Despite a transport mix-up which threatened to scupper their chances, the Waitaki Girls’ High School choir excelled at The Big Sing.
The 24-strong “Waitaki Singers” were highly commended for their performance in the Dunedin Town Hall last week and received a trophy for embodying the spirit of the festival, as voted by the backstage crew.
Waitaki Girls’ head of music Da-Hae Kim said they were “very stoked” with their achievements _ especially in the circumstances.
The Big Sing is run by the New Zealand Choral Federation in nine regions throughout the country. Dunedin hosted the Otago-South Canterbury regional event and will also host the national final on August 25 to 27. Competition is intense, with many schools rehearsing long and hard. Some of the private
schools had their own vocal tutors, Miss Kim said.
At Waitaki Girls’, the pupils did not have to audition to get into the choir _ it was for “allcomers”, she said.
Her own musical expertise was instrumental, rather than vocal. During her degree she majored in composition and minored in the French horn, and played in the orchestra instead of singing in the choir.
“I never had any formal choir training.”
The Waitaki Singers rehearse twice a week at lunch times. Their Big Sing repertoire had to comprise a New Zealand song, a classical piece, and one “other”. She chose the Imagine Dragons rock song Radioactive, largely “to interest the girls”.
The classical number was Creation’s Song, and their Kiwi item was Pokarekare Ana. Miss Kim added a unique twist _ her choir sang it in Korean as well as Maori.
Miss Kim was born in Korea, moving to New Zealand in 1996 at the age of 8. She knew Maori soldiers serving in the Korean War in the early 1950s taught the song to Korean soldiers. They in turn had put their own words to the tune. Miss Kim made a recording of the Korean version and gave it to
the Waitaki Singers so they could learn it at home.
“They picked it up really fast.”
Having performed singing telegrams to raise finds for their bus trip to Dunedin for the Big Sing, they were ready when June 15 arrived. However, their bus was not.
It had been at the school a month early _ on May 15, Miss Kim said. On June 15, it was nowhere to be seen.
“We were very anxious.”
After being summoned urgently, the bus delivered the Waitaki Singers to the Dunedin Town Hall 30 minutes later than they had planned. “The MC had already started.”
Miss Kim thought her pupils sang well, but not quite up to their rehearsal standard. The awards were a pleasant surprise she hopes will boost the choir.
“We always recruit more after The Big Sing.”
The Waitaki Singers will perform at the school’s House Choirs evening on July 7.