Eisteddfod is a tremendous and beautiful showcase of the vibrant musical groups we have here at Macleans. Having started in 2020, Eisteddfod makes sure every single group gets their time in the spotlight. The show runs over three days, one for each of the three categories: bands, vocal groups and orchestras. Audiences are always filled with excited parents, friends and peers, all eagerly waiting for the showcase of the year to start. 

Eisteddfod began this week on Monday, 24th of June with the band showcase. Directed by Ms. Yih-Hsin Huang, the Symphonic Band opened day one with a great repertoire. Throughout the pieces the Symphonic Band played, there seemed to be a space theme present throughout. Starting off with a slow but grand piece, Lullaby To The Mooncomposed by Brian Balmages – made the brass sound richer than ever. It was a song that described the moon as a living being, and almost sang it “goodnight”.

A well-loved piece followed; A Million Dreams From The Greatest Showman (arr. Michael Brown). With a satisfying crescendo, the trumpets in the band proudly carried the melody. 

The next piece offered something rare and unique. Macleans provides the opportunity for student conductors to gain experience and this year, Daniel Hulley (Year 12, Batten House) was given this chance. Daniel conducted the piece Nebula, composed by Randall D. Standridge. A magical piece that explores both the loudness and quietness of space, focusing on massive majestic sounds and crescendos. 

“As a person who performs regularly in many bands and orchestras, no performance will stick with me more than this. Hours of work go into studying the score (music) and picking on all of the little things in rehearsals and to finally see it all come together on a stage in front of a couple hundred people is exhilarating. It’s not every day that one gets up in front of a crowd wielding the baton for the very first time, so what a moment it was for me (shown by my ear to ear [sic]smiles) I would like to thank all of the people who made it possible for me to stand where I stood -Ms. Huang and Dr. Miles for their support and mentorship, as well as numerous others. I can’t stress enough how important it is to take a chance and to [sic] try something new – maybe it’ll give you the biggest adrenaline rush of your life!”

Daniel Hulley – Y12 Batten – Symphonic Band, Sinfonietta, Concert Band, and Symphony Orchestra

The Symphonic Band performance ended with a dramatic and majestic song, Dark Ride, composed by Randall D. Standridge – a band favourite. Dark Ride is a piece that focuses on fast and exciting movement, with the tempo accelerating significantly towards the end.

Band members were asked about how they felt during the performance and what really made it mesmerising for them.

“Rehearsing under the golden hues of the setting sun on a Tuesday afternoon the musicians of the symphonic band have gathered together to recharge the positive energy for the week. With the occasional slightly out of tune [sic] flutes, one particular alto saxophone’s thunderous playing especially when he doesn’t have the tune, the heartbreaking sound of a euphonium guard smashing on the ground echoing through the room, the frantic rumbling of music sheets and sometimes the fight of keeping awake when there is [sic] 10 bars of rest. Together, we have spent months rehearsing and laughing at each other only to finally present our well rehearsed [sic] program professionally at Eisteddfod. [Dark Ride] was the perfect piece that ignited the senses with intense dynamics providing that rush of adrenaline.”

Rae Zhou  – Y12 Batten – Symphonic Band

“We had an absolute blast playing our favourite piece, Dark Ride. Thank you, Ms. Huang, for being our amazing conductor. This experience was truly unforgettable!”

Sophia Kong – Y10 Hilliary – Aria Junior and Symphonic Band

“It was a fun time at Symphonic, seeing everyone improve so much.”

Kyan Zhang – Y10 Batten – Symphonic Band, Concert Band and Symphony Orchestra

“Dark ride was absolutely a good ride.”

Isaac Ho – Y12 TK – Symphonic Band and Concert Band

There was a common consensus that Dark Ride was truly the best.

After that performance, the night continued with the premier group: the Macleans College Concert Band. Directed by Dr Steve Miles, the Concert Band is well known for its excellence as members go through long rehearsals on Wednesdays after school, on top of hours of self-practice. 

As the members slowly walked on stage with their shiny brass and woodwind instruments, Dr Miles began to introduce the pieces that they’d be performing. A mysterious but radiant piece took the stage first; the one and only Goddess of Fire, composed by Steven Reineke, allowed every single instrument to shine to the best of its ability.

After a mysterious ending, the next song commenced. Beacons (Guiding Light) composed by Tyler Arcari, gave the auditorium a hopeful atmosphere. The audience was left in awe and felt uplifted by the softness and brightness of the sound. However, the next piece truly blew, or should I say, froze them away.

An absolutely stunning, and iconic piece, Highlights from FROZEN, arranged by Stephen Bulla, was performed as a grand finale. An arrangement of familiar tunes graced the audience’s ears, with sections from Do You Want To Build A Snowman, Let It Go, Frozen Heart, and For The First Time In Forever. Although the songs were from a movie about the cold, they warmed the audience’s hearts and brought back fond memories. The evening ended there and the success of day one left both the bands and the audience feeling satisfied. 

