Sing students take to the stage

Ashburton Primary School Representative Choir rehearsing for The Heartland Bank Schools Music Festival.
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The stage will be full at the Ashburton Event Centre for three nights this month when 200 primary school children take part in The Heartland Bank Schools Music Festival.

For over 40 years now Mid Canterbury primary school students have been taking to the stage to sing for packed audiences.

Mass choir musical director Kerrin Corcoran is one of three directors who will be taking the singers through the 10 mass choir items.

This year is a big festival with 16 primary schools taking part, ‘‘which is a higher number than usual as some schools only take part every second year but with no festival last year due to covid those schools are taking part this year,’’ Kerrin said.

In full rehearsal mode.

Anna Tonks, choir administrator and musical director of the St Joseph’s School choir, said ‘‘the festival is an opportunity for children to experience being on the stage and performing.’’

Students get to experience ‘‘all the lights, sound effect and performing in a large theatre, it’s quiet high level,’’ Kerrin said.

Some schools hold auditions and in small country schools in might be all the Year 4-6 students taking part.

Sometimes this choice comes down to the availability and skills of those teaching the students in a school.

Schools can perform up to two songs individually and then join the mass choir where students learn 10 pieces.

The pieces performed by a school are chosen by them and include contemporary pieces, those enjoyed by their parents age group, some are rounds, there are ones with actions and parts.

‘‘Schools choose songs that reflect the school and so some are from other cultures,’’ Kerrin said.

Singing in other languages ‘‘helps the students learn the correct pronunciation on words,’’ Anna said.

The mass choir numbers are chosen by Kerrin and other musical directors Jennifer Martin (Hampstead School) and Anthony Dorreen (Dorie School) and include ‘‘fun songs, ones with messages, they do have to be appropriate for the students to be singing.

‘‘In 2019 we had to pull two songs one mentioning shotguns and the other bullets due to the Mosque shootings, not that either related to shooting, the shotgun one was about riding shotgun and the bullet one was about being bullet proof,’’ Kerrin said.


As some of the singers are from Year 4 and they could have to learn up to 12 songs if their school takes part in the massed items they try to include in the selection songs the children will know and repetitive songs.

Each choir can have up to 45 pupils taking part.

For country schools students can be in Year 4-8, for those in town students are in Years 5-8. Rehearsals for the festival began in March.

The representative choir auditioned 100 students and 45 were selected, representing 12 schools. They will perform each night of the festival. Individual schools perform on one night of the festival.

Musical director of the representative choir Jo Castelow said ‘‘each of the songs they will sing has been chosen because of the message in the song.’’

There will be special performances on the Tuesday and Thursday night’s from secondary school students.

On June 13 Molly Harrison will perform solo and on June 15 the Ashburton College Phoenix Chorus will perform.

‘‘It is good for the children to see older young people perform, it gives them something to aspire to,’’ Anna said.

This year’s performance will see songs performed in the three languages of New Zealand; Te Reo, Sign Language and English.

Anna and Kerrin give up hours of time to take the practices ‘‘because seeing the children perform and their reaction after the curtains close makes it so worthwhile,’’ they said.

The festival is grateful to the Ashburton Event Centre for their support with the shows and have appreciated the long-term support of Heartland Bank.

Tickets are $18 per person and the show runs at the event centre from June 13 to June 15 starting at 7pm each evening.