By Rachel Wee (19J10), Myat Thazin (19J08), Lee Jia Ren (19J05), Ng Chen Xi (19J05)
After grueling months of intense practice, the biennial SYF has finally come to an end. Although rarely perceived as a celebration, the Singapore Youth Festival is primarily a festival dedicated to the performing arts. As such, we would like to share the unsung stories of passionate RVians who let their talent shine through on the national stage.
This year, the secondary school section of the choir, also known as River Valley Chorale (RVC), did their best to carry on the legacy left behind by their seniors and succeeded by achieving the distinction award coveted by many. For those of you who have watched their SYF performance, you would surely remember their impressive soundscape and impactful performance. This did not come easy, as we found out from the Vice President herself, Nicole Chiong of Class 4L. As Vice President, she led the rest of the CCA towards this common goal. “Along with our president, Raeanne, and the rest of the EXCO, we had to lead the choir towards SYF despite having just started our term last year and I was clueless as to what to do.” However, they worked together effectively to lead and motivate the members; the beyond satisfactory result was a reflection of their hard work. Giving credit to the Music Committee, Nicole added, “Our Music Committee, with our Student Conductors, Maczim and Rooney, have worked really hard as well, and I must say I [have] really enjoyed this SYF journey, more so than the others.”
For the JC choir, also known as River Valley Chamber Singers (RVCS), this year marked their first time participating in SYF in the last few years. In previous years, having too few members had been a big issue, but they have successfully overcome that this year, having hit the minimum number of performers required to qualify for SYF. Grateful to be given this chance, the small choir of around 30-strong faced challenges which they took on valiantly. “This SYF journey was a really long and tiring one where we spent many practices trying to fix details for three songs, and towards the end, everyone was really stressed out by the limited time we had left”, Tan Jia Yee of 19J10 remarked. Not only was it a race against time, but the little manpower they had was also a setback. Jia Yee related, “This SYF journey was a little different from the previous ones. In the Junior High choir, there used to be more members, and with more people, I was naturally given a confidence boost knowing that there were many people I could rely on. However, in the JC choir, the numbers were reduced by more than half and I had to learn to be more independent, trusting that people around me will do their part and help me when I make mistakes.” And indeed, their hard work was rewarded with a Certificate of Distinction; nothing less.
Chinese Orchestra (Secondary)
振奋人心，感动全场 — To inspire others, and to touch the whole audience with their music. This familiar phrase is the motto of our very own Chinese Orchestra, and they have no doubt embodied it through their spirit and attitude towards their craft. For Zeng Chuwen of Class 3B, their exceedingly good result of a Certificate of Distinction was well-deserved as everyone had put in effort to work towards this goal. To Chuwen, this SYF experience was special as it was her first time getting a Distinction with the CCA and she got to experience the sweet paying off of hard work. As would many performers, Chuwen shared, “Personally, I feel that I improved a lot skills-wise, but if I had the chance to, I would still have put in more effort from the very start of this SYF journey to prevent excessive stress nearing the SYF date itself due to extra practises and time constraint.” Being a hardworking bunch, it is no wonder that the Chinese Orchestra was able to perform their pieces so sincerely, truly allowing the audience to feel the music in its purest form.
Chinese Orchestra (JC)
Another Performing Arts CCA which is no stranger to glorious accolades, the JC section of the Chinese Orchestra delivered a seamless performance that not only proved their flexibility as a team, but also highlighted their affinity with the music they perform. For Tay Yi Ting of 19J10, attaining the distinction award was no mean feat. “I am beyond satisfied with our results, as I honestly expected a Certificate of Accomplishment. Up till February, everyone seemed to be working in their own directions that were unrelated to CCA, so it took us a while before we pulled up our socks.” For a JC CCA, it is not uncommon for the majority to have different individual focuses, considering the increased commitments and higher academic demands of JC life. As compared to a secondary school CCA, working towards a common goal can be considerably harder, as surprising as that may be. As Yi Ting pointed out, “When we were younger, we used to have more drive in us, and I used to practise every day at home. I was more consistent in my efforts and often tried my best to motivate my CCA mates. But this has changed over the years, and if we had adopted this same mindset, we would definitely have done better.”
