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Hong Kong (Choir)


First impressions are always impressive
To our astonishment, the shade of the sky didn’t seem too unfamiliar to reckon with. A mixture of white and grey covered the horizon as we touched down in Hong Kong. Greeted by the common chatter of friendly locals alongside the pungent scent of those city cabs, the atmosphere didn’t seem too different from what we were used to, although the absence of the humid heat was clear. The bus ride was mesmerizing as we drove past vast mountains, clear coastal areas and man-made structures that tore through the skies. As minutes turned to hours, we settled in and adapted quickly. Most importantly, the meals we devoured did not disappoint, our taste buds were definitely blessed. ~ Maria Josephine Orell, Vanessa Alycia Lim, Janelle Pang, Mary Alexandra Yeo
A Choir arrives in Hong Kong
A city where many have visited. But this time round, we come together as a choir to participate in the Asia Cantate 2018. As we stepped out of the airport in bated breath, a chilly gust embraced us. Our first stop was at a local dim sum restaurant, located directly across the Shangri-la hotel. The street the restaurant was located in was bustling with life, as people sped through our line of vision, as we ate our scrumptious meal inside the restaurant. As pork and seafood dishes cladded in soft flour arrived at our tables, the aromatic fragrance of the unique Chinese cuisine swirled around, enticing our growing appetite. We gobbled down our food in a matter of seconds.  
 ~ Keshia Lim, Cheryl Ng and Cecilia Parman
Choir rehearsals in a different setting
Many miles far from the smooth wooden floors of the E-studio we were accustomed to, where the red paper airplane stuck amongst the air vents, were now nowhere to be found. We still found ourselves sitting, standing and stretching. Despite the unfamiliar ambience that constantly accompanied us upon our arrival, the burning desire to be the best of choirs remained in each individual’s heart. The fear, anxiety and tension forced our blood to course through our veins, knowing that this last rehearsal – a day before the actual - brought us one step closer to the competition. We soon realized that we might fail to produce the harmonious melody we usually hear in E-studio. To sum up, we really thank God for this successful rehearsal!
 ~ Geri Neo, Sydney Elizabeth Johnson, Michelle Bianca and Kay Eugenia Parnama
As the day of the competition inched closer and closer, we grew more excited yet apprehensive about taking the stage. Only as we took off from Changi Airport, did it finally dawn on us how this previously inconceivable dream of our Choir performing overseas in 2018, would finally become a reality. We all had a common goal; a persistent determination to present the best performance of our life on that foreign stage -singing our hearts out as one united voice. Knowing the immeasurable amount of effort, time, and energy that we, our teachers in charge, and conductor have put into making this extraordinary musical journey possible, we could only seize this one chance to give it our all. We put our trust in the fact that He always has the best plan for us, in everything we do. 
~ Dilys Neo, Anastasia Chew and Jovanka Vienna


Culinary delights
We were pleasantly greeted by the pleasant aroma of food that made our mouths water.  The plates of dim sum such as dumplings, Siu Mai and steamed buns piled up. We were delighted by the plethora of food that we got to choose from, and indeed they looked appealing. As soon as the dim sum entered my mouth, the burst of meat and chives in flavourable seasoning, made all of us moan in delight. The taste lingered kept us desiring more. We wolfed down the food and delightedly emptied the plates in no time. The meals that followed were no different. It was something we looked forward to and gave us the energy to continue our journey. ~ Teoh Shu Yi Cheryl’s group
The gravity of the festival sinks in
As we commenced the beginning of the 2nd day in Hong Kong, one could sense the difference in mood and atmosphere. What used to be an air of exhaustion and dread was now replaced by an aura of anticipation and excitement. As the clock ticked on, our fear of performing poorly in the competition became evident. This growing fear was discernible when we were rehearsing in the assigned room for Festival participants. For just about the 100th time, a crucial major chord in our 2nd song, titled 棉衣, went into the minor key. Our frustration, as well as our conductor’s, was fully unveiled. It as only at the end of practice when we regrouped in our sections that we finally got the chord right, improving our sour moods. A wave of relief filled us when we heard the perfect harmony of the chord. As we approached the theatre, the tension was palpable for the ever-assessing eyes of the judges and audience present seemed to weigh down on us, as did the pressure of excelling. However, when the familiar melodies flooded the overwhelming auditorium, our nerves faded. The weight on our shoulders seemed to lighten and we became much more relaxed. We knew that this competition was important but what was just as important was the start of a journey to perfection. Whatever the results, we knew that we would have no regrets leaving the stage. ~ Clare Phang Hui Min’s group
Twists and turns - let us seize the day
Life is full of surprises. It is akin to spices that add sudden flavours and change the taste most unexpectedly from the chef’s passionate concoction. We are referring to the tears that were shed at the end of the Friendship Concert, an outcome that may be considered more of a lesson that allowed the bud in us to flourish and blossom. We now understand, coming out of the auditorium; perhaps we are similar to lost cats who have evolved over night into lions on stage. The teachers recognize the tremendous effort we have put in. The outcome may be disappointing, but then again it may not since results will be known in 24 hours, but the IJ choir will continue to soar. This, we understand, must be the turn that we all learn to take as young women of IJ.  ~ Michelle Bianca’s group

