Archive for July, 2012


Day twenty-four

This morning we attended the awards ceremony for our latter two categories. We waited with bated breath, not knowing what to expect. So many of our choir members weren’t sure what to expect, because we’d only just come from the open category, which has a score out of 30 but the champions contest has a score out of 100 and some much more intimidating competition!

In the Mixed Chamber Choir category we got 78.something points, and in Musica Contemporanea we got 76.75: two more silver medals! It was wonderful and relaxing at the same time, to think that we managed to get so far among such a talented crowd.

We had a break afterwards – a four hour break! A whole four hours, and what to do? Some people wandered around town, looking at markets and things, some tried to get some touring done and others just went back to the hotel and slept. Our lovely bus driver, Lou, who has been so wonderful, picked people up and brought them back to the Duke Centre where we were supposed to meet at 6pm, and from there we all grouped back together.

From there we went to our final World Choir Games event – the Closing Ceremony. It was amazing. We laughed, we sang, and we had a jolly good time listening to some amazing music from a Latvian chamber choir (promoting the next games in Latvia, woo!), the orchestra led by some various energetic conductors, and Idina Menzel (broadway star and amazing singer).

The levels of patriotism were somewhat reminiscent of the Olympics, but with a few choir songs chucked in. And of course, our favourite Rhythms of One World song (Gary, it’s just stuck with us).

So tomorrow (well, today as I post this), we’re about to fly out and back home. My camera cable is packed away already, so I can’t upload photos for the last two days but I will do as soon as possible! Thank you everyone for your support and I hope that I’ve managed to convey to you how wonderful this trip has been. I’m so grateful that I was able to come along and it’s going to be strange getting used to home again!

Thank you!


Day twenty-three

Today we had two performances, wow. It was a tiring but exciting day.

In the morning we had our Mixed Chamber Choir section, which has a maximum of 30 people in it. Our choir has 35, but we found out that it’s a maximum of 30 people per song, not a total of 30, so we were able to switch some voices around. We sang my favourite piece, Dixit Dominus (if you’ve seen us sing, it’s the one where we split into three choirs), Surrexit Dominus, the Stanhope Ave Verum Corpus (ie. the atonal one. Not so pretty as the Drury, but very clever), and Slangpolska Efter Byss-Kalle.

This performance was at the Christchurch cathedral, where the sound echoed out over the stone floors. I don’t know what it sounded like from the audience’s perspective, but I think it must have worked. The location seemed to really suit most of our repertoire.

One of the major benefits of sitting out of the middle two chamber choir songs was that I could hear how some of the more complicated pieces were pulling together and the bits that felt wrong to sing actually sounded really good.

We had lunch at the Duke Centre afterwards, then rushed off to the Masonic Hall, where our afternoon performance was. For this section, Musica Contemporanea, we sang Shore, Gloria, Lament and Biegga Luohte.

I tells ya, the relief after finishing all of our sections was great. Once there were no more performances in front of us we were totally able to relax and even though there are still events for us to attend, we’ve done all the high-pressure stuff. Yaay!

We had to rush to get changed and have dinner, then we went off to the awards ceremony for yesterday’s category, Music of Religions. The place we were in was kinda like a stadium, but with a roof. Oh, and it was right next to a baseball stadium where there was a game going on, so we had to push through a crowd of people with red shirts on who were going to cheer their team on. In our blue shirts we really stood out from the crowd, so it was easy to follow through.

The announcements were so dramatic. With such-and-such number of points, a choir! With another amount of points slightly higher, another choir! We waited with bated breath as our category was read through, and finally we were announced with a silver medal! 75.45 points – not bad for my first go! That’s like a Distinction in Uni – woo!

Considering that last year we were in the open competition and this year was our first in the champions competition, it’s stunning to believe we’ve managed to achieve this much! What a leap – newbies to old-timers, practically.

The next awards are being announced tomorrow – not long now!


Day twenty-two

Our first competition section today: Music of Religions! We performed in the Masonic Hall, which has a great stage area. The whole day was streamlined: all extraneous segments removed so all we really had to focus on was the competition.

