I was about to start this review from Wednesday 15th of February, 2012 as this was officially the first day of Lumen, the Festival of the International Schools Choral Music Society (ISCMS). I quickly realised that we actually started much earlier. I could go back one day to the Tuesday, to the Chamber Music Concert, ‘A Night of Champions’ in which I was fortunate to perform with my talented colleagues, Jonas van Dyke, Dr David Curtin and Joseph Lim. My professor from Northwestern University, Dr Robert Hasty also played fiddle in a duo with his wife, song-writer Christina Trulio. Also performing was the Dulwich College Big Band, and a number of amazing student composers and performers, Kathryn Chua, Pratcha Sananavanont, John Hui, Amy Yun and Julien Bell. This concert was really an entree to Lumen and set the tone for the incredible music-making to follow in the next five days!
We could go back to the weekend and the arrival in Beijing of our practitioners. The first, and by far the most exuberant of our stars to arrive was Dr Beverly Vaughn. Known affectionately by all Lumen folk as Bev, she brought to the festival her vitality, sense of fun, passion for music and her sheer energy. She made a wonderful contribution to the success of Lumen and is now considered a part of the ISCMS family. ‘Go Bev!’
Another member of the ‘ISCMS family’ is our regular mentor and friend, Dr Martin Adams, whose role is Artistic Director – Repertoire and Development. His youthful joy in music making and concern for our talented young students always adds tremendously to the success of ISCMS. His energy levels too are amazing, bringing him into a close second place – only pipped by the super-human Beverly! He was caught napping (literally) in between rehearsals following a couple of marathon days of music-making and socializing but his enthusiasm for our ongoing project is inspiring.
Still looking for a place to start my review, I should go further back in time to the months and weeks of practice done by our dedicated teachers and students in the lead up to Lumen. As in other cities, we in Beijing combined our schools, Dulwich, WAB, BCIS and BISS for a number of preparatory rehearsals. This was in addition to the many hours of practice done by individual students and teachers – all before the official ‘first’ day on Wednesday 15th February.
Of course, being on the committee of ISCMS, I can say with pride that the excellent planning and preparation for this event went on for the whole year. All the work behind the scenes in logistics planning, financial management, artistic development, venue bookings, negotiations with artists and sponsors, hotels, transportation, school administrators, printers, music publishers…….etc. All the meetings, the 2170 emails I have tagged from firstname.lastname@example.org …..all of these efforts made by a passionate and visionary committee led by our Director Shane O’Shea must be considered a major factor in the stunning success of Lumen.
From the arrival of the first students and teachers from 26 different international schools, this year’s ISCMS festival was indeed a stunning success. Lumen, meaning light was the name of the festival and we have now established ISCMS as the premier student choral music festival in the region, possibly in the world. We attracted 500 participants to Lumen, which set a record on a number of levels. We now have interest coming in from all over the world, with teachers and students wanting to be part of this event.
There were too many instances of creativity and music-making at an inspiring level, to review every one in detail here. I will try to mention some highlights, though. The opening concert (held in the Dulwich College gymnasium!) featuring the Beijing Youth Orchestra and soloist Joseph Lim (Clarinet) showcased the orchestra and soloist, both technically and musically. It was for me, the best performance so far from the ensemble, which brings together international school students, teachers and Chinese conservatory students to play demanding Western repertoire. The orchestra not only featured past Dulwich student, Joseph Lim as soloist (currently studying at Royal College of Music, London), but also the exceptionally talented John Hui, a current Dulwich College student whose composition was played by the orchestra. Conducted by Joseph’s and John’s teacher/mentor, Shane O’Shea, the concert was a fitting launch to Lumen.
The collaboration between students, teachers, professional and semi-professional musicians, academics and an army of volunteers, is what makes ISCMS a unique experience for all involved. The focus is always on our young ISCMS students, who are constantly pushed towards excellence in what they are doing musically. They have the opportunity to work alongside some of the best practitioners and highly experienced musicians in the world. There is no other student music event which can offer this standard of excellence and the results are clear to all.
The culmination of all the preparation mentioned above was of course the final Gala Music Concert held in the Forbidden City Concert Hall on Saturday 18th February. The orchestra and singers all performed magnificently. To mention a few personal highlights, the violinists standing and playing the reel solo in Lord of the Dance; Katie Targett-Adams singing “The Song” from Karl Jenkins’ Gloria; jamming with Bev; sitting in the orchestra and hearing the first beautiful notes emerge from the massive ISCMS Chorus behind me.
Lumen was one of the best musical experiences of my life. Thank you to all who were involved.