Concerts have always been an integral part of VJC. Every year, all of our performing arts groups never fail to deliver spectacular performances, just for us Victorians. Today, we share interviews with Gladdys Choo from 15S63, as well as Keith Low from 15S42, experienced and talented CO members of 6 years, for a behind-the-scenes look at the Chinese Orchestra concert happening later today!
As audience members, all we do is sit back and enjoy the amazing performances by the various performing arts groups.
But to the performers, a concert is more than music.
While we do enjoy these concerts heartily, most of us only see and enjoy what is the cumulation of long hours of practice.
These concerts also celebrate the hard work, dedication, and ambition of our performers. During the performance, everyone is able to experience the symphonies and synergies built up over time. It is no different for our renowned Chinese Orchestra, who will be having their annual concert on 18th May. To find out more, we tuned in with two experienced CO members, Gladdys Choo and Keith Low.
(Keith, featured on the poster for Vhapsody 2015)
While the concert itself does not have an overarching theme, it will showcase the talent and diversity of the entire VJ Chinese Orchestra. Gladdys highlighted that a wide variety of CO music will be on display
“We will showcase more forms of CO music that we have, such as a concerto, and chamber. More importantly, we chose a variety of songs ranging from classical western pieces to traditional oriental Chinese pieces, to bring out the concept of ‘east meets west’ fusion.”
Despite the amazing talent found in VJCO, any concert is still a challenge to pull off, especially one with such a scale of diversity and complexity. For the entirety of Term 2, they have had 3 practise sessions every week, some on Saturday mornings. Some even perform for the chamber ensemble and the alumni orchestra, meaning that they need even more time to prepare their pieces. But other than official sessions in school, members go the extra mile to enhance their skills, Keith shared.
“We also practise a lot in our free time so that we would be ready for combined rehearsals. That could be why you do not see your friends around during break times because they are somewhere busy practising!”
Even during school hours, they sometimes sacrifice their breaks to ensure that the quality of their concert is top-notch. Gladdys explained how they sought other ways to better their members’ abilities.
“We sent [our members] links of videos they can get inspiration from in the playing, such as how the songs sound like, and how the players can carry themselves during the performance itself on stage.”
While the J2s, being experienced, are aware of the amount of practice they have to put in for a new piece, the determination of the J1s to continue their seniors’ legacy is clear as well. When asked about the newcomers to the CCA, Keith readily praised their dedication.
“They are certainly more enthusiastic than I expected! My section was quite shorthanded at the start of the year so we really needed some juniors who could really step in and do a job, quickly. Only 1 of the 3 juniors that we got had any experience with percussion at all, but I see the effort and hard work put in by all of them, even though they are inexperienced.”
Gladdys also shared that the orchestra is, above all, a family which everyone is a part of.
“Overall we are an orchestra and we constantly remind and encourage our members to work hard, and progress in preparing for the concert is pretty well I would say.”
Gladdys, having been in CO for almost 6 years, is very familiar with the long and exhaustive process preparing for concerts. The intense practice can, at times, be draining and tiring. So what about concerts motivate her to work so hard?
“The satisfaction after completing the performance. Its an investment of emotions, dedication, and we work hard to deliver our best performance, and underlying that is all the hard work we put in, so at the end of the day if we are ultimately able to deliver what we want to present with the song pieces, such as the emotions and essence of the piece… We feel that we would have brought the best performance for our audience.”
(The Chinese Orchestra performing ‘Endless Love’ at last year’s CO concert)
Not only is the symbolic act of the playing on stage important, but providing the best music for their audience is essential as well. When asked about the best part of performing, Keith echoed her sentiments.
“The feeling that you get after you play the last note and the audience explodes in applause. You feel exhausted but also an intense feeling of satisfaction that you cannot get from anywhere else.”
All crafts have have that feeling of relief, be it after a long race, an intense debate, or a grueling tennis match; but concerts, for the performers, provide a unique sense of enjoyment and pride that they cannot get anywhere else. Keith shares with us his personal feelings towards the concert.
“Excited but also a little sad. Excited because it is always exciting to present your work to hundreds of people; feeling of your heart racing on stage. This is also my first major performance as a percussionist! Sad because this will be my last concert for a long time. CO has been a big part of my life since I joined in Sec 1 and I have many beautiful memories of my musical journey.”
For many of the performers, this will be their last concert in a while. With A levels on the horizon, the J2s will turn towards preparing for the final exam. For the boys, enlistment after their As means that they will be unable to practice after exams as well. It has been a long journey for most of them, and a good one too. What kept them on this path for so long? Keith explains his reasons for staying in CO for six years.
“It has its own musical flavour, unique to CO and unheard in any other ensemble. Many composition and instrumental techniques have been introduced into CO in recent times, influenced by the Western symphony orchestra but also other music genres. The ability to fuse east and west and yet stay true to its roots is my favourite thing about CO.”
While Gladdys also feels the same way, for her, the orchestra also brought something more. It is about the teamwork and friendships formed during practising, and it is the CO culture makes her feel at home.
“I think it is because of the culture of the orchestra being very inclusive and understanding? After all, we’re all performing as a group, which needs a lot of working together to get things done.”
“We also always have to listen to one another when playing, since there’s a lot more variance in Chinese music I feel that is less conventional than structures like western classical pieces. It is more exciting to play!!” she laughs while saying.
For many of the J2s, it will be their last concert. For some of the J1s, it might be their first. Regardless, it is going to be a milestone in their lives. The concert is the expression of their efforts and determination to deliver only the best music possible.
Special thanks to Keith and Gladdys for sharing more about their experiences in CO, and good luck to all CCAs in upcoming competitions and performances!
Adam Ahmad Samdin, 15A14