Trip highlights from Holly N…
Words don’t come easily when trying to explain this trip. Actually…. words don’t explain this trip. The places we went, the people we met, the venues we sang in… everything was so… inspiring, and it’s so difficult to have to say goodbye to all of the opportunities, cultures, experiences and people that I have spent the last thirteen amazing days with.
The question is: Where do I start?
Cantala. Say hello to 34 degrees of serious heat and humidity! Walking out of the airport and hearing the gasps from nearly every single choir companion was such a joy. However this was just the first of so many exciting experiences within Singapore. Meeting Cathy, one of the most Hi-larious tour guides I have ever known, a tour through the nightlife of the city, sightseeing tours around Singapore, travelling through Merlion Park, views of the Marina Bay, visiting the Thian Hock Keng Temple, Chinatown & Little India, trying the famous Chicken Rice, SHOPPING at Bugis, performances in stifling heat, and very nice accommodation.
Sadly after just a short two nights and one day we had to say our goodbyes to this beautiful island and head on over to London with a merry thirteen-hour flight ahead of us… boy were we excited.
It was a big change from Singapore to London, walking out onto the London streets felt like an entirely different planet, although we had a few troubles with the accommodation we settled in quietly to our new rooms and waited for the next day.
Breakfast at 8am was amazing after thirteen hours of plane food. After this we headed to St George’s Church to have our master class with Mr Philip Lawson. He was amazing!
Sightseeing was a high priority on our list – we were all very excited to see what London had in store. Travelling to St Paul’s Cathedral, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, London Bridge, Downing Street, the famous Westminster Abbey, and walking through the very place where the royal wedding was held.
But what was I seriously looking forward to? THE LION KING! I don’t think anything will ever top my experience of performances after watching The Lion King on stage. The lighting, sound, staging, costumes, acting, and singing! Every aspect made me speechless and, even if I fell asleep several times throughout those quiet moments, I can confidently say it is my favourite stage performance of all time!
We arrived at Marlborough Primary School the next day excited to perform to the young children. It took me by surprise seeing that the Haka was scheduled as part of our repertoire for this performance, but Ngaere and I went with the flow and were excited to see their reaction towards our fierceness. To my surprise… not one of them cried OR wet themselves. A well-rounded achievement considering how scary we can be. What I think they enjoyed the most was ‘Rolling in the Deep’, with so many of them tapping along and some even singing their hearts out.
SHOPPING! This was next on the agenda, and wow it was interesting. I have never shopped so fast in my entire life, but I must say I did pretty well with the amount of time given. However, Oxford Street is definitely on my ‘re-visit’ list.
Then we had our evening concert at St George’s Church, this was such an amazing experience what with how we sounded in this acoustic. I wasn’t feeling 100% but managed to last until Ave Maria. Aivale Cole was absolutely astounding. The sounds that she made….. WOOOOOOWWWW. She is such an inspiration and I’m so glad we were able to meet up with her in London.
We headed to dinner and then off to the hotel to pack our bags and organise ourselves for Paris!
9.10am and we’re off to Paris! The train was so peaceful and such a change from flying, although playing cards with Ngaere is a dangerous idea if she starts winning (nearly took my eye out from the excitement of winning). Chyanne also had an interesting win on a scratchy, just a casual million pounds. Finding out it wasn’t real was a disappointment… for everyone. We arrived in Paris at around 12.30pm where we were met by Ellie’s dad Steve, who helped us around Paris for the entire trip.
Our concert at La Madeline was such an experience, to be able to sing in a place so famous is so inspiring, and I am seriously grateful for that opportunity. Our plans switched a little and before dinner we went on the cruise on the River Seine. Then we ate at the Hard Rock Cafe, after that it was back to the accommodation for a catch-up on sleep.
Thankfully the next morning we got a sleep-in with breakfast at 8am then we went sightseeing right around Paris. My particular favourite? The Eiffel Tower! That was one sight to see. After that we headed to Montmarte where our free time for shopping began. There weren’t so many shops so it was a lot more laid-back than London.