Vanessa Leung of Class 4K expressed similar sentiments, sharing, “There was much space to improve for the performance: notes that should have been in tune, dynamics that should have been taken note of, and most importantly, the sense of familiarity with our pieces. The pieces we performed demanded more attention to detail and sensitivity to music than the pieces we used to play in the secondary school Chinese Orchestra. We weren't as confident in our playing on stage, perhaps due to nerves. However, we did our best on stage and I feel that that was the most important part.” But as this SYF chapter comes to a close, there is no time for regrets, especially not for a CCA like Chinese Orchestra, which has come so far.
Dance Society (Secondary)
Dance Society never disappoints with their spectacular results, as the secondary school section once again managed to clinch the top Certificate of Distinction. Serene Huang from class 4D, one of the two presidents of the Secondary section, is proud of her dance mates for their effort and hard work, and glad that it reflected in the shining results they attained. She shared about her fresh experience as the leader this year, taking up various responsibilities with her batchmates to prepare for SYF. This ranged from buying and preparing the essential accessories, makeup, props and costumes to initiating self-practise sessions and guiding the less experienced juniors, showing just how much behind the scenes work was put in. When asked to sum up her dance journey, Serene says that it was tough but worth it. What a heartwarming answer, proper for a leader!
Dance Society (JC)
Without a doubt, Dance Society (JC) has once again lived up to its high-achiever reputation this year by receiving the Certificate of Distinction! However, for Ng Sze Yen of 19J18, a dedicated member of Dance Society since secondary school and now in the JC section, there is more to SYF than just the results. “I’m proud of the results but the performance at the SYF itself was not that satisfactory,” Sze Yen reveals to this writer’s surprise, “We all knew we could’ve done better. I felt that we’d put up a better performance in the rehearsals than the actual SYF.” Sze Yen claims that the team was very nervous but that it should not be an excuse for why they had underperformed. “At the end of the day, it is not solely about getting a Certificate of Distinction. It is more about us being able to portray what we want to the audience through our performance.” Hearing Sze Yen’s words, it gives us a fresh perspective of SYF. It is not always clinching the gold that makes a performer accomplished. It is more of knowing at the bottom of your heart that you are able to truly deliver the performance, to convey the emotions, and to share the story with the audience. That is what makes a performance genuine and a performer ingenious.
When asked to sum up her SYF journey this year with one word, Sze Yen surprised this writer with her answer yet again. “Grass,” she says without missing a beat. “You see, the theme of our performance is called “小草” (which means little grass in Chinese). When you think about grass, it is nothing special. It does not possess the beauty of a flower. It is plain, simple and boring. However, the grass is the one that stays enduring in the face of harsh weather conditions. This performance item has thus inspired me to be more persevering because SYF is tiring and stressful but no matter what, I learned not to give up.” Through the interview, Sze Yen has indeed offered us insightful and heartfelt thoughts on her SYF journey. In fact, what she has experienced goes beyond SYF. They are also lessons we all can relate to and learn from. Once again, we wish Sze Yen and Dance Society (JC) all the success in the future!
ELDDS (Secondary) bounced back this year with another significant milestone in their SYF journey with a solid Certificate of Distinction achieved through their spectacular performance of “Storybook People”. For the Year 4s, this is a victory worthy of celebration, for it is the first year they have clinched a Certificate of Distinction for the CCA. Luo Zihui of class 4H, having seen the immense amount of effort her CCA has put in, feels that it was an excellent result that was well-deserved. Of course, the road to achievement was lined with both challenges and disappointments. Every stage is a learning experience, and Zihui shared that this year was her first time playing a side character, where she was given more background and context to work with, instead of being part of an ensemble. This required her to do in-depth research into her character, Mrs. Chong -- to create a background story and convincingly speak like an auntie -- in order to effectively portray the character and personality. While she expresses regrets towards her own preparation process, both on the technical and emotional level, it was an enriching experience for her and her CCA, and we would like to applaud them for their grit in spite of obstacles and the spectacular win they had strived so tirelessly for!