The benefits of a cultural exchange
Thunderous cheers accompanied by equally deafening claps and steady beats of a drum echoed through a crowded theatre.  Choristers from different parts of the world came together like rivers joining together to form an ocean. All of us chanted and clapped, as we supported other choirs regardless of nationality. It was spontaneous.  It had opened our eyes to a world where people viewed their rivals as comrades not potential opponents in competition. We learnt that doing well in the competition alone is nothing compared to the joy of succeeding alongside other choirs. We will definitely carry this experience to future competitions.  ~ Karen Natalie’s group

Day 3

The benefits of choral workshops
We have been looking forward to this masterclass with Mr. Ko Matsushita since our conductor Ms. Foo mentioned him as one of the adjudicators for our competition a few months ago. He is the composer of Kotoba Asobi Uta, one of the songs that we have been rehearsing and will be performing at Singapore Youth Festival 2019. This piece radiates childlike playfulness and joy. We found his session very engaging; we learnt about traditional Japanese pentatonic melodies through trying out some short musical phrases which showcased the uniqueness of different Japanese pentatonic structures. Typically sung by children, these compositions comprise a maximum of five notes, with the final note being the second note of the scale. This is what differentiates Japanese music from other genres of classical music, which is very soft and gentle. Another distinguishing trait of the Japanese pentatonic is that the melody is neither in major or minor key. Overall this was an eye-opening experience.
~ Jovanka Vienna Svenvie’s group
It’s a Journey -  a rollercoaster ride of emotional ups and downs
“Success is a journey, not a destination.” This phrase rang loudly in our heads as we counted down to the hour. That morning, everyone awoke with mirrored expressions, heavy eyelids that cloaked their faces and hair that tangled like yarn. Our minds stuffed and our hearts restless in thought: “Had we done enough? Were we over thinking?”  Soon enough, it was time. We gave it our all with every bar and note. Once the competition was over, we were on cloud nine. The feeling of satisfaction rushed through our veins. However later that evening, things took an unexpected turn. We had not gotten into the Grand Finals and it surprised us. However, we learnt more through this, we knew that it wasn’t about the end result, which were out of our hands, but  simply put in words, it was really about the effort and care we have shown, and perhaps deliberated upon throughout the whole process.
   ~   Vanessa Lim’s group
Competition results
It was 9.30 pm, and our results were going to be announced. We had not been selected to sing at that grand prix, and thus the word “result” made us even more anxious- would we get the gold or not? We were seated together as CHIJ Secondary Choir back in the Y-theatre where all the hard work we put in was presented in 15 minutes of cold calculated judgment. Despite wearing our distinctive dark blue thick jacket, the breezy cold air occasionally sent chills down our spines.  “And now for the results,” announced Nelson Kwei, the premier choral director of Singapore. Our hands clenched tighter as the pause continued, knuckles slowly growing white. Time seemed to stop while the room fell silent, enabling us to hear nothing but the deafening beats of our hearts. The long-awaited moment arrived : “CHIJ choir, with a score of 84.15, GOLD C”. The tension on our faces began to loosen up. Smiles were plastered on most of our faces. WE GOT GOLD! Only with God’s guidance would we have been able to achieve gold. He clearly helped us to get what we deserved.~   Geri Neo’s group