Ngaere and I were telling our stories about the interesting scams at the entrance gate and Steve taught us a phrase that let them know we weren’t interested in a bracelet (supposedly for Africa) – the phrase “Je ne crois pas”, which translates into “I don’t think so”. This is now my reply to EVERYTHING.
Later on in the evening we arrived at the Opera National de Paris to watch ‘L’amour des trois oranges’. I am sad to say I think I slept through the entire performance, and so wish I hadn’t been so tired! Although it does give me a good reason to travel back to Paris to watch it again!
We headed back to the hotel to pack once again.
This was where we got down to business. We met Otto and went to our accommodation to set up for the next four nights and five days of serious singing.
At about 3.30pm our driver took us out to Schwedenplatz and we walked the rest of the way to St Stephen’s Church, where the welcoming ceremony started at about 5.30pm. Lilli represented us so well on stage, and then afterwards we went back to the hotel for dinner.
We were staying at a boarding school where several other groups were staying too, so you can say it was somewhat a little intimidating to have your competition sleeping in the room next to you, but we managed this really well.
The next morning we were up, fed, and off to the morning workshop seminars at the University of Music in Vienna. We shared these two time slots with an Australian choir. They knew what they were doing (but obviously underestimated the power of us East Beasts!).
We traded our leisure time in the city for time back at the hotel because it was just too hot outside. After we had rested we headed to the Ehrbarsaal Prayner Konservatorium, where we would perform an hour slot of repertoire. This was our first real concert in Vienna and we headed there excited, even if there were only about ten people (and two other choirs) in the audience watching. It was one of our best performances. We stayed to watch the South African Choir perform (heading back to my natural roots as my fellow dancers know). They were stunning! Every piece was sung with such enthusiasm for music, inspirational movements, and they were such an entertaining choir. They gave us a standing ovation but THEY seriously deserved a standing ovation!
We went to dinner at the Wiener Rathauskeller, where we encountered a small misunderstanding about ‘free drinks’ that weren’t actually free. But we knew for next time!
GAME DAY: Today was pretty much the most important day of the trip. Once again, instead of leisure time we substituted this for a rehearsal to work on our performance pieces. It was enduring but we did what we needed to do and it was a relief to go over these pieces one last time.
At 1pm we were on the bus headed to the Musikverein, where the competition was being held. We were nervous but excited at the same time. We sat in the audience for a little while watching some of our competition. Bitte Betti was performed in several different ways compared to how we do it, but it was interesting to see how the other choirs put a spin on the piece.
We headed into the warm-up room and I was fairly calm… and then we were literally on stage waiting to perform. This was our first time with the entire choir together on stage and it was a great feeling. We performed our pieces for the judges and I must say I especially loved the reactions we got from the haka! We headed off stage and shared smiles and high fives all around, knowing what a great job we did. Although we still had another performance, most of us were so happy to be able to shout again (Columbia and I in particular).
We headed to what we thought was going to be our last performance in Vienna. We performed our repertoire then right before our last song, Stewie thought it would be a great idea to tell us that we had come FIRST EQUAL in the competition!!!!!!!!!!! Let me tell you now…. that was NOT. A. GOOD. IDEA. I think I sang maybe three or four bars of Niska Banja before I had to turn around and wipe several tears off my face. Everyone was so happy at the end and I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much out of happiness in my entire life.
A celebration was necessary so we went to one of the main streets and grabbed an ice cream (with me still crying). We were back at the hotel and smiling like anything. I don’t know if anyone got any REAL sleep that night.
The next day we went sightseeing, mainly at the Schonbrunn Palace, which was so awesome. I now know what it’s like to live like royalty! We had two hours for shopping & lunch, within the city, so we did some shopping and then we were back on the bus on our way to the preparations for the Gala Winners Concert that night.
We had our solo sorted for the Summa Cum Laude anthem and we headed into our warm-up room. Mr Stewart walked in with the look that he gets when something genius is forming… He said to us “I’m thinking of doing something naughty… let’s do the haka… after Bitte Betti?” … GENIUS! Everyone was buzzing with excitement about this plan, so we weren’t even concerned about Bitte Betti.
