George Choir Festival, 9-11 August 2018

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When one mentions  “Sun Valley” there are a few things that immediately spring to mind such as “no homework” or “sporting school”. However, 2018 has seen the birth of a new direction in bringing balance to life by growing our arts & music culture.

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With the introduction of the new Silvermine Music Academy music studios, Sun Valley also set out to pay serious attention to our school choir.  Over 275 auditions were conducted and a a choir of 40 students was selected. From this we would also select a smaller ensemble. The Valley Vocals were formed and began with intense passion.  Valley Vocals, under the direction of Noel Frost, only set sights on formal competition at the well known Bloemfontien Children’s Choir Festival in early 2019, but with strong motivation and leadership from Mr. Brad Keller, the group decided to be bold and ambitious and target the National Choir Festival in George.

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With only 4 months of preparation and around 36 hours of practice time, the group set out to learn 4 a’capella pieces and sacrifice a number of Saturday afternoons to get to a competition standard.

Day 1 – THE JOURNEY

The tour began with a meet and greet evening at the George Civic Center once we had checked into our beautiful accommodation at the Glenwood lodge. The vibe at the venue was simply electric and was nothing short of amazing.  Having never participated in a choir competition before, this was all new territory for the Valley Vocals, but our kids looked every bit the part. The phrase of “cool, calm and collected” sprung to mind. Valley Vocals had the privilege of opening the evening by being the first group to perform for a packed Civic Centre. The crowd rose to their feet in applause.

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After a long day’s journey and awesome evening, it was time to greet the cold night with a warm bed and much needed sleep.

Day 2 – THE CHILL

Fresh rain and a cold morning greeted Valley Vocals on our second day, but that was not going to prevent the group from banking another awesome day with plenty of unforgettable moments.  After breakfast we travelled to Oudsthoorn to visit the Cango Caves and the Cango Ostrich farm.  The Cango Caves were amazing, but made all the more special with Valley Vocals being asked to sing in the main chamber.  The acoustics were phenomenal and the experience so special.  

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After our visit to the caves, we then embarked an a comical journey to an Ostrich farm which delivered plenty of laughs. From Mr. Keller being ambushed by hungry ostriches to Mr. Best testing the strength of ostrich eggs out by standing on them, the experience was a good laugh and the kids simply had another great experience.

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The afternoon saw Valley Vocals attend a short choir workshop conducted by the organiser, Jan-Erik Swart, before our evening performance.

Dressed in more formal stage kit, Valley Vocals got to perform again in the evening at the public concert before ending the day off. After another full and fulfilling day, much needed rest was needed before our big event….the adjudication on Day 3.

Day 3 – THE COMPETITION

The day got off to a relaxing start with the sun shining on what could only be great day.  After breakfast we set off to the Civic Center again to have our official 15 minute sound check session.  Thereafter, the group did something very special – they took time out if their day to venture to the Blue Mountain Retirement Village where they performed for the elderly. The rest of the day was spent on recovery and relaxation.  With our competition time scheduled for 5pm that afternoon we simply spent the day at Glenwood Lodge and getting our minds into “relax mode” before being judged at the competition.

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With plenty of time to warm up, Valley Vocals entered onto the grand stage at 5pm to set a new standard in musical excellence at Sun Valley.  We performed our 4 musical pieces to a judging panel of 4 choir experts.  There was no doubt that the kids were nervous but simultaneously excited.  They did phenomenally well in their performance before the judges and more importantly, showcased an energy on stage that made evident the fact that they were also having fun.

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Having been the last group to be adjudicated on that afternoon, we were made to wait for a short while before the final results were announced before a packed hall.

Needless to say, there were plenty of cheers when it was announced that we came second in the Senior Primary School category with a score of 80% and more importantly, the look of accomplishment and satisfaction on the faces of the kids was prize enough that their hard work had paid off and that they had fun doing that.

The evening ended off with a Friendship Party with all the other participants before we headed off back to our lodge for a pizza party and celebration.

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Day 4 – THE RETURN

While a trip back from George is almost always met with tired and sleepy kids, this trip back was packed with song and laughter.  

All this was only made possible with the unwavering support of parents and the passion and talents of very special kids.  

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While much can be said about the input and direction of the staff team of Mr. and Mrs Best, together with Mr. Frost, the whole journey and success thereof would not be possible without the drive, ambition and desire from Mr. Brad Keller to see Sun Valley stamp their signature on the music scene.  It was even commented on by the judges that the professional manner in which the programme and scores were presented to them set a new standard that they were going to implement with the other schools next year.

The trip may be over, but the ambitions and goals set for Valley Vocals continues.

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