All day Saturday, the English Association volunteers we busy at work preparing for our first English language singing contest. They had banners to display, backdrops to finish and runways to set up. They had red carpet to put down, judges’ tables to prepare and competition score sheets to Xerox. Lastly, they had to coordinate all the necessary equipment usage with the hired professionals. The school graciously paid for outside help in setting up and running efficiently the sound system, lighting and even the event’s video taping.
In other words, this was a pretty darn big deal!
Did the weeks of preparation, hours of meeting to discuss details, days of rehearsal time by competitors and our student MC’s pay off?
Read on to find out.
Checking Out the Set-up
Earlier on Saturday, Little Flower and I headed over to the outdoor stage area to take a look at how things were progressing. It was 4 hours before the competition and everything was already in place. The stage was ready, the sound equipment guys were blaring songs to entertain those hanging around, lights were being checked, the video camera position was being readied and everyone seemed quite satisfied that things were ready to go.
Arriving at The Competition
When I headed over to the stage area at 7:45 p.m., a huge crowd had already gathered. Students brought their own stools and sat according to classes, which had been orderly chalked off on the concrete so everyone would know where to sit.
Our judges were showing up, four of us being English teachers and one being a Chinese music teacher. Although he spoke no English, he was quite qualified to determine the musical talent and stage presence of those participating.
I sat between Mr. Pan, now retired but living on campus, and Mrs. Zhou, a young teacher in her 20s who just recently had a little baby girl.
I was very impressed by the care which the students had gone to make sure we had all we needed as judges. We each had a desktop light so we see how to mark our scores. We had the lyrics to the songs printed out for each contestant. We had a list of the competitors, their names and songs. And we had slips that outlined what each category for scoring would be and the points we needed to assign.
It seemed nothing had been overlooked, including a bottle of water if we became thirsty, pens and extra paper if we wanted to write down comments.
The Competition Itself
As many in the audience didn’t speak English, we had 2 MCs – one to give the English announcements and the other to translate. The two interacted very well together and gave the contest an extra zip with uplifting comments and clever contestant introductions.
For the most part, our 20 singers did an excellent job. Everyone remembered their lyrics. Everyone dressed in their sparkling best to look good on stage. Most had good stage presence and belted out their songs with adequate emotion.
Of course, there were those that stood out as being better than others. Those singers were our top places.
It was interesting that our winners did a duet, “Just One More Dance,” with one girl singing the female vocal and the other doing the male. I can’t say their singing prowess was so great. Lots of wailing and screeching, mostly off key, but their interaction with the crowd and each other, not to mention their intensity in emotion, put them over the top.
Their final score of 9.53 out of 10 gave them 1st place.
During the halfway point, we had a drawing for prizes. I was invited to the stage to draw the names and then ask a simple English question which the participants had to answer in order to win.
“Name one song in English,” “Name one singer who sings English songs,” “Sing ‘Happy Birthday’ in English” were just a few, all of them easy enough for anyone to answer, even if their English wasn’t so good.
The final segment of the evening was to invite a judge to give constructive comments about the singers and their performances. That was my job and is something I always enjoy doing. It’s great fun to hand out praises galore and then slip into a few helpful hints on how to be better next time. Chinese students honestly take such things to heart so it’s important to pinpoint exactly what went right, and wrong, to make everyone happy.
Our contest wrapped up at exactly 10 p.m., which is certainly much earlier than I had expected.
Obviously, due to perfect planning, the English Association members outdid themselves for their 1st English Singing contest. It was certainly a successful night, one which no one will every forget.
I have a feeling that next year, I’ll be reporting again about another night of English song from Guangxi Normal University for Nationalities.
Until next entry, here’s wishing you Ping An (peace) for your day.