Harry Nicholls, 12, is back in Hong Kong after a two-year stint with the famous Vienna Boys’ Choir in Austria. He will perform here at a concert celebrating the life and music of German composer Johann Sebastian Bach later this month.
Music runs in Harry’s family: his mother, Leanne Nicholls, is the founder and artistic director of the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong. Harry started vocal training when he was three years old and performed his first solo when he was six. In 2013, he was the first runner-up in the under-nine vocal solo category at the Hong Kong Schools Music and Speech Festival.
Two years later, he became one of the first two Hongkongers to join the Vienna Boys’ Choir on a two-year training programme.
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Young Post caught up with Harry, who is now studying at West Island School, to learn more about his music journey and his life at the Vienna Boys’ Choir.
“My mum arranged an audition for me when the choir came to Hong Kong for a performance,” Harry said.
“I was excited by the opportunity of studying in a new city and I was sure that the choir could offer me special experiences,” he added.
“Nine to 12 is actually the best time to train a tenor and I was so lucky to have a chance to be trained in the choir,” Harry said.
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Members of the Vienna Boys’ Choir attend boarding school, and most are away from home for the first time. It is not easy for a 10-year-old boy to take care of himself at a boarding school, especially when a parent or other adult isn’t there to help.
“I couldn’t even remember [how] to tidy up,” Harry said. “I cried for an hour when my mum first visited me in Vienna, but I was fine by the time she visited me for the fourth time!
“I really missed my family but the experience at Vienna Boys’ Choir made me grow fast as a singer.”
You may think that all the members of the Vienna Boys’ Choir do is sing, but it is actually a “real” school, and students have lessons from 7.30am to 6pm.
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“I still had to do mathematics – actually all subjects – but in German, which is not my mother tongue,” Harry said.
He picked it up quickly, though, and now counts it as a skill. “I can now speak very fluent German,” he said.
Studying in Hong Kong is highly stressful, but Harry said he felt the same in Vienna as he had two hours of vocal training a day, plus his normal school work. “The pressure was overwhelming,” he said.
“But I still played football and basketball to keep myself healthy.”
In those two years, Harry performed in more than 20 countries, including Australia, America, Canada, and Switzerland.
Concerts are stressful for any performer, but Harry said he felt very relaxed after a performance. “I could finally get a good night’s sleep,” he said.
Harry says despite the great experiences, he is happy to be back in Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong is my home and I simply missed it ... I missed rice, fried rice and sushi,” he said.
He said he hopes to enter a competition like America’s Got Talent, where another young local singer, Celine Tam Tsz-kwan, made headlines after just missing out on a finals spot.
“But I know that singing competitions can be overwhelming for students, so I will see,” he added.
Harry will perform with the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong as a solo vocalist at The Star Bach concert at Hong Kong City Hall’s Concert Hall on January 21
Edited by M. J. Premaratne