Day 4

Christmas in Disneyland
The love, joy and peace of Christmas was heightened by the magic of Disneyland. From Mickey Mouse headbands displayed in shop windows, to Christmas themed delicacies, it was as if Santa Claus was strolling down the streets of Disneyland. The graceful melody of Christmas carols brought back fond childhood memories. Day became night, and the colourful strings of lights once cheerful amidst the bustle of day, became calm as the sun set, illuminating the night sky. ~  Rachel Ang Zi Xuan’s group
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
"Tis the season to be jolly!" This sums up our day at Disneyland. The happiest place on earth was truly felt in festive spirits when we walked through the colossal park. The lilting melodies of the sweet, familiar tunes brought out our jubilant side, and was a refreshing change to the tense atmosphere still lingering, remnants of the stress and anticipation of the choral competition results only a day before. The Disney characters decked out in convival costumes added to the atmosphere. Children sat atop Goofy's lap, prattling on about the gifts they wanted under a booth labelled "Santa Goofy". We couldn't help but smile as we were reminded of our naïve, innocent childhoods. Walking through the park, it was true what they said, that Disneyland was dressed in Christmas. The festive colours of red, gold and green stood out in the park as poinsettas, baubles and wreathes adorned the roads. Later in the day, when the sky darkened, we couldn't help but notice the festive lights lighting up every corner of Disneyland. The festive spirit was in full form as we trooped through the grounds, watching the incandescent bodies glowing all over Disneyland. Surrounded by friends, we were reminded of how such ties in choir never failed to light up even the darkest of  moments in our lives. Disneyland truly makes Christmas the most wonderful time of the year.  ~  Sim Khok Yee’s group
Things that come alive in Disneyland
Magical sparkles in the air
Multiple bears given to share
Mickey Morty both the same 
Minnie cartoons filled with fame.
Fairydust tinkled in the air
Freezing us, but dealt with scare
Fearless Peter hit the pan
Fascinating musicals reached the BEN
Aromatic scents of roses in the air
Attractive belle waiting there
Almighty Simba concurred a scar
Hakuna Matata 
~ Tan Kit Mun, Tan Le Xuan Gladys, Michelle Bianca

Back in time -  Reliving my girlhood
Every girl's dream is to become a princess. We all aspired to wear beautiful dresses and reside in fancy palaces, living the finest life. Today, we finally fulfilled that dream. Spending time in the castle that belongs to “a Small Small World" and exploring Mystic Manor fell nothing short of the experiences of a real life Disney Princess. We even got to interact with our favourite Disney characters a hark back to the girlhood of yore. When we were younger, we always wanted to grow up faster and free ourselves from our parents' grasps. Today, we roamed and explored Disneyland, finally tasting what it felt like to leave the nest and see the outside world without constant parental supervision. Another thing we observed while at Disneyland was the sudden change in our behaviour. We felt more at ease, even to the point of running around and acting like we were six-year-olds again. Outside of Disneyland, we would never do such things in public for fear of judgement, but within the walls of fantasy land, we could be whatever we wanted to be because around us, we did not only see children. We also saw adults and other adolescents in Disneyland, with the same childlike glee and sparkle in their eyes. ~  Sim Khok Yee’s group

Day 5

A scholar’s memorable first overseas choir trip
These past few days have been nothing but exhilarating, almost magical albeit a little bit exhausting. Other than taking part in our first overseas competition and obtaining a gold award, we also got the chance to bond as a choir. This whole journey had been a rollercoaster ride and would not be as enjoyable if it had not been with my fellow choir members. About half a year ago, I saw my friends’ eyes sparkle with excitement, upon hearing about this trip. Even though it took us a while to adjust and learn what it takes to become a better chorister, I had confidence that as a choir, we would tremendously improve and CHIJ Secondary Choir proved me right. I used to think that preparations might have been more flawless, where we wouldn't have any stumbling block but that had not been the case. I now recall the tension and stress that all of us felt in the final rehearsal before we stepped up on stage. It was hard not to feel so pressed even though our teachers and conductor had reminded us not to because all of our hard work and effort in the past few months depended on this one and only 15-minutes performance. However, “memorable” is really the perfect word to describe my entire overseas choir trip to Hong Kong. The opportunity to learn from a professional composer and the joy that we experienced in the happiest place on earth — Disneyland far outweighs the extreme pressure we felt. All in all, this choir trip is definitely an unforgettable one.
- Jasselynn Putri Ayu & Kay Eugenia Purnama Indonesian Scholars
 Learning is life’s experience
Travelling to another country is always interesting. The sights, the sounds, the food; there are so many new things to experience. Travelling to Hong Kong with the choir for a competition is no exception. For most, the concrete lesson learnt, is that not winning does not mean you fail. We had performed our pieces at adjudication, and felt very happy with how we did. The choir delivered. Honestly we were satisfied with ourselves. We left that stage with quite some expectations, with unabashed hopes that we could achieve more than we earlier thought possible. However, despite the raised hopes, even until the end our choir's name was not announced as a Finalist fighting for the Champion trophy at Grand Prix.

