The hills of Wales were ringing with the cheers of the 40 ecstatic young singers of the British Columbia Girls Choir in early July.
They had just finished singing in two competitions and, mathematically, an English choir was .6 points ahead.
But the Canadian girls were the only choir to place in both classes — third place in the folksong and first place in the senior children’s competitions.
Who would win the overall prize? The judges decided that the honours would go to both the British Columbia Girls Choir and the Hereford Cathedral Girls Choir of England.
Among the 40 Canadian singers was 16-year-old Holly ten Haaf, a student at Langley Fine Arts School.
“Right before we won our title I turned and said ‘I will eat my foot if we win this’ – then we won,” said Holly.
“You know the feeling you have when you see a toddler take its first steps? Or when you get a really good mark when you worked really hard? Kind of like that, except you get to share it with 40 girls that are all feeling the same.”
Winning took a lot of focus, said Holly.
“We’re all pretty great friends, so not talking in rehearsal is pretty hard. When we do focus, it’s crazy what we can accomplish.”
The British Columbia Girls Choir is led by Fiona Blackburn, a former professional singer who has been directing choirs for almost two decades.
“The girls and I have been working towards this top competition for a number of years,” said Blackburn.
“The Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in Wales is considered the pinnacle of choral competitions worldwide because it has existed since 1947 as a way to bring countries together through music, and because it attracts the top choirs from around the world.
In the children’s choir competition, there were 12 choirs from eight countries — the USA, Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, England, India, the Isle of Man and Wales.
All the choirs had to go through an extensive audition process to be accepted and it was an honour for us to be one of two Canadian choirs.”
Blackburn said the judges commented on the choir’s interesting choice of repertoire, performing four different languages, their innovative performance style with use of movement and percussion, and ability to sing with such great vocal control.
“I love the girls’ commitment to our art.”