, which features the morning calls of the koel, and his choral cycle, The Four Loves, which features “an imagining of the Scottish Highlands with melodic word painting and rhythmic interpolation” (Arts Equator). His other works include choral arrangements of popular music tunes and folk songs in languages ranging from Teochew to Scots, as well as art songs that have been premiered by the Australian coloratura soprano, Cassandra Humble.
In addition to his work as a composer, he is also an active choral singer and conductor. His initial choral music education began in the Victoria School Choir, Victoria Junior College Choir, and subsequently the National University of Singapore Choir. During his graduate studies, he performed and toured extensively with the Choir of King’s College, Aberdeen, the University of Aberdeen Chamber Choir, and the University of Aberdeen Opera Society. His performing experiences include those at the Royal Albert Hall, London, for the BBC Proms, and in Crathie Kirk, Ballater, in the presence of HM The Queen and members of the royal family. As a baritone, he has sung in various ensembles around Singapore, including the Symphonia Choralis, the Singapore Symphony Youth Choir, the Anglican Chamber Ensemble, and deputises in many other groups. He is also the assistant conductor of the Victoria Chorale, working in conjunction with alumni members of the choirs that began his choral music journey. He also enjoys teaching and sharing about music theory, singing and ensemble practice, with prior appointments as a visiting lecturer at Yale-NUS College, Singapore, and as a speaker for the Choral Directors’ Association (Singapore).