“Eisteddfod allows us to showcase our talents in a vibrant and supportive environment. It serves as excellent preparation for leading events such as KBB and the Macleans Gala Concert, providing us with the confidence and skills to excel.

William Lee – Y12 Rutherford – Concert Band and Symphony Orchestra

“There isn’t any performance where a little nerve does not go down your spine. But, knowing that this would be my last Eisteddfod performance I decided to enjoy every moment on that stage. Regarding work – after rehearsing every week the entire band was very eager to perform in front of a live audience. This is also an amazing performing experience for us given the amount of new members in our band which would give us all an insight to what KBB would be like performing on stage – coming soon in August.”

Leo Mamedov – Y13 Kupe – Concert Band, and Chorale

The second day of Eisteddfod was the vocal showcase. This included the appearance of the female and male all-comer’s choirs: Aria Junior, Aria Senior and Knights of the Castle. The Macleans barbershop chorus Macapella and the premier choir; the Macleans College Chorale also featured, along with a special appearance at the end from Chorale alumni.

Macapella warmed the stage with their uniquely awesome acapella performance of popular classics. Conducted by Melody Lowe, Macapella performed Be Our Guest, from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. They continued with a warming rendition of the sweet piece Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

“Performing at Eisteford was a really empowering experience. The feeling of being able to express and share our hours of practice in front of such a warm and welcoming crowd instead of an empty house commons was phenomenal.”

Anonymous Rutherford House Bass – Macapella

Afterwards, the lower voices group Knights of The Castle conducted by Mrs McNabb took to the stage. Raghav Pattni accompanied the choir as their pianist and helped Mrs McNabb with the flow of singing. Senith Ranawaka and Winter Sun assisted as percussionists. 

A traditional Māori song called E Te Ariki by Takerei Komene was a rich-sounding voice that brought a sense of calmness to the stage. The performance continued with Bound for Jubilee by Joy Eilers. This piece complimented the vibrancy of the choir’s vocal ranges, bringing it all together in a golden mix. 

Lastly, a grand song was performed. Duct Tape by Mark Burrows was opened by William Tang, giving a loud and prominent speech about how the world has essentially been saved by duct tape. This song consisted of actions among the members, whether it was duct-taping things onto Winter’s drumsticks, or foraging a blazer together, it was truly the most humorous act of the night. It brought smiles on everyone’s faces. 

“Eisteddfod was a wonderful experience to sing in front of the parents and teachers, showing them how much we have progressed throughout the two terms we have been singing.”

Lucas Guo – Y10 Snell – Knights Of The Castle

“During the performance of our three pieces, nervousness was sensed in the air as we walked under the stage lights and found our positions. This sense of nervousness was immediately cut with the start of our set. Passion and pride for our music as well as the want to share this music with the audience truly enhanced our performance. In a Knights of the Castle tradition, we of course had a bout of ‘choreography’, a term coined for our piece ‘Duct Tape’ where we closed off our set with unforgettable moves and jocular skits.”

Anthony Chen – Y12 Rutherford – Symphonic Band, Knights Of The Castle, and Chorale

“For Knights, the performance was extremely fun and everyone enjoyed it thoroughly – the entire choir was involved in every piece, especially Duct Tape, which was definitely the highlight of every Knights performance.”

Edwin Shen – Y11 Kupe – Symphonic Band, Knights Of The Castle, and Chorale

There seems to be another favourite piece among the group.

When the energetic performance had finished from The Knights, the Aria Junior group took the stage. Conducted by the exceptionally talented Mrs McNabb again, Aria Junior sang gracefully with their high-pitched pieces. 

They opened their performance with a melancholic but inspirational song called Grow by Sarah Quartel. A sound that reached so high, it motivated the entire audience to continue moving forward and going on with life. A spectacular round of applause continued, and the next song commenced. 

Green Water Stream by David Hamilton is a translation of a Chinese song that talks about the peace of still-flowing water, derived from an ancient Chinese poem named 青溪. Nevertheless, a serene song accompanied by the traditional Guzheng harp played by Stephanie Lin.

Even if we didn’t perform our best, I think it was still a memorable night of lots of photos and laughs with friends as well as a performance experience!”

Stephaine Lin – Y10 Rutherford – Aria Junior

Aria Junior ended their second performance, they went out sweetly with a jazzy song called I Can’t Give You Anything But Love By Dave Riley and Jay Althouse. They had some chuckles from the audience, and overall everyone enjoyed the cheekiness and movements the girls on stage made.

Singing in Aria Junior was a super fun experience. Through Eisteddfod and the Big Sing, I found myself making new friends and socialising a lot. The choir performance was nerve wracking [sic], of course, but afterwards [sic] it felt amazing.”

