The annual Big Sing competition plays an integral part in the cultural calendar at Woodford House. This year, members of the Chapel Choir and Up Close, along with Directors Ms Cakebread and Ms Mackie, spent many hours rehearsing and honing their repertoire in preparation for the regional event at Waiapu Cathedral in Napier on 29-30 May 2019. Chapel Choir and Up Close student leaders Olivia Dowley and Ella Ruddle reflect on the journey of each choir.
Practices for the Big Sing competition started as soon as the 125th Anniversary weekend was completed. Three songs, Tihore Mai, Seal Lullaby and Hail Holy Queen, were selected, and the hardworking learning process began.
Ordinarily, Chapel Choir has two practices a week on Monday from 4.30pm – 6pm and Thursday from 3.30pm – 5pm. We also sing during school Chapel services twice a week. Despite this busy schedule, the choir members were all incredibly hard working in their preparation for Big Sing and put in maximum effort during rehearsals as well as practising their parts at home.
As Head of Chapel Choir 2019, one of my aims for the year was to stretch the girls as choral members while enjoying their time at choir. Two of our song choices Tihore Mai and Hail Holy Queen were entirely out of the Choir’s comfort zone, calling for the girls to channel their inner warrior and gospel singer, which I know is something that I found extremely challenging and uncomfortable. However, from my experience at NYDS 2018 and 2019, my tutor taught us, “To live with discomfort is how you truly grow as an artist and person”.
Living with this discomfort was unsettling for many of us. However, the Chapel Choir is a large family, and we supported one another in the process, such as creating extra dance practices. By doing a powerful Māori song with actions as well as a gospel pop song, the delicate Chapel Choir stereotype was broken, and it is safe to say we learnt and grew so much in doing so.
The weeks seemed to fly by in the lead up to the competition and before we knew it, the Big Sing was upon us. The Choir looked absolutely stunning with their slick doughnut buns and perfectly placed robes, and many compliments were given. When performing our pieces, the audience got a shock, as they were not expecting those song choices from the Woodford House Chapel Choir. However, it was thoroughly enjoyed and listening back to the recordings it sounded delightful.
We did not receive a prize this year but were placed in the top 18 choirs in the Lower North Island. I am so proud of the Chapel Choir with their work ethic, attitude and execution. I am incredibly privileged to say I was a part of and helped to lead this fantastic group of women to the Big Sing 2019.
Olivia Dowley, Year 12
Up Close is an a cappella choir directed by Miss Mackie. This year we started our Big Sing preparations halfway through Term 1, reviving two pieces from prior Big Sing competitions. This enabled the new choir members to learn the incredible music our older girls loved; a New Zealand piece Ohana I runga rawa and a European piece Ein fir mig by Brahms. For our third piece we wanted something upbeat, lively and modern so we chose an arrangement of White Winter Hymnal, originally by the Pentatonix.
In preparation we rehearsed on Tuesday afternoons from 3.30pm – 5pm and Friday lunchtimes. We rehearsed with the piano until a month before Big Sing and then we added another level of difficulty and removed the piano. The most challenging yet rewarding part of Up Close is being unaccompanied. Singing unaccompanied in a small group like Up Close, especially in the Cathedral, makes you feel vulnerable but the experience is so special. It teaches the girls how to hold harmony as well as pitch while simultaneously listening to the whole choir for tuning.
The Big Sing was a such a great experience for all the members especially those who hadn’t been in a choir before. Our performance was so exciting and there is nothing more special than hearing the ringing of voices in the Cathedral on our final notes. The judge commented on our selection of songs and the potential we had as a choir – I can’t wait to see where our continued rehearsing takes us!
Ella Ruddle, Year 12