The Big Sing is a secondary schools choral festival held in ten different regions all over New Zealand. It is hosted by the NZCF (New Zealand Choral Federation) and welcomes eight thousand students hailing from over two hundred schools each year! The three day festival doubles as the selection process for competitions later in the year.

As per usual, the Auckland Regionals were held at the Auckland Town Hall on the 18th, 19th and 20th of June. Macleans College was well-represented on all three days of the event and valuable experience was gained by all those involved.

Macleans had a record-breaking number of roughly three hundred students who took part; all of whom were part of at least one of the four choirs from our school.

Big Sing Day One (Tuesday 18/06)

Knights of the Castle started us off with bang! The boys’ all-comers choir was a sensation at Regionals and brought a lively energy to the stage.

The Knights presented an assortment of pieces that showcased both their skills and their individuality.

E te Ariki by Takerei Komene – A powerful and poignant himene (Māori hymn) that contains sacred imagery. This piece was arranged for TBarB voices (tenor, baritone and bass). It includes a quartet, a duet and was accompanied by the organ!

Bound for Jubilee by Joyce Elaine Eilers – From the composer’s note: “the word ‘Jubilee’ has biblical origin, and signifies a glorious time of liberation from bondage, often becoming synonymous with heaven.” To put it simply, this piece was uplifting, joyous and free.

Duct Tape by Mark Burrows – An absolute banger (if I’m allowed to say that). Duct Tape was a crowd-pleaser with its hilariously creative ‘choralography’ that left everyone grinning. The inclusion of a scene-setting narration at the beginning and the use of props aided the Knights with their phenomenal delivery.

Big Sing Day Two (Wednesday 19/06)

Previously known as simply Aria, the popular girls’ all-comers choir was split into Aria and Aria Junior this year. The former being open to students in years 11 to 13, and the latter for juniors in years 9 and 10. Both groups did amazingly well and did us proud with their first official “debut” as two separate choirs.

This year, Aria’s three pieces provided a delicious mix of classical and contemporary flavours.

May the Road Rise to Meet You by David Hamilton – A Celtic-influenced ballad that has found its place among popular choices for weddings and other celebrations. The words are inspired by an Irish blessing that expresses a desire for good fortune and happiness in life.

No Thank You, John by Ruth Morris Gray – This sassy and playful piece was a favourite amongst the choir members. With words from Christina Rossetti’s poem by the same name, this piece has a light-hearted and catchy melody that completely changes the meaning behind the poet’s original approach.

Stand as One by Carl Strommen – “The song is often performed by youth choirs and is celebrated for its uplifting message of unity and collective strength. The lyrics emphasise the importance of standing together, supporting one another, and facing challenges as a unified group.”

Aria Junior had a triad of endearing pieces that reflected their youth and demonstrated their potential.

I Can’t Give You Anything But Love by David Riley and Jay Althouse – A contemporary jazz piece arranged for SSA voices (soprano I, soprano II and alto). Collectively, this was Aria Junior’s favourite piece to sing as some of the words were altered to “humour the Gen Z crowd”. (‘Kmart’ and ‘temu’ made features…)

Green Water Stream by David Hamilton – Arguably their coolest piece, Green Water Stream was composed specifically for Aria Junior by the man himself, David Hamilton. As if that wasn’t already enough, the piece is not only accompanied by the piano, but also the guzheng! (Also known as the Chinese plucked zither.)

Grow by Sarah Quartel – A flowy piece that garnered mixed feelings from the choir in the beginning due to its generous amount of high notes. Description of the piece published by the Oxford University Press: “This warm and heartfelt setting of words by the composer celebrates human personal growth, comparing this to the change of season from winter to spring.”

Big Sing Day Three (Thursday 20/06)

The premier mixed choir, Macleans College Chorale (MCC) performed on the final day. With the luck of the draw placing MCC as the second choir on the schedule, the day began bright and early (mainly early).

This year, MCC brought to the stage a diverse repertoire that was both challenging and exciting to learn.

Two Word Poem by Anthony Richie – An upbeat piece that requires lots of precision and attention to detail in its delivery. It was inspired by Laura Ranger’s poem that she wrote at the age of seven. The wordplay in Two Word Poem is witty and honestly, pretty adorable. (The composer himself also happened to be one of the adjudicators which was exciting!)

Good Night, Dear Heart by Dan Forrest – A truly beautiful piece that MCC held close to the heart. With words from the headstone of Mark Twain’s daughter, Good Night, Dear Heart intertwines the memory of those gone too soon. “Warm summer sun / shine kindly here, / warm southern wind / blow softly here, / green sod above / lie light, lie light / good night, dear heart / good night, good night”

Cantate Domino by Josu Elberdin – Featuring text in English, Latin and Basque, Cantate Domino meaning ‘sing to the Lord’ was a piece that channelled pure joy. The complicated harmonies created rich dynamics and a vibrant tone which made it an incredibly satisfying performance.

The Chorale’s performance of Good Night, Dear Heart won the award for a Commendable Performance of an ‘Other Styles’ Work. As well as this, MCC was selected for the Upper North Island Cadenza and was named reserve for Finale. Cadenza will be held in late August in Rotorua this year. The choir is buzzing with anticipation for this opportunity!

Choir Leaders Kelly and Annabelle with Choir Conductor Mrs McNabb (:

Big Sing was an epic showcase of talent and technique. But more importantly, it was a chance for choir kids from all over Auckland to come together as a community and embrace their shared love for music.

An event of this size takes a team, and our group of uber talented support staff were a dream. From getting everyone to and from the venue in one piece, to hectic roll calls and ensuring all 300 students were safe at all times, this was no easy feat. Not to mention our amazing choir conductors Mrs McNabb and Mrs Swasbrook who have put in too many hours to count, as well as Dr Miles who organised so much behind the scenes.

Thank you to all the teachers who have been a part of not only the Big Sing itself, but also the entire process leading up to it. We appreciate you so much.

And of course, to all the students in Knights of the Castle, the Macleans College Chorale and the two Arias. Give yourselves a well-deserved pat on the back. A special thanks to the accompanists too (literally what would we do without you). Big Sing is always a good time, but it takes a lot of work to get up on stage and deliver well. Choir is truly family and I hope you’ve all made long-lasting memories together. You’ve made Macleans so very proud; get excited for next year… Up the castle!

5th July, 2024
Written by Hope Zhang, edited by Emma Li and Ally Chu
Photography from @nzcfthebigsing on Instagram

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