Lauren Timmins – Y10 Kupe – Aria Junior

Eisteddfod was a fun series of performances. It was a mix of a nerve-wracking stage appearance then joy and excitement as we sang. However, I think that we could have used some time before the performance to warm up our voices and fully prepare ourselves for the show.”

Bailey Young – Y10 Upham – Aria Junior

“To sing with the Aria Junior Choir is absolutely fun! There’s nothing quite like the feeling of belting out a beautiful melody. From the moment you step into rehearsals, everyone is eager to learn, GROW, and have a great time together. Singing GROW, I can’t give you anything but love, and Green water streams really strengthen the bond of harmonies we all have.

The mutual trust and friendship you develop with other girls is just unparalleled, as you work in harmony to perfect each piece. Whether you’re goofing around during warm ups or offering encouragement before a big performance, every moment is filled with joy, wonder, and the sheer love of music. Music Directors do an amazing job at fostering a fun and inclusive environment. Sometimes music is the only medicine the soul and heart needs [sic]. Singing isn’t just a hobby – it’s a lifelong passion that brings people together in the most wonderful way.”

Maria Gonzales – Y10 Kupe – Aria Junior

After Junior Aria left their graceful tone for the night, Aria (The Senior Group) came onto the stage. Aria sang three songs, with their first one somewhat matching the tone of the previous junior group. Conducted by Mrs Swasbrook, Aria began with No Thank You John by Christina Rossetti is [sic] a song that describes a story similar to the previous song sung by Junior Aria, a sweet and jazzy feeling. 

The performance continued with May The Road Rise To Meet You by Victor C. Johnson. An elegant song that combines the higher singers and the lower voices together – a song about guidance, and going where you are. One last song was performed, one that details the feelings of humanity. Stand As One by Carl Strommen was performed gracefully, a song that talks about the act of coming together and supporting one another. 

With the warm message Senior Aria left, there was only one group left to take the stage. The Macleans College Chorale, famously known for its high level, skill and talent came under the lights. Directed by the incredibly talented Mrs McNabb again, the chorale was eagerly excited to showcase their voices. 

Slowly, Mrs McNabb led the group into their first song, which was ‘Kyrie’ from ‘A Little Jazz Mass’ by Bob Chilcott – a contemporary Jazz piece. Throughout all these songs, there seemed to be quite a jazz-focused feeling throughout the night – something to combat the winter chills.

Chorale led us to the second song, which was Jasmine Flower (茉莉花) from Volume Two of ‘A Set Of Chinese Folk Songs’ by Chen Yi. It was a beautiful old Chinese song with Mandarin lyrics, which half of the choir was fluent in. 

I’m in the Bass 2 section for Chorale and is really special for my section, because some of us hit the D2 in MoLiHua(茉莉花), which is really exciting.”

“Yichen Han – Y10 Hilliary – Chorale

Next, came the incredibly emotional song Good Night, Dear Heart by Dan Forrest. A tale about a family who wanted to adopt an infant Ethiopian baby, but who ended up passing away in the hospital. Being an incredibly emotionally driven piece, the chorale truly sang their hearts on that one.

As a member of these choirs, I’ve constantly felt incredibly proud of how far we’ve all come and the effort dedicated; it wasn’t easy and a lot of sacrifice had to be involved.  I also have a LOT of love for Mrs McNabb for her dedication as well. Her passion for music has been a strong influence for us all. Kudos to the teachers who pulled this event off.”

Vivian Zhang – Y10 Snell – Aria Junior, Macapella, and Chorale

The final piece was a bright and happy one. In short Cantate Domino by Josu Elberdin is about singing to the Lord and sharing the joy of music with everyone and everything. A melodic finish. These pieces will also be the ones Macleans College will be singing for the World Choir Games – hosted in the July holidays this year.

However, the performance was not finished just yet. Mrs McNabb thanked the audience but showed one last surprise – the Chorale alumni choir. Out of seemingly nowhere, alumni students rose out of their seats in the front row and took their place on the stage – where they used to be, and sang how they used to in their high school years.

The Alumni choir sang with the current chorale – singing traditional Māori songs they are familiar with to the heart. Te Aroha Nui and Ka Waiata were two classics that everyone in the auditorium enjoyed to the very end.

Clarissa Oblefias, who is now studying Bachelor of Business (Accounting) and Bachelor of Health Science (Psychology) Conjoint, at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) came back for Eisteddfod. She was also a Macleans College News Committee writer, who wrote about Eisteddfod last year and was the lead editor. She had this to say about her experience with Eisteddfod – and what it means to her as a past Macleans Student.