Suffice it to say, some felt let down. Nevertheless, we all had to eventually come to terms with it as not getting the best award or highest honour at Grand Prix does not mean we are less than 2nd best. Perhaps having gotten into Grand Prix for SICF in July 2018 made us hope for something more, but ultimately we must be grateful for what we had achieved and make the most of it. We took home a very respectable Gold Award, which was actually our goal from the beginning. By shifting goal posts, by being ambitious, by harbouring secret hopes deep within the recesses of our hearts, of being a champion choir, serves nothing spiritually. The most valuable lesson this trip has taught me is that reality can be tough to accept, or that Fate may often be unkind, but the fact that we have put in our all and done our best, is truly what makes us true winners. Real winners, and women of distinction do not cry. We treasure our Gold Award. Truly. ~Jovanka Vienna Svenvie’s group
A Memorable 1st from the perspective of a foreign student
The minute we stepped out. Our skin was caressed by the cold thin air. We looked into each other’s eyes; and immediately knew, a great journey awaited us. 
Being so used to the hot and humid weather in both Indonesia and Singapore, Hong Kong gave us a new, refreshing air. Moreover, Singapore and Hongkong are known for being land-scarced. Hence the price of land is extremely high compared to Indonesia. Aside from its differences, there is a similar bustling atmosphere whereby everything moves rapidly and the night will forever be young.Disneyland is definitely the highlight of the trip. The magical land had truly captivated us – teachers and pupils. It was as if the characters had come to life and enclosed us in a seemingly surreal dimension. Nothing could have beaten the feeling of satisfaction, pride, and gratitude that the whole choir received the moment the results showed on the screen- GOLD.
All in all, our journey in Hong Kong has been a wonderful and unforgettable experience. We will forever cherish these memories for the rest of our life.  ~  Michelle Bianca
Souvenirs from a foreign land – from a foreign student
The foreign students did not have that much pocket money, but prioritised in the purchase of souvenirs; the local delicacies, Disneyland gifts, and a couple of knick knacks here and there, that remind us of the memories created during the past five days. They remain a symbol of the sharing, the happiness and demonstration of our show of appreciation for the unwavering support of families back home and what they have given us. Without them, we would not have been able to come on this trip. The other souvenirs are gifts that we keep, within ourselves, clear reminders of the laughter, the grins and smiles that we shared over lunch and dinner. They are captured on that cell phone, images that deepen, revealing slowly and developing by the hour, like the intangible piece that will never disappear. They are etched deep, and anchor there for a long time to come. They are the real souvenirs that mean more than the physical tangible objects. ~  Cecilia Parman
Gifts – metaphorically speaking
Five days wasn’t enough. Our hearts ached as we refused to accept the reality of today being our last! We’ve spent this past week settling in, rehearsing, so how awful is that feeling that we no longer wake up to the disturbing and ear-piercing wake-up call that rudely shakes you off the bed? Or that we will no longer be crudely accosted and greeted by mountain loads of dim sum? We have tried to take a piece of Hong Kong with us, from the cheap goods we scavenged and bargained for at the Ladies’ Market, to the more expensive and upmarket plush toys at Disneyland. These are the physical gifts, the souvenirs that come with a price tag. However, there will always be something that all of us will keep with our final goodbyes. That is the gift of our musical experience – metaphorically speaking shared, through tears, scoldings, fears, anticipations, heart-stopping moments, jokes and chorused laughter. It is the invaluable gift of the whole musical journey, the full experience, something not defined but residing within the heart and soul. Good-bye Asia Cantate 2018! Thanks for the gift of song.
~Maria Josephine and Rachel Ang