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The Virtual Sing: A lockdown project for NZ secondary school choral singers

180 secondary school students from Whangarei to Invercargill reached out from their bubbles during lockdown to join voices in NZCF’s virtual choir project, The Virtual Sing.  Our newly-released video shows bubbles of young choristers up and down the country lending their individual voices to an energetic waiata, A te tarakihi (The Cicada). 

NZCF Chief Executive Christine Argyle says: “Just prior to going into lockdown, it became clear that we would have to cancel our annual Big Sing festivals for secondary school choirs, and we knew that for many students, taking part in The Big Sing is a highlight of their school year. We decided to offer a virtual choir experience that any student could take part in from their own home, and wanted to make it visually special, something that would reflect the unique situation our young people were finding themselves in.”

Tasked with artistic coordination of the project, Wellington conductor Brent Stewart made an arrangement of the Alfred Hill & Ngāti Maniopoto waiata A te tarakihi (inspired by Kiri Te Kanawa’s recording of a Carl Doy arrangement), and he and New Zealand Youth Choir Music Director David Squire prepared rehearsal files for the students to practise along to at home. David says: “We’re thrilled that so many young singers put in hours during lockdown to work on this deceptively challenging piece. We can’t wait to share the video with them.”

NZCF Chair Juliet Dreaver called on her ‘day job’ connections as a commercials producer to engage a professional video editor, Jason Bowden, and sound engineer, Paul Stent, to mix all the individual videos together, and NZCF Events Manager Emma Billings got the word out to students all around the country, encouraging them to let their voices be heard.

“For many of our high school choristers, singing plays a crucial role in their wellbeing and sense of self-esteem”, says Juliet. “It was important that we found a way to keep them singing, and for them to be part of a project they could be really proud of. They should certainly take great pride in this beautiful video.”

NZCF acknowledges the support of Creative New Zealand and the Ministry of Youth Development.