The St. Francis Xavier youth choir at St. Petersburg after their win. Photo provided by SFX Youth Choir

SINGAPORE – The Church of St. Francis Xavier Youth Choir won three gold medals at the Grand Prix St. Petersburg 2010 World Choir Festival held Jun 18-19.

And the icing on the cake – they took home the Golden Cup of Peter the Great, the festival’s top award.

“It came as a surprise. The choirs were all good. The judges said the results were very close. A lot of choirs did get gold,” said Theodore Ng, a member.

Gold medals are awarded for 90 to 100 points. In the Sacred Music and Chamber Music categories, the St. Francis Xavier youth choir emerged winners with a score of 100 and 99 points respectively. In the Folklore Category, they shared the top spot with Anglo Chinese Junior College Choir with a score of 100.

For Tiffany Ng, who flew in to Russia from Taiwan where she was participating in a school exchange programme, the win would not have been possible without God’s help due to the obstacles the members had to face.

One team member, Sharlene Anne Pareira, sustained an injury just hours before the choir’s departure to Europe. Although in pain and wheelchair-bound, Ms Pareira decided to proceed with the trip and even performed with the choir while in the wheelchair.

It was the show of camaraderie and bonding between the choir members in support of Ms Pareira that was memorable for Theodore Ng.

“It was a showcase of teamwork to help get Sharlene around,” said Theodore, recollecting an incident when they had to help Sharlene by carrying her across a pothole-covered pavement when the group was caught in a traffic jam in St. Petersburg and had to walk.

There were also hurdles during preparation time. Tiffany, for instance, had to practise on her own and rely on technology such as Skype to watch the rest of the choir’s rehearsals in Singapore. She only joined the rest of the members on Jun 16, which left them not much time to rehearse together.

“I’ve received a lot of motivation from my alto section through email. It was difficult, but I made it,” said Tiffany.

Another member, Lydia Tan, who is studying in Scotland, took time off to return to Singapore to rehearse with the choir at the start of June.

Said choir master Denis Leong: “The choir members put in a lot of effort. They were surprised and they could rejoice, but a result is just a result. It’s the strengthening of friendship and community that matters.”

He added: “What really matters is that they put their heart, and the sacrifices they made as a community really made a difference.”

Plus, he said, the trip was not only about participating in the competition. The choir also visited Rome and Assisi, where their faith was strengthened. “We got to see a lot of relics and made aware of their significances and helped put us in touch with our faith,” said Theodore. n

By Darren Boon
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