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Stream and mountains

Music Festival 2020: Words from the conductors

By Alessia Anderson and Erin Longely

The unexpected circumstances that have arisen from COVID-19 have meant that the world has had to adapt in this time of crisis. We have seen the introduction of physical distancing into our day-to-day exchanges, completed online learning from home and spent our holidays in isolation, as we forge a new sense of ‘normalcy’ in these unprecedented times. Of course, these Covid-induced restrictions have also extended to the annual Loreto Normanhurst Music Festival, a beloved event within our community that is awaited with much anticipation and excitement each year. However, as noted by some of our amazing conductors below, not even a pandemic can stop Normo’s Music Fest, which has spurred the re-imagining of Music Fest in 2020 into one delivered in a virtual space. The house choir conductors have so ably adapted to these unusual circumstances to ensure the legacy of the Music Fest we all know, and love can continue into 2020, and so we have gathered some of their Music Fest insights below.

What was your first reaction when you heard Music Fest would be virtual?

Bella (Ward): After realising that unfortunately there would be no live audience, Mrs Hughes and I accepted the challenge before us and brainstormed how we could encourage girls and add our Ward House spirit Virtually. Although COVID-19 was not ideal, it allowed me to show how being resilient and courageous enables the creation of a positive and optimistic atmosphere and environment.

Yasmin (Aston): It was extremely hard to take in for a while as the big night at the ICC centre was something I had dreamed about for a very long time - the excitement of the night, with all the speeches and flowers, and performing on the big stage with my choir all together in front of me. It was really sad because I know how happy my house has been singing together and knowing that we wouldn’t be able to showcase what we’ve worked hard on together the way we usually do was extremely hard to accept. But then I realised that the school was working really hard to make an alternate music festival still possible, and I knew I had to make the most of it as it is still something extremely special. So, from there I picked myself up and brainstormed all the ways I could keep my house’s amazing energy and spirit alive.

Sab (Kuring-gai): I was already preparing for the worst when they said they would postpone music fest. It was really tough and disappointing, knowing that it was our year to experience that performance quality and excitement e.g. waiting backstage with the choir and everyone wishing each other good luck, the pump-up speech at the interval as well as the adrenaline rush on stage with our houses, which I think the majority of us was looking forward to. Also, the fact that many of us had the constant thought in our head that all the pressure, hard work and late hours spent into arranging our pieces would all be worth it on the night - as there are some rehearsals that go completely south from what you were expecting, we won’t be able to experience anymore, which is frustrating because this was our one big opportunity and the steps on being chosen and preparing for conductor was a lot. I knew the school doesn’t do anything half-hearted, so I stayed positive and made the most of it because let’s be real, when is this going to ever happen again!

Chloe (Mulhall): I was really sad as I know everyone was looking forward to the big music fest night, but then I knew that the school would figure something out to still make music fest special, even though it’s virtual.

How have you adapted the way you teach your song in a virtual space?

Tash (Barry): Thankfully, Barry had been working so hard before the virtual learning and we only had one short section to teach when school returned. At first, I was anxious about the change because it would be challenging having over 100 people on zoom at a time. However, after a few short rehearsals, I adapted to the new circumstances and our song is sounding amazing! The main thing for practices is to have fun and show Barry spirit which is evident throughout the tutor groups in rehearsal.

Steph (Kendall): Luckily for Kendall, we’d finished the song (in the final rehearsal of last term!!), so it was all about recapping and cleaning everything up. I was really nervous about running rehearsals virtually, but everyone was really flexible, so I made sure to keep a really positive attitude throughout rehearsals and make sure everyone felt confident and ‘heard’ (even when their mics were off/down). Thus, the rehearsals were a true demonstration of Kendall's spirit, creativity, and willingness to participate.

Bella: Luckily enough, I had finished my piece before Virtual learning so therefore, I didn't necessarily ‘teach’ the girls over zoom; I just refreshed their minds of the song. I created a process log that included all the weekly recordings and I did it in chronological order so that the Ward Stars could reflect on our hard work and stay motivated even online. Zoom allowed me to adapt to the circumstances by playing my accompaniment through sharing sound and then I shared my screen of my PowerPoint with the lyrics. I turned everyone on mute but kept their video on so I could see that their lips were moving and that they were practicing. Honestly, I just strived to have fun during rehearsals; even some teachers joined in which was hilarious for some students!

