As the seventh International Schools Choral Music Society (ISCMS) festival came to a close, the organization’s founder Shane O’Shea announced to the 350 young musicians on the stage: "I am humbled by you."
He said so with good reason. The final gala concert at the Forbidden City Concert Hall was a display of awe-inspiring musicality, made infinitely more impressive by the fact that the performers were all of school age. Hosted by Dulwich College Beijing, the event saw the most talented performers from across Asia’s international schools perform a challenging program lasting almost two hours.
With just a few days to rehearse together the orchestra could be forgiven for slight hiccups, but it instead opened with a note-perfect and suitably menacing rendition of Mussorgsky’s "Night on Bald Mountain."
What was to follow was perhaps more astounding. Because the multi-faceted and complex piece that concluded the first half of the concert was composed by a student, Gordan Yam. His piece "Rise of the Trolls" conjured images of Lord of the Rings not only with its name but with the epic trumpet calls and marching drums that wove throughout the composition.
After the interval, a full choir joined the orchestra on a packed stage to perform Haydn’s "Nelson Mass," before Grammy Award-winning musician Christopher Tin took the stage. Conducting a world premiere performance of his composition "Temen Oblak", the powerful piece earned him the biggest cheer of the night.
The audience, this writer included, was left as humbled by the evening as the ISCMS director. The gala concert was genuinely brilliant performance from some of the most talented young musicians you are likely to encounter. If you missed it this time round the festival will, after heading to Shanghai and Singapore for the next two years, return to Beijing in 2017.
Photos by Ken