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Posts Tagged ‘St. Paul’s College’

I went to a primary/secondary school that is heavily focused on musical extra-curricular activities.  Every year the school makes sure it is sending its finest team of orchestra players and choir teams to the annual inter-school music competition in Hong Kong.  I am quite sure that the music teachers are all measured in how many trophies they can get every year, very much like the sports trophies some other schools are focused upon.  Then it slowly branches out to other elements of the arts.  Our English teachers start to pull students to participate in prose reading competitions, as well as an intensively trained debating team.

 

With that widespread competitive spirit all over the school, my school days have never been left hollow.  I would be finishing my lunch box within 15 minutes and then ran to rehearse for the choir almost 3 days a week, all through the rest of the lunch hour.  Orchestra rehearsals were much longer and hence started right after school ends.  Even on long school break holidays during winter, chinese new year or summer, you would easily see a team of 50 to 60 students heading to school every other day to rehearse for the upcoming musical numbers that everyone was so anxious about.  The bus drivers used to recognize me hauling my violin case around town.

It may sound so geeky to you now, but that kind of classical music training at a young age proves to be invaluable, plus it’s all free!  For me at the time, though I didn’t get much of free time aside from rehearsals and studies, I got to hang out with my schoolmates a lot during the process.  We got to go to other schools and the city’s fancy cultural venues for competitions, and for a couple of years a few of us were selected to join the St. John’s Cathedral choir for its annual midnight Christmas mass.  The experience was literally heavenly.  Last but not least, one year the cathedral choir was invited to deliver a personal performance to the Governor of Hong Kong (Sir Edward Youde) in the previous Government House, where a grand British style party was held near Christmas.  I used to still have a few red match boxes with the golden letters “G.H.” (Government House) engraved that I snatched from the party, but they are no longer in sight now after all these years.

Our school choirs and orchestras did very well at our time, and we were always within the top 3 places in Hong Kong.  Then there was also the debating team, which was much harder since we only had 3 to 4 representing the school and it took us weeks and months to prepare with our English coach.  You need to possess a highly analytical mind, think fast, be poised, great at speaking publicly, carry confidence, character, charisma, and be able to savage any unforseen challenges, all live in front of a theatre of thousands.  Plus the inter-school competition debate topics were mostly focused on hot political issues of the hour.  We needed to make sure we could brush ourselves up on current events and viewpoints.  It could get even tougher if you were assigned a side that was the opposite of the city’s mainstream views.  I remember I was one of the 3-person team representing the school in the very final round, competing against an all girls school.  This alone was a disadvantage for us since boys are not as eloquent as girls at least at that age.  I found myself speaking in front of an audience of 3,000 students and journalists in the Queen Elizabeth Stadium, a live television camera, and blaring spot lights that I couldn’t see a soul down at the audience, defending why Hong Kong was not ready for universal suffrage in 1988.  It was a sure losing bet, and we did.  Though we lost gracefully, and our rebuttals were to the point and highly skillful.  I only wish that the lead adjudicator then, our respected Mr. Martin Lee, could proclaim in his speech that he focused on assessing the debating logic and techniques on stage rather than the topic addressed.  But no he didn’t.  Instead, he gave a speech in front of the TV crew re-iterating how Hong Kong would benefit from the power of the common vote. 

There was definitely no opposition to that from us whatsoever, even when it was 1988.  Though for a team of first runner-up debating juniors, all we thought at that moment was that the objective of the competition itself had been sidelined, and the image of a great public speaking idol of mine, slightly tainted.

 

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