Last month, Qatar Youth Choir (QYC) competed in the prestigious 26th International Choral Competition held in Preveza, Greece. The 37 young choristers, under the guidance of conductor and director Alena Pyne, were thrilled to be awarded a gold medal in the “original repertoire” category of the competition, part of the 40th International Choral Festival.
The Qatar Youth Choir on stage during the awards ceremony
“We were particularly thrilled as, apart from one other youth choir, all the other competitors in our section were adult choirs,” says Alena. “The judging panel was made up of eight world-renowned adjudicators. I am so proud of the choir. We have worked so hard and the quality of the programme we presented was extremely high.”
In addition to QYC’s gold medal, the choir won the award for best stage presentation, and their conductor was awarded the prize for best pedagogical approach. But their tour was about so much more than performing and prizes. Choir leader Mattias Van Alsenoy says, “This tour has been one of the best weeks of my life. Not only did we travel again after a three-year wait, but we also did so with our best friends, not to mention the new friends we made along the way. It was my first time being the choir leader on a trip, and it’s been interesting to see how the logistics work, now that I was ‘behind the scenes’. The experience has really helped me grow as a singer and leader, much like all the other amazing things we get to do in choir.”
Deputy leader Rehan Valsan Pillay adds, “This trip to Greece was so precious. Every moment from the second we landed in Athens to the food we ate, to the people we met, to the bus rides we sang our hearts out on, to the second we took off, was filled with joy and happiness.”
The choir was warmly welcomed in the small but bustling town of Preveza, encountering many acts of kindness from locals and visitors alike. Some choir members travelled with their families, who were delighted to enjoy their performances, held at indoor and outdoor venues. Together, they watched the finals of the conducting contest and several other categories of the choral competition.
QYC members themselves hail from more than 15 countries, and in Greece, they met other singers from all over the world. QYC ensured their allegiance was instantly recognisable, wearing Qatari colours, carrying the Qatari flag and commencing their participation on opening night with two Arabic songs. “Working towards winning the gold medal, the certificates and recognition along the way has been the hardest and yet the most rewarding and fulfilling experience I have had until this day with QYC,” says Mattias, “and representing Qatar, our home and the place where we all met, has made me equally proud.”
“It was such a great experience,” says Rehan. “The rehearsals, the challenges, the hours we’ve spent on this… all of it was completely worth it when our name was called out for the gold medal. We can’t thank Ms Alena Pyne enough for all the opportunities she has given us.”