It went really well. We performed Marrkapmirr, Ave Verum Corpus (the Drury one – ie. the pretty one), Sunrise on the Coast and Bayami. The last two have taken a while to get up to the right standard, but they’ve been zooming along in the past week or so, as our rehearsals became more pointed. I think the climax of Bayami’s potential was when we were practicing in the holding room beforehand and one of the other choirs came in. It was like we suddenly realised the ferocity (and comparative gentleness) of the song. I think it may even have been the difference between practicing the song and performing it, because we’ve only performed it twice (?) before, so we’re still finding where it sits, and this was our first performance since we’d really pulled it up to scratch. It was very satisfying.

It would have been nice to be able to see the performances of the other groups as well, but I guess it’s better to be happy with how we went than to sit around comparing ourselves to the different choirs. So we piled back into the bus afterwards back to the hotel. Our bus driver was lovely enough to stick around for ten minutes then drive a load of us to Appleby’s for dinner (mmm, steaks that are cheap and good!).

When we got back after dinner there was some last minute sorting of the Chamber Choir category (our first competition section tomorrow morning) and a whole lot of practice, as we have our other two categories on tomorrow. Musica Contemporanea is in the afternoon, so there’s a little more time to look at that . . . sort of.

So far we’re doing well! Tomorrow will be a blast!


Day twenty-one

Yes, rehearsals, rehearsals, rehearsals. We spent a while this morning talking about how we present ourselves on stage, and going over a few of our trickier songs. Altogether three hours of different sorts of choiring before we had a break for lunch – and let me tell you, the Waffle House in the carpark of our hotel was somewhat crowded with choristers – and then got back into rehearsal.

We had a performance this evening, full of “Hurry up and wait!” moments – something the choir members picked up when the choir was on Battle of the Choirs, years ago, and they had to be ready for a strict timeline, then wait around totally ready until it was their time. Lots of rushing and waiting. Tonight was just like that. Rush to get yer uniforms on for the 7pm deadline, wait around for twenty minutes, hurry up and get into your lines in the next area (don’t talk: too close to the stage), wait for ten minutes while the next choir does their thing, file into the next area absolutely ready to go on stage, wait while the choir on stage finishes up, hurry up – it’s your turn – get on! I completely understand why it’s that way – people have a deadline to meet and they’re trying to make things as smooth as possible for the audience. But the contrast in speeds seems funny.

Our performance went well. By which I mean we got a standing ovation and a big case of the warm fuzzies inside! Hopefully this is an indication of how we’ll go in the competition. We rushed off to our dinner at the Duke Centre, where the staff had kindly managed to fit us in since we couldn’t make it before our performance. They had some awesome cake there – a sponge with what tasted like whipped cream in a can (but without the can) on top. Yummerino.

When we got back to the hotel, we had a brief talk and arrangement of uniforms, as tomorrow is the first day of competition. Ahh! How intimidating! But I’ll put a smile on my face and they’ll be none-the-wiser (except you guys, but you won’t tell anyone, so no problems there).


Day twenty

Today we began our official World Choir Games . . . stuff. We went to our performance locations and got to practice there for 10 minutes per section (so the two performances in the Masonic Hall got two consecutive practices = 20 minutes). Walk on, try to centre on the stage, practice the bits we need to know the acoustics of, continue to try to centre, walk off (try to remember where we were that was centred and try to mentally fix that position some more for the Real Thing).

We had a short break for food and got to wander around a bit before meeting together again for a short rehearsal of Slangpolska. It’s one of our main choralography pieces, but when we compete we know we’re judged on our sound rather than our moves, so we try to pull it back and figure out how much movement adds to the piece and whether it’s worth having this or that. We want the music to sound the best, and sometimes the movement helps because it gets us in the right frame of mind, but sometimes the movement means we don’t focus well enough on the sound, and the sound is the priority.

Eventually at 4pm we met in Hall 1C of the Duke Centre, which was like a big warehouse. All the choirs in the World Choir Games arrived bit by bit over the next hour or two, and we rehearsed and sang and mingled. Then eventually at 6pm we began the parade that heralded the start of the World Choir Games (champions’ division). A USA choir that was performing at the opening went first, then our column went, led by the Greek flag (I thought they may have been the hosts of the next games, but I’m informed that’s Latvia), then good ol’ Australia! It pays off, starting with A.

