With the 2017/18 choir’s third rehearsal course coming up fast, the year is whizzing by. We take a moment to catch up with two Wellington members (and head prefects) about their ups and downs at the July course and NZSSC so far. Ren-C and Greta are pictured above (centre) with the other two Head Prefects in NZSSC: Takerei Komene (Dilworth) and Ben Sawrey (Aotea College).
How did the July course go?
Greta Healy-Melhuish (Wellington East Girls College): The highlight was seeing the choir gel before my eyes. People who barely knew each other at the Wellington course formed close friendships, and the banter was strong! And a special mention must go to Carole’s impeccable morning teas.
Ren-C Tamayo (St Pats College): It was amazing to have a week of singing! It provided a kind of retreat from everyday life, which was awesome.
Any low points?
Greta: The fatigue that goes hand-in-hand with long days and the immense levels of excitement.
What did you learn at the course?
Ren-C: How important it is for a choir to really enjoy singing.
Greta: That if my voice is tired, as much as I love to belt it out with my alto sisters, sometimes I need to tone it down in rehearsals. It’s not worth the recovery.
Does the ‘new’ choir still feel new?
Greta: No …it wasn’t long into the July course before the air was alive with beatboxing, instrument-playing and K-Pop.
Ren-C: It felt like we'd known each other a lot longer than three months… kind of like a second home.
You got an extra two days in Auckland due to your flight being cancelled…
Ren-C: There were definitely ups and downs! But we were well compensated with two nights at the Crowne Plaza, buffet breakfasts, Carl's Jr, belting out Salve Regina in a church, and just getting to be tourists in Auckland.
Favourite morning tea …
Greta: That’s a pretty mean question. All of Carole’s morning teas are my favourite. But I especially like it when there are multiple types of hummus.
Favourite moments with Brent (NZSSC Assistant Director) or Andrew (Artistic Director) …
Ren-C: When Brent plays the bongos
Greta: When Andrew says, “Good for you!”
Tell us about working with internationally-acclaimed Latvian composer, Eriks Esenvalds?
Ren-C: He was such an eloquent speaker, and so down to earth. He really engaged us with the piece. He made me realise how different it is to sing a song in the way that the composer actually intended it to sound.
Greta: I think everyone was a bit star-struck. He had so much wisdom to share. It was such a privilege to have the composer there when we were performing the piece.
How about American guest conductor, André Thomas?
Ren-C: He was humble, relaxed and funny! He lifted the atmosphere of both choirs (NZSSC was performing in Auckland with the NZ Youth Choir). I learned how much we take conductors for granted.
Greta: What a man! He had so much energy and passion. I certainly learnt a lot about the nuances of conducting, which I didn’t even know existed.
Did these two men have different approach to what you are used to?
Ren-C: Yes definitely, to see them work their magic was incredible.
Andrew has recently completed his PhD in Choral Pedagogy. What does this mean to you and the choir?
Greta: Andrew’s work towards his PhD has been closely linked with the choir for many years now. It’s certainly introduced a lot of young singers to the universe of ‘just tuning’—an invaluable asset.
Ren-C: During the first course, when Andrew talked about his PhD in depth, I was in awe. I felt ‘just tuning’ already when I sang with others, but I never really knew what it was. So to see it researched and presented at such a high calibre was impressive. It will not only benefit NZSSC, but other choirs around the world.
What sort of music do you listen to at home?
Ren-C: A lot of RnB and Jazz, but I fluctuate—from Barbershop, Classic Rock, Pop, Rap, Alternative and Funk!
Greta: A range of genres. I’ll listen to nearly anything. Some favourites are James Blake and Sufjan Stevens though.
What’s NZSSC given you so far?
Greta: Because I’m in my third year with the choir, I do look back and realise how lucky I am to have had this opportunity. I can’t imagine my life without NZSSC. Where I would be if Brent (Stewart) hadn’t told me to audition when I was 14? NZSSC has given me so many skills, not just around my singing, but it’s broadened my social sphere.
Plans for next year?
Ren-C: Biomedical Sciences in Auckland, or Health Science First Year in Otago. I’m in pursuit of a future in medicine. I hope music remains a part of my life, I can't imagine a life without it!
Greta: I’m abandoning Wellington for the bright lights of Auckland to study Law and a BA in film and art history. But anything could happen! I won’t be studying music, but it will still be a huge part of my life, and I’m hoping to join an Auckland choir.