CLDDS (Secondary) did not fail to impress once again with yet another amazing piece, and for Vice-Director of the show, Wu Zhenshuo from Class 4C, the months of hard work put in by the entire CCA indeed paid off. Attaining a Certificate of Distinction is no small feat, and Zhenshuo did not fail to applaud the time put in by the performers outside of school hours to perfect their performance. His pride was apparent as he thanked his teachers and his fellow students for their time and energy dedicated to this performance.
SYF 2019 was Zhenshuo’s first time participating in the festival. He stated that there were many differences between this performance and his previous experiences, and hence the adaptability of the staging team was key in this year’s performance. Despite the time constraints the lights crew faced, their efforts shone through in the performance, and the time they put into familiarising themselves with the new systems was not spent in vain.
This year’s performance was not just a first for Zhenshuo, it was a first for the CCA as their performance included a mass dance component. While they faced some challenges with coordination, Zhenshuo credited the overall order and coordination to the mutual encouragement and assistance he observed among the performers. The immense pride CLDDS (Secondary) takes in their CCA is evident, and the product of their effort is truly something that we are all proud of.
Concert Band (Secondary)
RV’s Junior Band has consistently brought pride to our school every SYF, and their remarkable Certificate of Distinction this year is proof of the band’s great ability and skill. Despite the constant achievements of the band, every SYF experience is unique, allowing the band members to learn something new. For Concert Band (Secondary) Assistant Band Major Soon Ai Ling from 4K, the regrets she held when leaving the stage are now opportunities for reflection and improvement. While she feels that the band may not have been at its best during their practises, she contemplated how keeping morale high from the start of the SYF journey would allow the band to put in more effort during practices. This is something that batches of CCA leaders have experienced through SYF preparation, and it is truly heartening to watch the band learn from past experiences so as to make each of their performances better than the next.
However, with room for improvement comes cause for celebration. Concert Band (Secondary) is certainly able to look back on the milestones they have achieved in the past year. SYF 2019 is Ai Ling’s fourth SYF, yet her experience has a CCA leader and a senior has been an eye-opening one for her. The lense of leadership has allowed her a shift in mentality: while she had felt a lack of individual recognition in previous SYFs, she has been able to better understand how each and every performer is crucial this year. This is because the band would be different without any one of its members. After all, at its very core, Concert Band is about the lasting bonds formed between the band members, which is what made this experience truly special for Ai Ling. The unity and cohesion of the band have made RV's Concert Band better, on both an individual and a CCA-wide level, which is evident in the culmination of the CCA's hard work.
The opportunities that Concert Band gives its members to explore and excel has ignited a thirst for improvement, and a willingness to step out of their comfort zone. Indeed, the achievement of our Concert Band extends beyond what they have earned on the SYF stage, allowing students to see the world beyond mere achievements.
Concert Band (JC)
They are the ones who play to our RV pride at every National Day Parade in school with their juniors. They are also the ones who made us proud with their Certificate of Distinction for SYF this year. They are none other than the Concert Band (JC)! For Ellen Soh of 19J13, a member of Concert Band (JC), SYF this year was an ‘intense’ journey. Though Concert Band (JC) only had two songs to perform, there were many details involved coupled with very little time to work on. “We only confirmed one of our songs in February and only had a short time of less than three months to perfect as many details as possible,” Ellen recalls how rushed and tight their SYF rehearsal schedules were. “On top of our usual practises, we went for a lot more additional ones, even on weekends.” There is no doubt about how intense the practises were, but this is also the exact reason why the Concert Band was able to secure their Certificate of Distinction this year. With the vigorous nature of preparations, it pushed Concert Band (JC) to excel and shine on the very stage of SYF. The Certificate of Distinction for Concert Band (JC) this year was indeed a well-deserved one!
