09 May, 2020
10 : 00
Aldous Huxley, the famous English writer once said, “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”
In the midst of a roaming global pandemic, music becomes our hope, sheltering us like a shell to a snail and fueling us to be fearless.
A powerful song works wonders to connect people around the world as one, breaking the barriers of languages and territories by filling up the hearts and minds of many with love, strength and courage.
During the past nine days, 55 teachers and students from seven campuses of Yew Chung and Yew Wah came together and assembled an orchestra and a choir, despite all of them locating in different cities and time zones.
“Live On” is an original song composed with great musicality, requiring the use of eight instrumental parts in the orchestra and two vocal lines in the choir.
Composed and written by Jeff Vukovich, Music Teacher at YCIS Chongqing, this is a song dedicated to those who are struggling to fight this battle against the pandemic.
Yew Chung and Yew Wah wish to send hope, love and strength to everyone with a song that says: We are all in this together and hope will ultimately prevail.
This project was led, planned and carried out by the Yew Chung and Yew Wah’s Music Director, Jeremy Williams, who is also the former Principal Viola at the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.
He said proudly, "We made history! New song only 12 days old, a live band, no pre-recorded track, harmonised vocals in English and Mandarin, all the production and B-roll videos added and completed in nine days plus nobody met each other!"
When he was asked about the reasons of doing an original song, Jeremy said, “We don’t wish to repeat what has been done by others because we want to challenge ourselves. We want to create a song that is intricate, complex and surprising. I still haven’t seen other schools who have created a song with the kind of technicality this song shows, such as multi-vocal parts, chords and a live performance by our student orchestra."
San Yuen-yum, the Head of Junior Strings Programme, also took part in the planning and supervising process. She believes musicians are born to create and was delighted to be in on the creative process by saying, “Without an opportunity to create and express themselves, musicians are starving, hungry for inspiration like food to feed their minds and souls.”
It is their passion to create that encouraged and inspired our teachers and students to take part in this project.
Jeff Vukovich, Music Teacher of YCIS Chongqing immediately volunteered to compose and write English lyrics for this song, taking him only two days to complete both parts.
When being asked about his efficiency, Jeff replied that although it was partly due to the urgency, the lyrics came naturally from his feelings, “After going through a month and a half of isolation, it was very easy to find inspiration having being stuck at home, so the words just flew.”
Like every parent who is struggling to work from home, Jeff also found it challenging to find a quiet moment for composing a song.
Fortunately, he has a wonderful wife to whom he is very thankful to, “I told her about having urgency of this so the kids have to not bother me for two days. That helped a lot.”
The most challenging part of this project is to co-ordinate all the participants and ask them to record videos that were of quality and high standard.
“If we could all be in the same studio, the recording process would be much easier as we could instruct everyone face-to-face, alone or as a group, and easily discuss what we need to do. However, due to the current situation, we have no choice but to instruct everyone individually and online, not to mention the additional issue of being in different time zones,” said Jeremy.
Recording individually was also a challenge for many performers, as they had to “find the feeling” once they’ve heard the sound track and performed accordingly. "I was amazed by the determination of our bass guitarist. She is only 11 years old and she showed her best," said Yuen-yum.
Yuen-yum was very touched by the high expectations our singers and performers had set for themselves, and said, “We asked our participants to practise over and over again in front of the screen, for so many times that I worried it would be too much. I was very surprised when the kids asked if they could practise for another round again, without us even asking.”
One young guitarist was still not satisfied with her recording, so her dad bought new wires and amplifiers to improve the quality.
After collecting the original materials from everyone, we faced another challenge of editing and synchronising the pieces, so that the final product would be so harmonious as if we are listening to a live performance.
In order to achieve that, Micah Gooden, the Visual Co-ordinator, spent 48 hours to produce the final piece. When it was finished, Yuen-yum was so excited and praised the quality of the song.
Music produced in special times brings new perspectives and understanding to the teachers and students.
Yuen-yum said, “After working in isolation for a long time, being suddenly given the chance to collaborate and connect with a group has lifted everyone’s spirit; everybody was sort of on fire during the process!”
Jeremy believed the reason that students were so devoted was because they saw this project as a sort of emotional and creative outlet. They were able to momentarily step away from their online classes, release their creativity in a meaningful project and become more appreciative of the beauty of music.
Yuen-yum further commented that the longstanding values of our Organisation contributed to the success of completing this difficult project: to love, to care, to co-operate with others and to always pursue excellence in what you do. “We have always trained our students like young professional performers. When we have high expectations of them, our students would raise their self-expectations as well.”
Jeremy usually encourages his students by saying, “Even if you are playing very basic and simple stuff, you should still aim for the best. Even if you’re not playing for the Berlin Philharmonic, we are using the same rehearsal techniques just like them.”
Yuen-yum uses YCIS Hong Kong's orchestra as an example to show how professionalism is instilled in our students through their daily practice, “We expect our students to practise like a professional orchestra group in every practice. Students are expected to show up on time and cannot join or leave as they wish. They must leave their phones aside during rehearsals. We are not trying to turn them into professional performers, but to teach them about taking responsibility of their actions. Once they have made a promise, they must fulfil the commitments to others and to themselves.”
Steve Hackman, Head of Character and Community Development Division, was amazed by the promptness people show to solve a problem whenever there is an issue. He commented that as long as we stick together, there won’t be a challenge that we couldn’t face. This is also the theme of “Live On”.
Music is the force that joins us together. “There is still light ahead and life will continue,” Jeremy concluded. The day for this pandemic to end will come and until then, we could all benefit from immersing ourselves in the music. At the end of the day, the winner is music itself.
Let's give sincere thanks to all the students and teachers who took part in this music production!
PERFORMERS TEAM(In no particular order)
YWIES Beijing Alan Huang, Koko Zhao, John Zhu, Grace Zhao, Coco Pu, Ray Zhu, Rhea Ren, Allen Zhang, Allison Zhao, Rebecca Cheng, Ada Wang
YWIES Shanghai Lingang Sherry Huang, Eason Huang, Andy Yang, Emma Liu, Emily Zhang, Lisa Liu, David Wu, Grace Yu, Peter Shi, Timmy Lin, Linda Cai, Chloris Shi, Jenny Liang
YWIES Guangzhou Tina Su
YCIS Hong Kong Sophie Lau Sze-man, Chan Ho-kiu, Audrey Seto Hiu-yu, Samson Tsun Ka-hang, Matthew Chung Yan-leung, Clare Reavey, Chloe Robertshaw
YCIS Shanghai Connie Chen Hongloi, Juliet Wang
YCIS Qingdao Lily Zimmermannshute, Rosie Jang Yehan, Emma Byun Yeeun
YCIS Beijing Sofia Dementyeva, Charlie Leung
YCIS Chongqing Helen Weir
Jeremy Williams (Artistic Director of the Project)
Elaine Mai Haiying (YCIS Hong Kong)
Michael Chak Ho-hin (YCIS Hong Kong)
CELLO Bryan Tse Pak-yin (YCIS Hong Kong)
DRUMS Ariel Li Wen-jie (YCIS Hong Kong)
PIANO Ada Wong Hiu-lam (YCIS Hong Kong) Elaine Sun (YWIES Shanghai Lingang)
FLUTE Cherry Lin Zi-xuan (YCIS Hong Kong)
BASS GUITAR Charmaine Siu Wing-sum (YCIS Hong Kong)
Artistic Director Jeremy Williams
Artistic Co-ordinator San Yuen-yum
Visual Co-ordinator Micah Gooden
Video Editor Davy Lau / Yves Lee
Project Co-ordinator Steve Hackman
Composer Jeff Vukovich