APAC Choir a Phenomenal Success

Iris Lee

From the 16th to 18th of November, HKIS choir members took part in the 2017 APAC Choir festival hosted by American International School Guangzhou. The annual festival involves Seoul Foreign School, Taejon Christian International School, Concordia International School Shanghai, United Nations International School Hanoi, American International School Guangzhou, and Hong Kong International School. Each school group performed two pieces individually, along with pieces as a collective ensemble.
The musicians worked intensely for three full days under the direction of Dr. Eric A. Johnson D.M.A, the Director of Choral Activities at the University of Northern Illinois. “I thought it was really cool that at the beginning we had trouble singing together because we had all learned the pieces separately,” says Isabelle Lee (10). “But then when we all had one conductor we kind of came together, and by the end, our sound was really nice.” Under Dr. Johnson’s direction, the musicians performed pieces ranging from traditional choral arrangements to modern theatrical selections.
One particularly challenging piece was Michael Sidney Timpson’s “Li Bai Nocturnes”, commissioned by the American International School of Guangzhou for this year’s festival. The composition was inspired by famous traditional Chinese poet Li Bai’s work, aiming to convey the ambiance of his poetry through atmospheric compositional devices. The piece was performed using both traditional Chinese and Western instruments. “It’s been a real adventure for the singers in this particular piece because it really takes them into a new world that they may or may not have been accustomed to, where it’s more about atmosphere and textures and sound as opposed to melody and rhythm that we hear in some of the other pieces,” said Dr. Johnson during the concert. He emphasized music’s ability to cross boundaries set in place by culture and tradition and uncover commonalities between us “across generations, across continents.”
Which was why the concert repertoire was vastly diverse, ranging from selections from musicals to Mozart’s requiem to Doxologia, a piece by a Filipino composer, to our very own school’s outstanding performance of the classic rock anthem Bohemian Rhapsody. It was unquestionable that one of the key players was Jeffery Yu (11), who played “a mean air guitar” in Mr. Cyril Udall’s words, not to mention Mr. Udall who showcased his phenomenal guitar skills. Other prominent musicians such as Darren Yang (11) and Eric Shen (12) mastered the highbrow art of head-banging. On a more serious note, Kimiye Blakely (11) excelled in her first high school conducting experience. Moreover, Mr. Udall commends Andrea Pun (12), Sophia Mark (11), and Ashlyn Silva (12) for being overall amazing musicians.
Dr. Johnson stresses the importance of APAC Choir: “I love doing these festivals. I love interacting with the next generation of musicians, the next generation of artists, and getting their energy and their passions. It infuses me and guides me. And I love having the opportunity to help us experience and think about what it is to be a musician, what it is to make music together, to make a choice to breathe together, to find beauty and create beauty, to tell other people’s stories. It’s through these other people’s stories that we find the humanity in each other. It’s through other people’s stories from across cultures that we say, ‘Wait a minute! I have the same hopes and fears as you do! We can do this, we can make something better.’ ”
HKIS choir members also had the chance to bond not just with students of other schools, but also with their peers. Mr. Udall gave a shout out to Guinness Chen (11), Mina Akashi (12), and Andrew Simpson (11) for coming up with endlessly creative ways to roll the bowling ball. Quite a learning experience.
Every school performed not just with incredible vocal skill, but also with passion and energy. Every voice was both individually outstanding and well-integrated as a whole group. Through this experience, students were able to develop their technical skills as well as a zeal for music and its endless capabilities.