It may have been an arduous journey practicing for SYF for Joyce Mah of 18J12, but it was a fun one nonetheless. Despite falling behind in terms of experience and resources, the small group of aspiring guitarists was unfazed and continued to strive for a Certificate of Distinction. Although they regrettably did not manage to attain the highest level of achievement, Joyce is still proud of how far they have come. As a senior participating in her last SYF, she expresses her hope for the CCA to obtain a Certificate of Distinction in the future. To do so, they will need to have experienced players and to utilise a variety of guitars to create a more harmonic melody. She also compared her current SYF experience to her previous ones as a dancer, drawing similarities from both preparation processes. “The SYF journeys for both Dance and Guitar were tough as both are art forms that students need to perfect,” she recounted. “However, even if every movement and every sound were perfected, we need to execute the actions with 'feelings' such that the audience will be able to be immersed in the performances. And I feel that getting the right ‘feelings’ is the hardest part to get.” Indeed, the presentation of art always touches the hearts of people, and perhaps that’s what warrants the passion of these members. Joyce treasures the freedom and strong camaraderie in RVGE, stating that every member has the opportunity to contribute during practices. Each member’s unique style also shines through, and the engaging practise sessions make the journey together all the more enjoyable. She also credits the instructor’s effort to conduct one-on-one sessions that allowed her to make improvements on her own part. RVGE has definitely shown us that results aren’t the only thing that matter; what is equally important, if not more, is that they got to practise together, play together and most importantly, grow together.
String Ensemble (Secondary)
Life is, indeed, not a bed of roses. As Zheng He Jing (4D) of String Ensemble (Secondary) reflects on this SYF cycle with her fellow CCA leaders, she remarks that when their journey began, it was “full of uncertainty” and the CCA was not very hopeful regarding achievements. However, the ensemble made the decision to focus on the process rather than the result this year. Living up to their name, RVSE went forth as a team, growing both as musicians and as an ensemble. While He Jing concedes that they may not be the best, their love and passion for their art made SYF 2019 a journey that none of them would ever forget. Her pride for her CCA and what they have achieved rings true in her words of encouragement, “We did it!” Indeed, despite the thorns and obstacles they may have faced, String Ensemble (Secondary) has achieved greater heights this year, through the roses that blossom from their hard work and sheer grit. It is truly heartwarming to watch the stage set ablaze by the fiery passion that burns in their hearts every time the Ensemble steps up to perform.
String Ensemble (JC)
Sometimes, it is not about getting gold. Having clinched a Certificate of Accomplishment in SYF this year, Shermaine Ong of 19J18 from String Ensemble (JC) takes pride in her CCA achievement. “It’s a learning experience,” said Shermaine during the interview. She knew that her team had done their best and she could not be prouder of them. Shermaine was the former president of String Ensemble (Secondary) and is now a proud member of the JC section. For her, this year’s SYF was more important than those of past years, as it was her last SYF as part of the String Ensemble. This was the very reason that drives the String Ensemble team to work hard on the SYF preparations. “We went to CCA, like, five times that week before SYF,” Shermaine related, remembering the hectic schedule and long arduous hours of rehearsals before they stepped onto the stage to deliver the best versions of their pieces. While String Ensemble (JC) practised hard to give it their all, Shermaine shared that they also made sure to enjoy themselves and have fun instead of solely focusing on the results. “It was more of performing for the audience, for the people out there, and of course for ourselves, and less about being assessed by the judges.”
Shermaine, who had also been running for the Student Council elections during the same term when SYF took place, revealed that it was indeed stressful for her to take part in the two big events. However, thanks to her good time management, she was able to dedicate herself to both SYF and the Student Council elections. “Since the two events did not clash with each other, I was able to prioritise the one which came first,” said Shermaine as she saw herself to the end of both SYF and Student Council elections. This writer cannot help but truly admire Shermaine for her commitment and perseverance.
“It’s a story I would tell myself and others in future,” Shermaine stated thoughtfully when asked to describe her SYF journey this year. “It’s important for life to have stories to tell because those stories are a source of motivation to push yourself to do well.” For Shermaine, this year’s SYF was a memorable one and certainly, a journey without regrets.