During the first week of the holidays, three King’s choristers took part in an intensive workshop for the New Zealand Secondary Students Choir (NZSSC). The NZSSC, the national choir for 13-18 year olds, performs a wide variety of music, including many works from New Zealand composers in concerts throughout the country. It gathers the New Zealand’s finest young voices, amongst them King’s students Jonathan Ta (Year 13 Peart), Christopher Scholtens (Year 13, Parnell) and Chen Rong Lu (Year 12, Peart).
King’s recently caught up with these students.
Tell us about the recent workshop you attended? Were there any particular highlights?
Jonathan Ta: The entire week was dashed with highlights, such as getting to know the other members from around the country and lighthearted breakfast conversations with my billets. But I feel the moment that truly stuck for me was in our open rehearsal when we performed a few of the pieces we had been working on for six days. To see (or rather hear) how far we had come, and how much joy and emotion it evoked in both the audience and us, that was my real high point in the workshops.
Christopher Scholtens: This workshop was the first time the choir had come together. I was slightly apprehensive about such a new experience, since I'd never been in NZSSC before, but the friendly and inviting atmosphere soon made me feel at home.
Chen Rong Lu: I really enjoyed taking part in a full day of Kapa haka rehearsal. We learnt two Waiatas, along with actions.
What are you working towards as a choir and what are you most looking forward to?
JT: The NZSSC is currently working towards our first major performance alongside the New Zealand Youth Choir at the conductors' conference "Choral Connect", held in Auckland in July. Together, we will be premiering a piece by Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds, commissioned especially for this event. Looking further ahead, the Choir is preparing repertoire for our international tour to Hong Kong in July 2018.
Looking past all the rehearsals and performances though, I'm most looking forward to becoming closer to the other choir members, making friends as well as music. The last choir really became a sort of family by the end of 2016, and I'm sure that will happen again this time.
What do you most enjoy about being in a choir?
JT: It sounds cliché, but I most enjoy the feeling of being part of something greater. When I sing a note in the choir, I hear my fellow basses supporting me, as well as the other parts bringing their own harmonies and tunes. All these parts coming together creates euphonious music, and with 58 other voices singing and moving with you, contributing to that sound is a highly rewarding experience.
CS: What I love about being in a choir is having the ability to perform quality music with people who are just as passionate about singing as I am. It is really encouraging to know that there are plenty of secondary school students who are inspired to take up music because of choir.
CRL: I enjoy listening to choral singing, and being in a choir, you get to listen from a different perspective - you hear from within the group.
What’s the most important thing you learnt whilst at the workshop?
JT: In terms of choral technique, the most significant thing I learnt about was the different tuning systems that choirs have the option of using when singing. While the current standard is to sing in tune with the piano or another instrument (a system called Equal Temperament), we have largely been using a system called "Just Intonation." This system instead relies on a good ear to tune to the natural harmony of the note, producing a cleaner sound.
CS: During the weeklong workshop, I learned valuable information about the techniques and technicalities of choral music, but it was the other choristers who taught me the most.
CRL: The most important thing I learnt at the workshop was how to work efficiently. We had to learn 16 songs in five days, which is really demanding and requires each one of us to be disciplined and productive, as well as needing us to pay a lot of concentration and effort.
How has King’s supported your development as a singer and chorister?
JT: King's has developed me as a chorister with the expertise of experienced musicians, conductors, and composers on the staff. Through the choral programme and private lessons, I have been able to develop my technique whilst becoming familiar with a wide range of solo and choir repertoire. I wouldn't be where I am without the chances I receive at King’s to better my technique and performance skill.
CS: I had never truly thought about Choir until I came to King's, and was pretty hesitant about joining to begin with. However, it has turned out to be one of the most fulfilling activities in which I have participated during my five years at the College, thanks to the hard work and commitment of the music staff and students, and I wholeheartedly encourage students to give it a go. The opportunities that choir provides are very enjoyable and beneficial, and you won't regret it.
CRL: I joined the King's Premiere Choir ‘All the King's Men’ in Year 10 and for the first time I experienced a higher level of choral singing. The very enjoyable experience of going to the ‘Big Sing’ was a large contributing factor to my passion for choral singing.
Who’s your biggest singing role model/icon?
JT: One of the singing role models I look up to is my former singing teacher, Steven Rapana. He is a highly accomplished singer and musician, having sung in New Zealand's premier chamber choir, Voices 16. He even composed a set of Samoan songs, which I had the pleasure of performing with the 2015-16 NZSSC. However, as well as his amazing tenor voice and musical ear, he always had time for his students.
CRL: My biggest singing role model would be Pavarotti.