“The first orchestra of voices concert, given [in Sumatra] on December 27, 1943, made a deep impression on the listeners. Instead of the popular songs we were expecting, we heard beautiful music from Dvořák’s New World.… The music strengthened our feeling of human value.”
"From April 1942 until the end of the war in August 1945, an average of 600 Australian
A Dutch–English Choir of Thirty Women
Margareth Dryburgh had been a Presbyterian missionary in Singapore and for years had given piano lessons, conducted choirs, and played the organ in church services. She transcribed scores for piano and orchestral pieces from memory. Norah Chambers, the wife of a government engineer in Melaka, had studied violin and voice at the Royal Academy of Music in London. She helped Margareth Dryburgh in making four-voice arrangements of instrumental music and conducted a new Dutch–English choir of thirty women, one of whom was my sister.
A New World in the Middle of Hunger
The first orchestra of voices concert, given on December 27, 1943, made a deep impression on the listeners. Instead of the popular songs we were expecting, we heard beautiful music from Dvořák’s New World. […] The music was like a miracle in the middle of all the hunger, disease, rats, cockroaches, bedbugs, and the stench of the latrines. The music strengthened our feeling of human val ue. We were able to raise ourselves up out of all that misery. We didn’t give up. The orchestra of voices gave multiple concerts, and their repertoire grew to include thirty works, including Ravel’s Bolero. […] The orchestra of voices was forced to disband, however, after nearly half the singers died of malnutrition and tropical diseases.”