We walked out on stage and performed the song. After the clapping had died down Ngaere came out loud and strong with the starting of Ka Panapana, and we were off! The audience LOVED it. After we were off stage the MC said to the crowd “That was Cantala, they came first equal and no wonder they did, because not even we knew that they would do that!” WHAT A THRILL!
We went to dinner after the Gala Concert and ate our lives away, drinking all the Coke we could (yes, it was free) and afterwards we went back to the hotel to pack our bags for the long flights ahead.
Vienna… I will, never, ever forget that experience. Being a first place, international choir? That’s a feeling that just can’t be described.
Now I know that there are several thank yous that go without saying (but of course… I’m gonna say them anyway)
Mary – Your participation with the trip was so amazing, you went up and beyond for us girls. You kept us enthusiastic when all we wanted to do was sleep. But most of all… you were there for us to support us when we needed it the most!
Ms Haughton – I don’t know if I would have survived these past two weeks if I hadn’t had you organising not only your group, but also me as an individual. You kept everyone so calm and composed and dealt with so many minor AND major problems, which helped this trip sail so smoothly. The best camp mum anyone could ask for!
Mrs Pearson – I think I can say on behalf of the choir, you are our ‘SUPERWOMAN’. We are so unbelievably grateful for EVERYTHING you have done for us. The amount of performances, dinners, and group activities you missed out on to look after our ill choir members was quite significant and you never complained once about having to miss out (well… not that we heard, LOL). Who knows what could have gone wrong without you Miss.
Mrs Hocking – It was your enthusiasm for our performances that got me through Vienna, and even if I couldn’t find your face in the crowd I knew you were out there somewhere doing the pukana along with us! Your support with our performances and expertise on stage make-up was so helpful, and without you I don’t know what those nerves would have done to me. You’re absolutely amazing!
And finally, Stew-Dizzle – What can i say? The effort and time you have put into EVERYTHING to do with this trip is… unbelievable. You had a big dream for Cantala, but you believed in us enough to encourage our parents, the school and communities within Wellington to jump on board with all the plans you had boiling inside your brain. The amount of time you have put into this choir is so amazing and the way you dealt with every aspect of the trip is part of the reason why we were such a success in Vienna! You put a smile on our faces even when we had no energy left to smile. Along with organising a million things at one time, you also had to think about what the choir was going to be singing! I don’t think anyone can begin to understand how you visualise and hear music, not only with Cantala, but music in general. Without your ear for music we would not have come anywhere near close to being considered as competition in this festival. I think all in all, everyone that was involved with this trip is so grateful for what you have done for us. You’re the best conductor/music teacher any school could ever ask for and words don’t begin to describe what you have accomplished with/for Cantala. Where would we be without you Stewie?
So teachers…. YOU ARE ALL ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! On behalf of Cantala; we love you guys so much! Thank you a million times over for all the exciting activities, opportunities, and experiences you have given all 31 of us girls! It’s definitely a memory that will be with me for as long as I live, and something I can share with so many others!
And so here I am… on the nine-hour flight to Auckland typing away…
This trip… has just been… incredible, indescribable, amazing, exhilarating, inspiring, tiring, rewarding, and challenging. It’s a feeling and memory that won’t ever be forgotten and I know words don’t begin to cover it.
We are nearly home, and I must say…. I have never EVER been this excited to see my siblings before. And it’s such a strange feeling. I know that coming home to New Zealand will be such a good feeling, to be somewhere familiar. And like everything else, there’s always an ending. I know I will definitely be sad to not be spending every waking moment with the girls and teachers that I have bonded with for the past two weeks, but I also know that I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and drinking some REAL New Zealand water. That’s on my demand list to have one tall glass of purified NZ water. So much has happened and there’s no way to put it in words… But I think that on behalf of Cantala, what we do have to say to New Zealand and the rest of the world is…
BRING ON THE BIG SING FINALE!!
And anything else you have to throw at us
Over and out.