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Silver songs for Waicol

Wairarapa College’s [Waicol] choir, Cantate, hit all the right high notes at the lower North Island Big Sing Cadenza Festival in Whanganui this month, returning home with a korimako [silver] award.

They competed alongside 12 other secondary school choirs in the Cadenza, which was one of three held across the country.

It marked a fulfilling end to a long musical journey for Cantate [meaning ‘sing’ in Latin], which started earlier this year at regional competitions where 250 choirs, involving about 8000 students from across the country, were whittled down to a top 40.

The 23-strong mixed choir, comprised of sopranos, altos, tenors and bass singers from years 10 to 13, was led by choir director Andrea Thomson and accompanist Ruth Eckford.

“The kids did a fantastic job,” Waicol’s head of creative arts Maggie Fauvel said.

The korimako award followed two days of intense competition and workshops.

The students were occupied from 8am-7pm: “They were big days,” Fauvel said.

“The students got to meet other choirs and singers and see what’s happening out there in a great competitive, collegial atmosphere.”

Cantate sang six songs across two repertoires, including the Spanish song Un Poquito Cantas, a sprightly folksong about a party that involved choir member Lily Tulloch singing and playing the maracas at the same time.

“I was quite proud of myself,” Lily said.

Being a member of Cantate requires commitment, with weekly two-hour-long rehearsals since the start of the school year.

Several members have juggled choral duties with other creative endeavours, including starring in the recent production of Grease, competing in Showquest and treading the boards in the National Shakespeare Schools Production [NSSP].

In return, the students experience enjoyment, get to hone their singing skills and create solid friendships.

“I feel like we are all closer to each other” after Cadenza, one student said.

All three Cadenza competitions were judged by Dr Andrew Withington.

A former assistant professor of music and director of choral activities at Westminster College in Pennsylvania, USA, Dr Withington is “super high up” in the choral world, Fauvel said.

She was very proud Cantata was part of the Cadenza he considered to be the “highest quality” of the three he adjudicated.

Fauvel is looking forward to Big Sing 2024 where she hopes to “go for gold” at the Cadenza and grow Cantate’s repertoire.

The students are aiming higher.

They believe if they work hard enough, they might just make it to the Finale next year – the ultimate competition in the Big Sing festival.

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