Sab: Having only one rehearsal to go until we finished our song in term 1 before we found out we were moving to virtual learning was really frustrating. I was not expecting any response through Zoom when rehearsing, because I knew I would feel a little bit hesitant if I were in their position, but I could still see them and expected their engagement. Having the last few rehearsals virtually, made me realise that I needed to lift my enthusiasm and energy to the next level, so I invested in a whole wardrobe of orange and pumped up the girls with funny videos and warmups. After the first rehearsal, I was surprised by how well it worked, and we sounded amazing and full of energy. It really showed the strong Kuring-Gai spirit supporting the house in every way possible.

Chloe: It was tough because I knew most people weren’t comfortable singing by themselves at home, and it is a challenge with everyone not being in the same room as I can't hear the majority of Mulhall, but I think we have done really well considering. One way we kept spirits up was a competition of who could wear the most red during the first Zoom rehearsal, which I think was successful and has still kept the good vibes going!

Yasmin: Very fortunately, Aston has been an amazing choir and worked extremely hard in Term 1 rehearsals to power through and finish the song so there wasn’t anything really new i had to teach them. It was obviously very different and difficult teaching through zoom, so I adapted by brainstorming a bunch of ideas to keep the rehearsals full of energy and have the house still feel the same adrenaline. I got my Year 11 friends to help me pump up their tutor groups, and I planned activities for the house at the end of rehearsals to reward them for their hard work.

What do you think this year’s Music Fest will be remembered for?

Steph: I’m actually so excited to hear Kendall’s final recording, as well as all the other houses! It’s amazing how adaptable Loreto has been toward these challenges, and how determined our community is to ensure that everyone still gets to experience the joy of our Music Festival.

Do you have any advice for when students record their clips for the couch choir?

Chloe: I know it’s going to be a bit nerve-wracking recording by yourself, but i think everyone should sing their best and loudest because it is going to sound amazing when everyone is together. But a fun little tip, don’t eat chocolate before singing!

Sabrina: Have fun! We are making history!

Tash: Be confident, enjoy it! We are making history with this online Music Festival so have fun and show your incredible house spirit!

Caitlin (Maye): Sing loud, this is a chance to be part of what will be the most memorable music festival in history! So, give it your best shot, it’s not that scary. It's just like singing on the night!

Arabella (Mornane): The great thing about being able to record the audios, is that you can have multiple tries and even if you sing some notes wrong, when it comes together virtually this won’t be an issue, so make sure you sing loud and proud!


How do you think the theme Standing on the Shoulders of Giants is even more relevant in this context of a virtual music fest?

Steph: The metaphor draws on a legacy built and sustained by strength and unity, and amidst these unusual circumstances, the camaraderie and support of everyone, in house groups and beyond, makes this metaphor more fitting than ever. Furthermore, as participants in the 2020 Music Festival, we leave behind a legacy of resilience, community and optimism that will inspire the participants and leaders of future Music Festivals as they ‘stand’ on our values and foster these tenets into something unique and awe-inspiring of their own.

Arabella: I think that theme is more relevant than ever this year, because in our lifetime, there has never been an event like this that has put the entire planet on hold. The theme focuses on the idea of legacies, both in terms of building off of those who came before us, but also ensuring that we create our own legacies. With so much uncertainty in our world, we have to remember to stay strong, rise up to the challenge, and create a legacy for others to follow in difficult times.

How are you feeling in anticipation of Music Fest? Excited? Nervous?

Bella: Honestly, I am beyond excited for the final version of the Music Festival. After watching Ward as the so-called ‘Guinea pigs’, it was clear that there was true potential for a professional and realistic Music Festival. I got extremely excited as I realised, every choir is going to sound truly amazing after recording and editing!

Sab: I’m super keen and a little nervous hearing the final result but I know there will be so much effort put into it, that it will be phenomenal.

Tash: I am so excited to finally hear the song, that the whole house has been working tirelessly on, come together. It is amazing knowing Loreto can adapt to even the largest of challenges.

Steph: I’m actually so excited to hear Kendall’s final recording, as well as all the other houses! It’s amazing how adaptable Loreto has been toward these challenges, and how determined our community is to ensure that everyone still gets to experience the joy of our Music Festival.

Chloe: I am really excited to hear the end result of everyone’s recordings together because I know how hard everyone has worked to reach this point.

Arabella: Because we had to make Music Fest virtual, I haven’t heard the choir all sing together, so it’s going to be incredibly exciting to hear! And what’s really cool is that everyone can watch their choir perform this year!

Yasmin: I am actually EXTREMELY excited to see the end result because I have no idea what it will sound like, but I really think it will sound epic. I think the different experience is still something I'm really looking forward to, because we’ve never had anything like this so it will be completely different and new which is kind of exciting - because we don’t really know what we’re in for. It will be really nice to see everyone come together on the screens and get to finally see the result of ALL the hard work everyone has put into this.


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