Two years ago, I was a bundle of nerves during the competition.
Then, we were just a tiny choir and the acoustics of the competition hall were, as Nelson K says, “rotten”. It was the sort of hall where you could be standing close to one another and still not hear anything else but your own voice. I trembled on stage and prayed that I was doing everything correctly as it should be.
Two years on, it was a different story.
Instead of panicking, I felt calm and confident. As I stood on the stage under the harsh and hot lights on July 24, I looked straight at the audience and sang my heart out. Every note, every phrase, every nuance of emotion was sung with quiet confidence, with a familiarity that was only known to a singer who loves her music and who prides herself on her art.
It’s hard to explain the reason behind the difference. Perhaps it boils down to a confidence that grew with the knowledge that this is a fantastic group of singers with stronger voices and attitudes. Perhaps I grew as a singer. Perhaps we all knew that this was the moment, this was when seven months’ worth of hard work and struggle were culminating into that 20 minutes of glory.
July 26 was the day of reckoning.
We were all in jubilant and high spirits on that day. Despite the little hours of sleep, having spent most of the previous night slouching in Lao-lao’s room and exchanging juicy nuggets of information, we were rather buoyant and energetic, waving our little Singapore flags merrily and singing national day songs at the lobby of the hall where the results would be announced. There was no stress, no worry until the moment when results for our first category, Musica Sacra a cappella, were called.
Earlier, Anderson Junior College had been proclaimed the winner of their category and we had cheered lustily for them. As they stood on stage singing the national anthem with the flag raising slowing behind them, I cried, partly because I was truly touched to finally hear Majulah Singapura being played to choirs from all over the world, and partly because I wished VC could manage the same feat.
As the names of other choirs were called out, we heaved a collective sigh of relief, knowing that we had escaped being a bronze medal choir. And suddenly, the score jumped from a silver 75 points to gold 80. We knew we had nailed a gold, the question then was how high we could go. Our linked arms grew tighter, we exchanged looks of excitement and worry. Could we actually win the category? That question was silently echoing in our minds.
Before we knew it, the Olympics anthem was being played, the words “Olympics Champion” were flashing on the giant screen behind the stage and our name was still not called out by the announcer. We had done it! Even before they could announce us as the champion proper, we were already in ecstasy, hugging and sobbing madly in joy.
That moment in time, everything felt surreal. As we raced towards the stage to prepare to sing the national anthem, there was a sense of disbelief. We sang Majulah Singapura with the most soul anyone of us had ever felt. It was almost as if time had stood still and there existed nobody but Victoria Chorale singing the national anthem.
And it was then, that I realised I couldn’t walk away as coolly as I thought I could.
On the way back to the hotel after performing at the Champions Concert that same day, I could only stare out of the window and put my thoughts together. This was my life, my passion, could I really leave it behind? This was why I had joined, to bond with the choir, to keep in touch with my friends, to take part in competitions and savour the sweet taste of victory.
Could I walk away without a backward glance?
I don’t know. As the boyfriend said, Chorale is very special to us and it will always be. Our relationship had started because of the choir, and we have grown as a couple with it. It is a big part of both our lives and we both loved it passionately.
But I just don’t know if passion alone could sustain the commitment needed, especially when I have changed and singing is no longer the utmost priority. VC can survive without me, its greatest strength has always been its ability to adapt and move on.
With or without me, there will always be a Victoria Chorale. And I will always be its faithful supporter.