Talking Heads

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.