Singers take home Blues

28 September 2016
Ella Ewen
The New Zealand Youth Choir

They brought their audience tears and won all categories at an international singing competition. Last week the New Zealand Youth Choir was recognised again with a prestigious University of Auckland Blues Award.

The 11 members of the choir who attend the University of Auckland won the Most Meritorious Performance in Arts category at the annual Blues Awards on Tuesday September 22.

A University Blue is the highest accolade to be earned at a Tertiary level, traditionally awarded for excellence in a sporting code, however the University of Auckland also recognises Arts and Service and Leadership.

The New Zealand Youth Choir travelled to the Czech Republic earlier this year to compete at the 24th Annual International Festival of Academic Choirs.

In a clean sweep, they won all categories - mixed choirs, art song of a particular era or style, folklore of the choir's nation and spiritual/gospel/jazz/pop – as well as the Grand Prix and a special prize for outstanding vocal culture. Their performance of Waerenga-a-Hika brought judges and audience members to tears.

“It was a chance to take New Zealand music overseas,” said choir member Benjamin Tan. “We also made it to Notre-Dame in Paris, France, where there were a lot of kiwis, university alumni, choir alumni and we could all emotionally reconnect through the experience.”

Choir member Natasha Wilson added: “We had a karanga (traditional call) gifted to the choir and we utilised it as you just don’t hear that overseas. People really embraced it and appreciated it.”

The University of Auckland choir members were Bianca Davidson, Ella Ewen, Grace Sturgess, Natasha Wilson, Manese Latu, Peng Seng Benjamin Tan, Hyun Young Park, Samuel Downes, Sophia Ritchie, Amy Chun-I Chang and Jack Timmings.

The choir extended special thanks to the University for its support, in particular conductor David Squire, and vocal coach Dr Morag Atchison and Choirs Aotearoa New Zealand's Artistic Director Associate Professor Karen Grylls, both from the Faculty of Creative Arts and Industries.

The Blues Awards are part of a tradition from England, where the blue colours of Oxford and Cambridge Universities came to symbolise sporting excellence. While a Blues Award has traditionally been a sporting accolade, the University of Auckland also recognises Arts and Service and Leadership.

In total 152 awards will be bestowed at the event, hosted by Mike McRoberts from TV3. Students will be recognised for a wide range of pursuits from Kapa Haka and poetry, to the card game bridge and the sport of polocrosse.

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