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Artistic Exploration: Huili’s 2nd Winter Celebration Showcase

16 January 2020
January 9th 2020 saw Huili’s second winter celebration showcase come to life on the stage of our sister school at Wellington College International Shanghai. Featuring a wide variety of different styles of dance, music and singing performances, all delivered with the kind of energy and skill that springs from careful preparation and innate talent, this year’s showcase was a resounding success. Arts teachers Ms Audrey Wang and Ms Serena Peng, representing the growing and energetic arts department, take time out of their busy schedule of preparing for Huili’s many upcoming performing arts events to describe how the winter showcase came together. Ms Peng managed the Beijing Opera and upper choir performances, while Ms Wang has been responsible for building up Huili’s orchestra since the school’s inception.   Ms Audrey Wang                                  Ms Serena Peng   Q1: How involved was the preparation aspect of this year’s winter showcase? It seemed like there were many different elements to bring together. Ms Peng:Absolutely, events like this always need a lot of people to bring it together and we were lucky to have an excellent team behind us as well as plenty of cross-departmental help and support from our amazing parents. We had staff and volunteers helping backstage, pitching in with different elements of the programme and the stage management and generally making the event as smooth as it could be. The performing arts team were directly involved in helping the various acts prepare, but there were also tutors and other subject teachers who have helped build up Huili’s CCA programme in a relatively short space of time, and these CCAs have been the backbone of preparing pupils to showcase their performing arts talents. Q2:There was a very noticeable mix of traditional Chinese and Western music, dance and performing styles. Why is this balance important? Ms Wang:As a bilingual school, we are really passionate about bringing both cultures together and fusing artforms is a great way to do that. By mixing Western and Chinese artforms we can inform our pupils’ opinions and knowledge of both sides. This is something we are focusing more heavily on this semester and it is our future aim to instil a greater appreciation of both cultural backgrounds. We have already witnessed fantastic pupil response to this approach. They are demonstrating plenty of interest in taking opportunities to experience new instruments and types of music, dance and performing styles. This is entirely in keeping with our school’s philosophy of ‘East meets West’ and letting pupils learn all they can from both.   Q3: Does this approach make pupils think more broadly about performing arts and how they can explore their various interests within various disciplines? Ms Peng:Absolutely, it certainly opens their eyes to a lot of new possibilities and overall we think it helps to make them more rounded and nuanced performers in the long run. Ms Wang:I think this concept of being openminded about music and performing arts is already starting to pay off. In the orchestra, our numbers have doubled from 20 to 40 this year, and we are adding new instruments such as the French horn, clarinet and the oboe, as pupils experiment with new musical concepts and instruments that excite them. This kind of diversity of interest and experimentation can only be a good thing.   Q4:And there was a small ‘sneak peek’ at the upcoming school musical production. What makes this a good addition to the winter showcase? Ms Peng:It was great to have a short preview of The Pirate Pretender (which will be performed in April 2020). Putting this preview into the showcase is a great way to give parents a taste of what is coming up and to get them excited for the production. At the same time, it is a chance for the pupils to practise key songs in front of a live audience, so they can try out what they have been working on and make any necessary amendments before the real thing!   Q5:The winter showcase performances were very well received, did they meet your own personal expectations? Ms Peng:The pupils met and exceeded our expectations in every way! It ended up being quite an emotional evening as it was so special to see the performances come to life on stage after all of the incredible hard work that everyone put into the whole programme.For me, the Beijing Opera performances were particularly enthralling because it is an extremely ambitious artform to deliver, with very high production values in terms of getting the costumes and makeup just right. Even within China, it is not usual for schools to tackle something this complicated and ambitious, and our pupils understood this fact from the very beginning. They put everything they had into the performance and this allowed them to deliver something unforgettable. Ms Wang:What was heartening was that we received a lot of very positive feedback from parents after the show. They were impressed by the quality and the ambitiousness of the performances, as well as the prominent mixture of both Western and Chinese artforms. Naturally, Huili parents already understand the importance of learning from different cultures, but seeing them come together on stage is an important reminder of that fact.   Q6: Is this indicative of parents’ general attitude towards the arts at Huili? Ms Wang:We definitely think so. We are very lucky to have such a supportive network of parents. Firstly, they understand the importance of arts education, something that is not traditionally the case in China, where the emphasis has often been towards the more ‘academic’ subjects. Secondly, they are so generous with their time and skills, we had around 15 parents helping out with the dance groups, choir, Chinese instrument ensemble, dress and prep the MCs and of course support the Beijing Opera with makeup and hair etc. which shows just how involved it was! Ms Peng:Events like the winter celebration showcase are very important for showing exactly how their children are learning and progressing as young performing artists. Of course, they love seeing their children give excellent and moving performances – there were quite a lot of tears both backstage and in the audience!   Q7: Will you now be switching our attention to the summer concert? What can we expect there? Ms Wang:First comes our Arts week organised by Mr Abood, then the school production and then, yes, the summer concert. This is just as important as the winter celebration showcase and it is another excellent chance for our pupils to show their developing talent. We already have some very exciting ideas for this event but for now they will have to remain a secret. Watch this space! Ms Peng:Again we would like to thank all of the teachers across the various departments who helped us make this such a memorable and successful event. We had staff helping us with cover lessons, backstage activities, preparations, all kinds of things. Our thanks also go to the many parents who gave us their support. We absolutely could not have done it by ourselves.

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