Exactly what does it take to win an international singing competition? If you’ve ever wanted to know the answer, you should ask members of the St Paul’s Co-educational College (SPCC) Treble Choir.
Last month, the 60-strong choir came first at the 14th Busan Choral Festival and Competition in Busan in South Korea. The students, whose ages range between 13 and 16, won the Grand Prize in the Grand Prix Final on October 20. This victory came hot on the heels of their winning gold in both the Youth Choir (for singers 18 and under) and Classical Equal Voices (open to all ages) categories on October 17 and 19.
Young Post interviewed three of the choir members, Emily Chiu Cheuk-man, Jessica Danielle Leung, and Cheryl Wong Sin-yee, as well as conductor Anne Chu On-lai about their experiences, and what drive their successes.
Alto section leader Cheryl, 14, said she had felt very nervous prior to the competition. “It was our first time competing in an international choral contest together, let alone competing against adults.”
In the two months leading up to the contest, the choir would stay behind at school for two hours every day to practise. To preserve their voices, they avoided eating or drinking anything that would irritate or strain their vocal cords, said the choir’s secretary, Emily, 14.
In Busan, the choir sang a total of six pieces, two of which were composed by SPCC alumni and Hongkongers Gershom Tse and Warren Lee. Chu said she chose Tse’s Pilgrim and Lee’s No Places in Our World because she felt that
it was the choir’s and her “duty to be vocal about Hong Kong having good music”.
The three students said they felt particularly moved when performing Pilgrim, a song that explores the ups and downs of life. Cheryl explained that, in the song, “the main character is led into a dark tunnel, and his friend leaves him behind to fight his way out of it”.
Soprano section leader Jessica, 14, said it brought home to many of the choir members this would be the last chance for them to sing as a group, given that a third of them would be promoted to the senior choir next year.
“Many of us even cried while performing,” she added.
Chu said it’s important that students fully understand the depth and meaning behind the song they’re performing. “The comprehension allows the singers to perform genuinely, [and they also get to] learn about [having] positive attitudes towards life.”
All three students said they had not expected to advance to the finals, let alone sweep the competition. The group had, upon winning, “screamed in happiness and tears”.
“It was the last time [we would sing] as a group,” Cheryl said. “And it’s a lifelong experience that I will never forget.”