Ren c blog
1) Too many too count! For me, though, coming back to NZSSC after a busy term was a highlight in itself. It was amazing to come up and just have a week full of singing, catching up, getting to know people we didn't really get to know the last course, and just having fun! Really provided a kind of retreat from the normal everyday life, which I found to be so awesome and rewarding. 2) Probably just not having my voice 100% throughout the whole week! 3) How important it is for a choir to really enjoy singing. 4) No definitely not! Somehow, even after three-ish months (?), it kinda felt like coming back to another home. Everyone just kinda gelled together pretty quickly again as if we've known each other longer than three months! 5) Ups and downs definitely! Personally, I wanted to stay for a bit longer, as coming back to Wellington would mean coming back to internals and school related things! However, for the other Wellington members, it wasn't the case, which was understandable, as we all missed our families and friends at Wellington too! The two extra days in Auckland, I guess, was compensated with 2 nights at Crowne Plaza, (almost) free dinner on the Thursday, and a free buffet breakfast in the morning (and I love my food so that was beautiful)! We also went around the CBD area, sung Salve Regina in a church, grabbed some Carl's Jr., went to the Cloud, and the Shed next to it! By Saturday though everyone was pretty tired and just slept on the plane, the best way to end an adventure! 6) Every morning tea. 7) Andrew telling us to tell him: "Andrew, I want you to know..." Brent playing the bongos. 8 - So awesome!!! He was such an eloquent speaker, and so down to earth. He really engaged us into mood of the piece, and made me realise how different it was, to actually sing a song in the way that the composer intended it to sound! 9) He was, undoubtedly, one of the most humble, relaxed, and funniest conductors I've worked with! He just lifted the whole atmosphere of the choirs (and the whole building on the night of the concert!) with such enthusiasm! I learned how much we take conductors for granted. 10) Yes definitely. It was my first time around such world-renowned people, and to see them work their magic was incredible. 11) A good time. It's taught me quite a lot in terms of singing with an SATB choir, how to sing with better technique (such as singing some notes which I didn't know I could actually pull off). NZSSC has given me more confidence to lead our school choir, and it's also given me opportunities to meet amazing people like the musical team, the tutors, the renowned choral people, and newfound (and hopefully) long time friends. 12) Yes he did! It will definitely contribute to the choir positively. Personally, during the first course when he talked about it a bit more in depth, I was in awe. I kinda felt "just tuning" already when I sung with others, but I never really knew what it was, so to see it researched and presented in such an extremely high quality was such a sight to see. I am so glad to be a part of a movement, you can say, that will benefit not only this choir, but other choirs around the world. 13) I listen to a lot of RnB and Jazz, but I do fluctuate at times throughout the year from Barbershop, Classic Rock, Pop, Rap, Alternative and Funk! As long as it pleases my ears, I'll listen to it! 14) I plan to do Biomedical Sciences up in Auckland, or Health Science First Year down in Otago, in pursuit of medicine in the future. I do hope music remains a part of my life and I will fight to do so! It's been such a huge part of my personal, spiritual, and school life that I really can't see a life without it!
Definitely just seeing the choir gel together before my eyes. People who barely knew each other’s names at the Wellington course are now forming close friendships and the banter is strong! A special mention must also go to Carole’s impeccable morning teas.
The fatigue that goes hand in hand with the long days and immense levels of excitement.
I learnt that sometimes I just need to not sing in rehearsals if my voice is tired, as much as I’d love to belt it out with my alto sisters. It’s not worth the recovery time!
No, and I think the Auckland course cemented that. It felt like we’d known each other for years and this is down to the fact that we basically live with each other when we do meet. It wasn’t long into the course before the air was alive with beatboxing, instrument playing and K-Pop.
It actually turned out to be a great experience, and the hotel definitely exceeded our standards. I think it’s really important to get to know other members from your area, and that’s exactly what we did. After the 5am wake up call preceded by an especially late night, it’s safe to say the NZSSC Wellington squad is well bonded.
That’s a pretty mean question, as most choir members will know that all of Carole’s morning teas are my favourite. Although I will say that I thoroughly enjoy when there are multiple types of hummus.
When Andrew says “Good for you!”
It was pretty amazing, I think everyone was a bit starstruck to be honest. He had so much wisdom to give and it’s such a privilege having the composer there when performing a piece.
What a man. He just has so much energy and passion to give to everyone, I certainly learnt a lot about the nuances of conducting I didn’t even know existed.
I can’t imagine my life without NZSSC now, and where I would be if Brent didn’t tell me to audition back when I was 14. It’s given me so many skills, not just with my singing but in terms of it opening up my social sphere which before was basically limited to Wellington. Because I’m in my third year of NZSSC now, it really makes me look back and think how lucky I was to receive this opportunity.
Andrew’s PhD work has been closely linked with the choir for many years now and it’s certainly introduced so many young singers to the universe of just tuning, an invaluable asset.
My music taste covers such a wide range of genres I’ll listen to nearly anything, some favourites are James Blake and Sufjan Stevens though.
I’m planning to abandon my native Wellington for the bright lights of Auckland to study a conjoint degree of Law and a BA in film and art history, but anything could happen really! Although I won’t be studying music, it’s still going to be a huge part of my life and I’m hoping to join some choirs up in Auckland.