sweet like kopi-c, major event 2014 <3

Blogging this while everything is still fresh in my head and the areas around my eyes are still dark from smudged eyeliner LOL. (Seems like I’ll need quite a few days to get it off…) ME 2014 brings back memories of huangcheng days in JC, but the experience I got out of it was indeed different from what I had from huangcheng.

I remember how it all started – I had wanted very badly to be in the cast, but got rejected eventually. Thinking that I would join props eventually, I was indeed surprised when I received a text saying that I was in chorale. (like I seriously can sing meh?!)  I remember sitting around awkwardly during our first meetup in EEE building. And then I remember having to make the ultimate choice, between ME and a really major choir concert in Winchester that commemorates the 100th anniversary of WWI. I absolutely got it when Chorale team admin told us how he shuddered to see the size of Chorale go down rapidly in the first few weeks of training; because I was one of the numerous who had  wanted to leave at first.

Eventually, however, I decided to stay in ME, because I reasoned with myself that it’s the companionship and heart-warming sensation of having accomplished something with fellow Singaporeans that I desire more, rather than the thrill and honour of being in a national event. So that started the entire juggling process.  I remember how my voice would be raspier on Fridays because of the 4-hour non-stop training sessions every Thursday. And nearing performance, we would always run off from choir prac halfway to join Chorale for voice warmups and rehearsals. It was indeed rather tiring (for my throat especially), but I love how we simply had fun in every single training session. Every time Bennett nags at us or starts ‘disciplining’ the troublemakers among us, every time we poke fun at our vocal coaches, every time I go siao with the other girls in Chorale, every time Jason demonstrates how to sing properly and then we reciprocate it with our terrible voice control (LOL), there is always something new to learn, something new worth remembering.

Then in January, I was asked to be a minion (our informal way of addressing calefare for regular gangsters in the two gangs). Back then my decision was very simple: if I am needed, why not? Acting is fun anyway 😀 The training, however, became way much more than that. Being a calefare means that I had the chance to be trained alongside the main cast, and I saw the dedication of the directors and cast to perfecting the performance. I got to know more people in ICSS as well, seniors and batchmates alike, some of whom had gone through numerous MEs before this. And seriously, how would I know I would be irreversibly minionized through the minions training? (especially when the actor for the gang boss of our gang had proven himself to be indeed a king of minions. And we even created our own minions greeting HAHA.) Of course, more roles in the drama means more training sessions, and more stay-in-school-until-11pm days. It was fun nonetheless, and I had enjoyed every minute of it.

The last 2 weeks leading up to the performance was indeed when I saw everything falling into place. All the teams coming together, fixing problems as they cropped up during full rehearsals, having to practice ‘hiao’ dance moves for our roles, repeating the same scenes over and over, practicing stage discipline, etc. This was when we started getting visibly shag. There were times when we would starting suaning, about the endless training and tiring schedules, about technical glitches, about lights and sounds (from external clubs) not doing their job properly. And when the news hit us that ticket sales were not going as well as we hoped for it to be… well, I could feel the atmosphere in chorale go a little sour after our team admin said that to us. Like huangcheng and any other drama production, this crucial period in the production timeline is bound to be the most tiring and most revealing of the individual’s negativity; but we learnt to deal with it and press on.

And finally, the actual thing, just some 8 hours ago. I don’t remember being particularly nervous or emotional during the final rehearsal. But when our director gathered all of us, got us to close our eyes and hold hands and recall the bittersweet memories of ME preparation, I could practically feel the emotions rushing through me. The very knowledge of the fact that everyone had worked long and hard for this day nearly moved me to tears. That was the very moment I knew I had made the right choice to choose ME – I saw the companionship and unity I experienced 3 years ago in huangcheng, the concept of legacy with our seniors guiding us through the tough times, and encouraging us to make ME better every year.

