When someone mentions musical instruments to you, what would be the first thing to pop in your head? Violin? Electric guitar? That triangular metal thing in the back of a primary school band? What defines a musical instrument is that it is created or adapted to make musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can be considered a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument. This means that your voice can also be considered as a musical instrument! I discovered my musical instrument when I was 10 years old, oblivious to the word ‘choir’ in my primary school, forced myself to join the team because my teacher said so. Now as I look back, I am glad she did. So in this post, I will tell you the experience I had with music, which in this case, choir.
There were pamphlets of the choir competition pasted everywhere in my school’s information boards. I was curious at first, but seeing that it requires you to be on stage, I decided to forget about it and ditched the thought. All competitions require to be on stage, so I have obviously avoided any competition that could’ve helped me with my certificate when I leave school. This was worrisome for my English teacher who seemed to like me a lot too, so she forced me to join the choir team. It was awkward. The moment I entered the room, all eyes were on me. Did I have chilli in my teeth when I grinned? I hope not. They were all sitting in different spots in the room. Most of them were girls, and only a number of them were boys. I introduced myself and I was immediately asked, “What role would you like to take?”
How would I know? I know nothing about the choir. And so, I only stood there with an awkward smile, and I could hear the girls laugh at me. Oh, the horror. Realizing that I was a total newbie, the teacher then decided to start the first meeting with basics. In a choir, there are many different roles taken by people according to their capabilities of controlling their voices. In the choir, there was 4 main roles; soprano, bass, treble and conductor. Soprano have really high pitched voices, most of the squeaky girls hold that role. Bass is mostly given to the boys, with deep voices even though most of them do not have that at the time. Treble is the role that was given to people with neither of those roles- they are mostly in the middle. Not too high, and not too low. Before the roles were given, we were told to test our voices by using solmization- a musical scale to measure pitches of your voice, or more commonly known as Do Re Mi. After the test, I was given the Soprano role. It was quite surprising for me, and even the teacher told me, “You have a great voice! Why don’t you join earlier?”
Thing is, I didn’t even know I could sing, until that solmization test. The teacher then put us all in a 3-layer line, the Bass at the back. Trebles then Sopranos. She continued the lesson that day by teaching us how to control our voices. There were many different ways to do so, but our teacher insists we practice with our breathing. Higher voices tend to use a mixture of chest, nose and head depending on the range, while lower voices use the chest a lot more. Even if a particular song doesn’t require it, breathe deeply and fairly slowly so that we have a good oxygen supply for each phrase of the song. We practised our breathing and voices for about a week, and after that, we were left on our own to perfect it. At the same time, the teacher would introduce to us the songs that would be used for the competitions; Lompat Si Katak and Tekad. When we first heard the composition of the songs, some of us complained that they were hard to master but we found out that it wasn’t impossible. We managed to sing them in unison together and practised every day to make it even better.
We have joined multiple competitions with these songs and we have won many awards- until one day we lost to another primary school which apparently had movements in their choir presentation. We were surprised- we didn’t know that we can move and get points for it. Well, a champion will fall at least once, so we took the 2nd place with pride. I stopped going to choir when I graduated Primary School since my Secondary school didn’t take choir competitions and singing competitions either. It was a memorable experience, to be able to discover your talent and sing your favourite songs. I learned a lot, made a bunch of friends, and even performed in college a couple of times. It had started something in my life, and I was truly grateful to have taken part in the choir team when I was just a 10-year-old shy girl at the back of the classroom.
Gangsapura Gamelan Group is a standalone Contemporary Malay Gamelan Group, first established in October 2016, based in the heart of Malaysia - Kuala Lumpur, with the aim of promoting Malaysian culture, developing traditional arts and instilling arts and music skills among community.