If you ask the Hong Kong students that took part in an international choir competition in Austria earlier this year, they’d tell you that age doesn’t matter when it comes to singing – hard work and talent does. That is why the students from HKBUAS Wong Kam Fai Secondary and Primary School won a Gold Award for their efforts.
Fifty-two students headed to Bad Ischl, in Austria, last month for the International Choir Competition and Festival, where they sang three pieces – two a cappella pieces and one song with a piano accompaniment. The team, made up of primary and secondary students, had never performed a cappella before, which is why they started practising for the competition in September.
Their Gold Award was proof of the students’ dedication to their training, but that wasn’t always the case, at the start, as 13-year-old Chimmy Yeung Chin-yee recalls. Back then, they would often frustrate their teachers with their lack of attention during practice.
“Sometimes our teachers would get angry,” she says. “Sometimes our captain – or other members of the choir – would get angry.” They had to learn over time how to work together and how to control their own behaviour.
Ashley Cheung Ka-lui, 11, says they were simply too full of energy to focus at the start. “Our teachers were always telling us to calm down, and not [be] too hyperactive,” she says. Once they did calm down and start working together, though, there was still a lot of other skills they needed to develop.
Michelle Chan Heuk-ying was tasked with playing the castanet on top of singing and dancing. “The rhythm that I needed to perform was fast and hard,” the 14-year-old student says. “I had to practise a lot. I didn’t do that well in the pre-performance – I messed up the beat. After that I … trained a lot.”
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Their constant training – nearly 100 hours of it – helped cement a bond between the students on the team, despite the differences in age. Stella Hui Yi-ching says that at first, the students from both the primary and secondary school sections were a little wary of each other. Many of the primary school students said the older kids seemed intimidating at first, because they seemed to know more than they did.
“I wanted to make friends with them because they are older … they could tell us what to do, like a leader,” says Fergus Chung Sheung-yan, 11.
“Later, with more training … we knew more about each other, and when we sang and danced together it was much better,” Stella, 12, adds. By the time the team were performing at the competition, they were like a well-oiled machine, and excited to be performing.
“All of us wanted to do our best for the competition, because we had practised for, like, half a year. We just wanted to express what we had learned, and get a good result,” says Himsley Chiu Ming-him, 11. Get a good result they did – and when the choir found out they had won the Gold Award, they were overjoyed.
“A lot of us were screaming. Some of us even cried because we were so happy that we had won,” Michelle recalls.
The team isn’t content to rest on their laurels, though – they’re already looking forward to their next big win. They see their international win at the International Choir Competition and Festival as the first of many.
Fergus, one of the students who had screamed with joy after their win, jokes that he lost his voice in the aftermath of the announcement. “After screaming, I can’t even sing any more,” he says. Rest up, Fergus – there are plenty more competitions ahead for you and your team to win!