Seven girls from Maple Ridge had the chance to sing in various European cities before taking home the Children’s Choir of the World champion title at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in Wales.
The British Columbia Girls Choir is made up of 40 young singers, seven which are Ridge Meadows youth, and directed by Fiona Blackburn, a former long-time resident of Maple Ridge.
The Children’s Choir of the World title is the group’s first international prize.
“The girls and I have been working towards this top competition for a number of years,” said Blackburn.
Blackburn explained her choir had to go through an extensive audition process to be accepted into the competition.
Twelve choirs attended from 8 different countries.
The Girls Choir sung in two competitions and placed in both, taking third place in folk-song and first place in the senior children’s competition.
Maeve Whalley, Garibaldi secondary, said she was speechless when she heard the results.
“I think for any group to win a competition takes patience, responsibility, practice, and a bit of discipline,” said Whalley.
“I was really quite speechless after we won because I think that not a lot of us were expecting to win—so when we did, it was truly a dream come true.”
Blackburn said an English choir was technically fractions of a point ahead of the Girls Choir.
However, the Canadian choir was the only group to place in two categories—leading the judges to pronounce both the B.C. Girls Choir and the Hereford Cathedral Girls Choir of England as the star singers.
Carly Roberts, Maple Ridge Secondary school, said preparation is key to the choirs’ success.
“I prepared for the competition not only by learning every inch of my music, but on the day of the competition, I made sure to have minimal expectations and a calm and collected attitude,” explained Roberts.
“The only thought going through my head when we walked on stage for the first time was how proud I was of the work we had done.”
Blackburn said the judges were particularly impressed with the choirs’ ability to perform in four different languages, choose interesting repertoire, use great vocal control, and perform with movement and percussion.
“The girls have a special bond that comes from weekly rehearsals and a knowledge that they are preparing music that is of the highest quality,” said Blackburn.
Blackburn said after the girls age out of the choir, many continue performing in women’s choirs.
Manae Ryu, Pitt Meadows, will continue singing by joining the Zephyra Women’s Choir, which only accepts 24 singers and requires extensive choral experience.
The girls also attended the Stirling Bridge International Festival in Scotland and gave a final performance at Galway Cathedral in Ireland.
The Girls Choir was established in 2004 and offers four choir levels for girls in grade one to twelve.
Blackburn said despite directing choir for many years, each season brings new talent.
“Every new season brings an anticipation of new singers and new sounds. I know I will have at least 30 to 40 little grade one girls who are the future of this amazing organization.”