It felt very much like the Olympics. Some streets had been closed to traffic so that we could all pass through, and people were on either side, waving and cheering. We waved our flags and cheered and sang. It was great. When we eventually arrived at Fountain Square the USA choir was singing along to some music playing in the background and we gladly joined in. They had some dance moves that we tried to imitate, but a lot of it needed more co-ordination than I could muster.

There were speeches and music, and it was a great opening to the World Choir Games. We’re all really looking forward to it. Tomorrow we have a Celebration Concert, which is a performance but not competition event. Our events are coming up on Thursday (since I’m not posting on quite the right days, I’ll point out that that’s the day after tomorrow as this is being written), and Friday. Not long now!


Day nineteen

We’re well in the thick of it now! This morning we began our rehearsals at 9am (by which time the section leaders had already had a meeting with Philip). We practiced together as a choir, then separate as sections, then altos and sopranos joined together for some more, finishing around quarter to 12. More rehearsals to come in the afternoon: practicing from 3-5pm, after which we get to watch a recording of our performance at St. Paul’s Paget, so we can recognise more of what we need to work on. This is it, folks! So now I’m taking a break to eat my lunch: fruit, vegies, nuts and chocolate, pre-purchased. I’m going to have this break so hard you’ll hear it snap!


Day eighteen

Our hotel is in Kentucky, just across the border from Ohio. Yes, that’s right, we’re in the home of the chicken – and no, Dad, I can’t bring some home for you. It’d be cold and Customs would confiscate it. I’m yet to see a KFC (or maybe around here they’re just FCs), but we’re near a Walmart and a Target, which I’m informed is significantly different to our Targets. I did have an explore of the Walmart, though, with some other cool cats.

It was giant. They sold everything. Food, clothes, music, DVDs, bikes, fireworks, guns . . . It was almost like taking down the wall between the Coles and Kmart in Waratah Village, except more American. We walked around for ages, looking at all of the ridiculous things – like pavement chalk shaped like ice-cream, and televisions wider than Ben could reach, but mostly food. The size of the popcorn section (or the oreo section or the poptart section, etc.) was bewildering. How could there be so many different flavours filled with so much sugar? Warhead drinks and marshmallows the size of your fist and so many variations of each cereal: “Now only the most sugary bits!” As we’ve gone on we’ve noticed how everything is sweet or full of flavour. It’s not all bad, but just like eating food from any other culture, it doesn’t always agree with you!

We left Walmart with groceries. So many groceries. At this point we realised how handy the shuttle bus is. Kentucky doesn’t really have any public transport, so there was the choice between getting the hotel’s shuttle bus, which drives clients anywhere within about five miles of the hotel, or walking back carrying glass bottles of juice and bags of snacks. Thank you, shuttle bus!

After lunch and the mere start of a game of 500, we stumbled upon the time by chance and realised we had ten minutes until we had to meet with the choir for information about the World Choir Games and for revision of our performance pieces. After the choir meeting, we separated for different practices. Tenors and sopranos looked over their pieces together, but altos did some individual work. It’s strange how after hearing advice from people trained so much more in music than I am, it starts to sink in when I get some time to myself. For example, I’m beginning to understand better how some vowel sounds are naturally darker than others (darker is like flatter, but to such a minimal extent that it seems to be more of a change in intent and level of collaboration with surrounding parts than just a change in the note). That means I’m realising I’m more likely to need to work on my pitch with such-and-such a word than with another. This is definitely a good time to be noticing these things. Still half a week before we have to compete in the World Choir Games.

But only half a week. Argh!


Day seventeen

Our last day in Bermuda! I celebrated with a last swim, and the whole choir gathered on the beach for a photograph. We’ve had a lovely time here, and while it’s sad to be moving on, we’ll be able to get dressed into dry clothes and get into the competition, hooray!

Yes, there are only a few days until the World Choir Games begins. Well, it’s sort of already begun: there are two separate weeks of competition, and our events are taking place in the second week. Still, it’s time for us to get started!

Heading to the airport, we called out our goodbyes to the island. It would be wonderful to come back, but the chances of that happening seem low at the moment. I’ll wait until I’ve made my millions and then I’ll come and stay at the hotel where I ate on the first evening.