What I particularly like about being in Chorale is that you’re not just singing, you’re singing as a group. So other than reducing the pressure on you (since you have 3 or 4 other singers to cover you when you go out of tune LOL jk), you get to work on the harmony with your fellow singers as well. And that was what I saw right before our first song in the performance. The typically-confident ones among us started going through all the steps backstage, and panicking a little at the idea of singing in front of the mic. But then again, we were singing as a group, so why fear right? The moment came, and we did it – we sang our hearts out and did our dance steps with gusto, complementing our lead singers in a way that we could not find even in our full rehearsals.

4 months of hard work, 2 weeks of avoiding fried/heaty food, a week of staying in school till 10 or 11pm everyday – all distilled into 2 magical hours of awesome performance. When it was time for curtain call, I understood the feeling of 掌声响起来, one of the songs we sang in the performance. Standing there with your friends who had battled on alongside you all this time, receiving the applause from the audience – that feeling, is pure magic.

Now that ME is over, I am indeed in a sense of loss. What should I do to fill up those rehearsal days? I am not sure how I want to move on from here; I might want to join more clubs and societies, or try something adventurous (like gliding). But when time comes to start preparing for ME 2015, I may want to return to ICSS and contribute as a senior, depending on whether I’m needed. Not sure if I want to do that for real (Year 2 is seriously no joke), but it remains a huge possibility.

All in all, two words – thank you. Thank you ME 2014 for the amazing journey; for improving my vocal range and pitching, for letting me know friends whom I won’t let go easily from now on, for irreversibly minionizing me, for giving me the euphoria of accomplishment, for giving me a sense of home ❤

Thank you guys, for an amazing ME 2014. <33

#lifehacks[1]: how a singer-wannabe protects her voice

On the eve of performance the singers are not having practice, because we are protecting our voices for tomorrow. Being in the singers’ team for nearly 5 months has taught me that good singing is really way more than just sounding nice, hitting the correct pitch or having a good sense of rhythm. It requires a high level of discipline, in displaying teamwork with your fellow singers to make sure you all are in harmony, and also in taking extra measure to make sure your voice is all ready for the actual performance.

Some of my friends would know that I have been staying away from fried food for nearly two weeks now. (last day of no fried food YES I can do it! After that I can go KFC/Burger King for lunch MUAHAHAHAHA alright that aside.) The main reason is that knowing my own body, I am very much aware that my throat becomes dry and accumulates phlegm really easily. So to avoid affecting my voice quality for the performance, why not avoid heaty food (which comes in great abundance here in the form of fried stuff)? And anyway, not eating chips for a few weeks has made me feel healthier 😀

Since tomorrow is the big day (so excited!!!), I decided to scour for a list of ways to protect your voice for singing. Most of the following are adapted from various sources across the net; some are my personal experience. Hope this would be useful for all my friends out there who love to sing. 🙂

A singer-wannabe’s guide to protecting your voice:

1)  Hydrate with plain water. If I have to choose the most important tip among the list, this is definitely the one. Seriously, drink lots of (or at least enough) water. You need your vocal cords to be well-hydrated and well-lubricated for good singing. This is especially important for fellow SE Asians who come from humid countries, because our bodies would find the air here too dry and thus we get dehydrated easily.

And when I say water, I mean plain water – not soda, orange juice, honey lemon tea, coke, etc. (list of foodstuffs to avoid are somewhere below.)  The temperature of the water is important as well – go for room temperature or lukewarm water. Hot water (around 70C) is fine but take it slowly. Important: avoid cold water right before a singing session! Cold water would constrict your vocal cords, making it harder for you to sing.

