Singing school set for concerts

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Mid Canterbury Summer Singing School musical director Jo Castelow, centre, at rehearsals with junior soloists from left Hannah Elley, Oscar Stove, Sienna Poyner, Emelie Caird-McCormick, Lily Partridge (rear), Madeleine Howden, Molly Harrison, Isabel Wang and Chloe Graham.

Around 100 singers are being put through their paces this week at the Mid Canterbury Summer Singing School and are gearing up for their first public concert tomorrow.

The iconic week-long summer school under the guidance of musical director Jo Castelow, and guest choreographer and summer school alumni Megan Wilson, has drawn singers aged nine to 22 from around Canterbury.

Those attending have a love of singing and musical theatre and many attendees have been at previous singing schools and gone on to study at the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art (Nasda).

“The calibre (of singers) is really good. It’s a stepping stone to other (opportunities),” Mrs Castelow said.

There had been at least 20 Nasda graduates take part over the years.

Mrs Castelow said the singing school, now in its 22nd year, saw junior and senior singers essentially learn three months worth of performance work in just five days, with public performances to finish.

“It teaches them what is like to be in a professional show … and it teaches kids the importance that the whole choir needs to be as standout as the leads,” she said.

Auditions for solos parts were held the Sunday before the school opened and was another nerve wracking experience for some.

But “if they can survive that they can survive anything (on stage),” she said.

Attendees received song sheets in early December and during the week undertake two days of singing, two days of choreography then a technical day on Friday ahead of the opening night time performance.

“It’s a learning week but with a full on show at the end,” Mrs Castelow said.

There is also an opportunity to be the recipient of a tertiary scholarship set up by Mrs Castelow and husband Paul ten years ago.

It is awarded to a singer who is attending tertiary singing study or those sitting grade 7/8 singing exams and as well as ability, includes the recipients interaction and help with others during the singing school.

The scholarship winner is announced at the Saturday night performance.

“We are really blessed to (be able) to carry on,” she said, with covid not impacting on the school over the past two years.

“I’m just chuffed people want to come back each year,” she said.

Senior singers have been learning in four part harmonies and will perform a varied set which includes a Woodstock medley, songs from the musical Tommy, and from iconic bands such as The Temptations, Duran Duran, Adam Ant, Men Without Hats, Green Day and U2.

The juniors, learning in two part harmony, will perform movie songs including those from Brave, Mulan and Peanuts, as well as some Disney villain songs.

The Retro, Rock and Revival concerts are on tomorrow and Saturday nights at the Ashburton Trust Event Centre from 7.30pm. Tickets cost $28.