I’ve been performing in Eisteddfod since it began in 2020, which [sic]is strange to think that even after I graduated, I’m still doing it. When I was still a student, I worked hard and sometimes got sick after the concert, but it was well worth the empty stomachs and late night dinners. Coming back as alumni [sic], Sarah [Mrs McNabb] chose songs we had been singing constantly for years, so all I had to do was run through it one time by myself and I was done. Not much work this year compared to previous years, but I think the act of being at Eisteddfod was more special than preparing for it.

I was going through the motions while on stage again. I haven’t been on stage since… prizegiving last year, so it’s been months. Content, joy, and longing were all things I was feeling while singing. It’s so empowering being part of a larger group.

I miss it all. I miss being on stage and singing with such an amazing group of people. Choir took up so much of my time and heart and life will always feel a bit empty without them. I am proud of the work I did up on that stage, both at this year’s concert and previous years. It’s a lovely tradition and I’m glad this is still going.”

Clarissa Oblefias – Alumni – Chorale

Finally, the night concluded with a bittersweet ending with seeing past students. 

Day Three of Eisteddfod finally brought the long-awaited orchestras of Macleans, with their magnificent string instruments all propping up onto the stage. First off, the entirely student-led group the Chamber Orchestra came onto the stage. They started off with the piece, Gavotte (Movement 3) from Holberg Suite by Grieg. A lively and bright start to the performance.

Afterwards, they performed Serenade For Strings by Josef Suk – a piece composed in 1892. A piece that incorporates the flow of all the string instruments together into a loving song, using a variety of techniques to create depth within the piece. The piece finished with a grand ending and continued on to the next one.

A piece written by an incredibly famous Japanese composer, Joe Hisaishi, A Town With An Ocean View from Kiki’s Delivery Service was truly a magical sense of emotion and adventure, much like the film itself. The group bowed and soon left the stage.

Over the years, the chamber orchestra at Macleans has evolved from having a conductor to becoming a student-led group which [sic] relies solely on the students to take initiative and communicate with one another without teacher guidance. What makes this group unique to others is the opportunity it gives to young musicians to share their own interpretations of the music with one another when bringing the music to life.

To put it simply, it is a lot of fun. The whole process of choosing the repertoire to finally perform our pieces in front of an audience all by ourselves has been a fulfilling and great learning experience. It has led us to becoming great friends further increasing our chemistry. Chamber orchestra is a place of freedom, there’s no big scary conductor in front of us, just us students and the music.”

Ethan Zhang – Y11 Kupe –Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, Concert Band, Chorale

“It was such a fun and enjoyable experience playing with my fellow musicians on stage. Although we were full of anticipation, the relief and excitement we felt was so rewarding, and I’m glad that we are able to use this memorable experience to learn and improve.”

“Clare Wang – Y12 Mansfield – Macapella, Chamber Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra

Afterwards, the massive group, Sinfonietta came onto the stage. With over … members, the togetherness of the string instruments was truly a sight to see. Sinfonietta performed five items that night. Beginning with Orientale by Cesar Cui, the first violins truly shined that night.

Secondly, El Choclo by A.G. Villoldo, is one of the most recognisable and famous tangos within its genre. It follows a lively rhythm, which is typical of a tango. The culmination of the string instruments really brought itself together in this piece, with the rich sound vibrating through the auditorium. 

The concert continued with  La Comparsita by Matos Rodriguez, The Moldau by Bedrich Smetana, and finished with Symphony No. 2 The “Little Russian” by P.I. Tchaikowsky.

“We put a lot of effort into these pieces and actually playing it on stage was a great experience for some of the new people and exciting for me as someone who played last year as well.”

Anthony Hu – Y10 Kupe – Sinfonietta, Knights Of The Castle

As always, the premier group, the Macleans Symphony Orchestra finally arrived on stage. Conducted by the accomplished Dr Miles as always, they began their song with a loud and bold piece – The Bounty Hunter composed by Tommy Tallarico. A dramatic opening to their performance, with suspense throughout the entire piece

After the satisfying finish, they continued to On A Hymnsong of Philip Bliss by David R Holsinger, a slow but calm piece after the insane start. An emotional-sounding piece with highs and lows. The Symphony Orchestra continued to deliver, with their next piece, Bacchanale, composed by Camille Saint-saëns. An exciting and rapidly-paced piece that also deals with dynamics and the composition of speed. 

Lastly, to close Eisteddfod, the Symphony Orchestra performed The Last Samurai. A slow but regal piece, that really makes you feel the silence in between some of the parts. However, it was a magnificent piece of work that truly made everyone ascend in the audience. It was dramatic enough to make your heart race. Truly, a great end for Eisteddfod.

A massive congratulations to every single musician or singer that participated in Eisteddfod, and a huge thank you to all the teachers who made it possible – and not forgetting the tech crew too.

If you missed this phenomenal performance, come to the Gala this year to see it!

1st July, 2024
Written by Emma Li, edited by Aaron Huang and Hope Zhang
Photography by Joseph Zhang and Emma Li

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