Getting through the airport took a while. For most of our choir members, it took about five or ten minutes (that’s a well-considered, literal five or ten as opposed to the twenty I was hearing from other members) to get our boarding passes. We found out afterwards that the machines were having some trouble with the Australian passports, which explains why there was only one of our blue choir shirts about every fifty people along in the line into the baggage check. But we did all get through eventually, and onto the plane.

Flying out with one last look at the water was amazing. Even about five kilometres out from the shore we could still see the rocks under the water. Aaargh, so blue! So pretty! Then it was goodbye world, and sleepy time.

We had a stopover in Charlotte for five hours, and wandered through the massive airport for a while. Koala and I found a piano player playing a whole lot of pop songs in the food court area and when we spoke with her, she suggested we get the choir down there for a sing-a-long. Everyone was so scattered that it took a while to find everyone, but we got a handful of people to come along, even Angela, Lesley’s daughter, who sang a song that her school choir has been doing. We ended up going through the pianist’s songbooks and finding a bunch of songs we vaguely knew so we could harmonise along together. Some of the other people in the airport were filming us on their phones, but I can’t find it on the internet anywhere, sadly.

The flight into Cincinnati was smooth rolling for the most part, but when we began descent there was a bit of rollercoaster-like turbulence. Oops, there goes my stomach, dropping so much I think it may have fallen out of the plane. But it was over soon and we got in to the airport safely and to our new home, the Comfort Inn.


Day sixteen

By this point the days have started to blur together. I realise we’re doing different things every day, but the heat saps the energy out of you and I’ve been waking up at night time, feeling hot and sticky. We, ahhh, did stuff, then – umm – something happened. Well, I think something happened. I hope something happened. Maybe it’s all a dream and I’m in New York still, so delirious that I can’t tell reality from the camp bunk beds and sandy floors of the military barracks in Bermuda.

No, I’m not sick. Although, I am tired. I’ve been informed by a reliable source that I was so thoroughly asleep during the middle of the day that I did not wake up to calling of my name, shaking or tickling, and I was briefly declared dead by Phillippa. However, I managed to rise to a deliberate shout and get ready to leave for St. Paul’s Paget in a minute or two, displaying the skills of a blogster ready to blog at all occasions.

We rehearsed at the church and were provided with a wonderful dinner of lasagne and salad, and dessert of brownies with ice-cream, yuuum! When we eventually performed, we were delighted to be met with all sorts of approval at even the strangest of our songs. It was nice to have an audience that didn’t seem confused and bewildered by the shouts and harmonics, but which took them all in their stride and were delighted by it all. They were even kind enough to give us lifts back to the barracks afterwards.


Day fifteen

After our morning rehearsal, I found out that there had been some night-time adventures. Around 3am when Belinda got up to use the bathroom, she came back to the dorm behind a large frog, hopping along the path. It proceeded to hop into the girls’ dorm, and, yes, at 3am, she had to round it up and chase it out of the dormitory, with all the girls still sleeping soundly – or me, at the very least. Nicely done.

We travelled into town for another small performance in the park. It was a lovely spot to sing, and we even found a ledge to stand on, emulating the usual stage in a more natural setting. We intended to have another rehearsal afterwards, but when we arrived at the building it was locked, so we waiting in the adjacent park for the man who would unlock it, and found a bunch of kids playing with some lizards. The lizards here all seem so tame – they were just sitting on people’s shoulders, allowing all sorts of attention.

Afterwards we were set free around town. Shopping, eating, attempting to catch ferries but giving up due to projected arrival times . . . I’ll get back around to swimming at some point, but I’m attempting to not get too much sun. At least while I was in town today I finally found some sunscreen. Now I won’t have to scab off everyone else!

In the evening we presented a workshop, in St. Paul’s Paget, running through songs we’re well familiar with, and some songs that I hadn’t seen before. Always better to have something new to learn than just grow stagnant, though.

Then it was home to no showers, due to the water having run out. There was a small picnic outside the girls’ dorms for a while (hopefully there aren’t any crumbs that will attract the frog back), and then people trickled into bed. And then we slept. And then the blog ended. Goodnight!

July 2012