2) Voice warm-ups before singing. Put bluntly, no one in the singers’ team likes voice warm-ups. But we still do it and we spend a good part of each training session (around 15 minutes) on it. The reason? Similar to why you should warm up before physical training – you don’t want to injure your vocal cords while singing. Jumping straight into a prolonged singing session without proper warm-up would increase your risks of damaging your vocal cords. (which also means, you might want to do voice warmups with your friends before kbox sessions. Brings alot of fun too because you get to see your friends do stupid stuff XD)

There are loads of voice warmup guides lying around, but to be sure consult your friends from choir or acapella teams, who would have undergone formal vocal training. (I picked up mine from my choir conductor and vocal coaches)

3) Limit your intake of tea, coffee and alcohol. I am still having a hard time staying off tea and coffee but for tomorrow I will not touch them! The more obvious one is alcohol – it dehydrates your throat and restricts your voice range (usually cuts off a few notes from the upper range). This is why our choir conductor reminded us explicitly not to go for any Friday night parties before a Saturday evening concert.

Tea and coffee are probably less well-known. The main reason is the caffeine, which dehydrates your throat. Coffee further constricts the muscles around your vocal cords and restricts your voice range. Furthermore, for people like me who love to take their caffeine dose with milk, that would have the additional effect of simply annoying and itching your throat (more details below). Tried and tested – I once drank coffee before a choir practice, and halfway through the singing my throat started itching like crazy. 

4) Avoid milk (and dairy products). I did not believe in this until quite recently, when our vocal coach told us to prevent phlegm accumulation by avoiding dairy. Indeed, what lactic acid does is to form a thick layer of phlegm in your throat, making your voice obviously nasty. By personal experience, milk can itch your throat as well, so it’s an absolute no-go. Small amounts of milk are fine, but flush it down with plenty of water after that. And of course, don’t go around guttling down a glass of milk right before singing.

5) Avoid citrus. Orange juice annoys the throat as well.

6) Get enough sleep.

7)  Do not overkill. Your vocal cords need sufficient rest too to do well for the actual thing. Avoid excessive rehearsing right before the performance as well.

8) Avoid coughing/clearing your throat. Such actions exert large forces on your vocal cords; every time you cough, you are injuring your vocal cords a little. If need be, drink water or swallow your saliva until the phlegm is gone, or clear your throat gently.

 

Shall sleep soon. Hooray for reading week next week 😀 And ALL THE BEST FOR TOMORROW!!

3 more days

A reminder to self that regardless of how much practice you may have beforehand, the most important part is still your performance at that very moment on the actual day. There is no space for screwing up during the real thing.

*insert self-motivational music here! eats a homemade banoffee pie to make yourself happy*

3 days to go! We can do it 🙂

hot on your heels

Had been really busy these days in what is probably my most hectic period in spring term. But the illusion of days passing really quickly just means that Easter break will arrive faster than expected. Can’t wait for Easter break already! So many exciting and fun things planned out 😀 I’m finally going to travel proper, and I’ll be spending quality time with people I treasure 🙂

Life as of now… singing training, coursework, ME rehearsals, problem sheets, keeping in touch with people back at home, doing household chores, cooking/planning my meals, repeat. If uni life is a positive exponential curve I am probably on the part where the gradient is starting to get steep. And then life will only get busier over the years. Good thing that reading week is right after ME, so I have some time to rest.

Should I go travel during the reading week?

 

amidst the busy life

cny montageThe montage is kind of tiny but it sums up what my first CNY abroad is like! Being away from home means that we have to actively plan stuff to do on CNY, even when there’s not much of a festive mood around us. And I had my fair share of fun too! 除夕 dinner with hall friends, Singsoc annual CNY dinner, tangyuan for breakfast on 初一, gathering with hallmates on 初一 night, hosting steamboat for JC friends on 初二, eating at OC for the first time (with lots and lots of wantons in my noodles :D). Overall, really a not bad CNY. 🙂

Life is getting really busy now, with all the courseworks and ME rehearsals coming in. (Seriously must my coursework be due right before ME…) Staying in school till 10/11pm and sleeping at 1 or 2am almost everyday now. Tiring but I’ll make do, and it’s seriously fulfilling so I’ll survive for the experience!