|Giving back: Dang Chau Anh and the choir of Sol Art in Germany.
For Dang Chau Anh, well-known music lecturer and conductor/art director of Sol Art, a Ha Noi art centre for children, 2013 has been a busy and successful year. Not only was she the only Vietnamese judge at Interkurtur, an international choir competition and festival in the Philippines; her choir also brought home a golden medal and audience award from Germany's Johannes Brahms International Choir Festival and Competition.
by Thao Duyen and An Vu
To buy some time with this petite but full-of-life woman seems to be an impossible mission, since she's always busy handling a mountain of work through the phone while throwing out radiant smiles like summer sunshine.
The reason for all her busy days is that she works at the same time as the choir conductor of Viet Nam National Academy of Music (VNAM) and a judge of television gameshows for children.
After returning from the Philippines, where she was a judge for the "Sing'n Joy Manila" contest at international choir festival Interkurtur, organised on December 2013, Anh could not hide her gratitude.
"This was the first time I got to challenge my professional skills in an international contest, so pressure was unavoidable," she said.
"To be able to make a fair judgment, especially in art, is not an easy job for the judges. Yet what impressed me most at the contest was the diversity and abundance of music. Forty-five teams with different styles and ideals all created something great."
Anh also pointed out that the Philippines' investment in musical choruses was something Viet Nam could emulate: nearly 80 per cent of the contestants were from the host country.
Born in 1972, the female director looks far younger than her age, and her sphere of activity is larger than anyone could imagine upon meeting her for the first time. Although she previously found a place in audience members' hearts as a television presenter, this field was never her top priority.
She has devoted herself wholeheartedly over the past 20 years to giving lectures at the VNAM and Sol Art, the art centre for children. Her students have frequently been the only choir to open a variety of major national programmes.
"In 2013, I burst into tears when Sol Art brought home the golden award for best performance and audience choice in the folklore category at the eighth Johannes Brahms Choir Festival and Competition. Previously, my students only won the silver award. It is truly a miracle after the golden award we gained in Viet Nam's second international choir festival in Hue in 2012," she said.
"It was indeed a team effort, as our choir was formed quickly and lacked financial support. Some of our best singers could not participate because their families could not afford it. Yet we managed to bring victory to the country."
|New challenges: Dang Chau Anh is involved in new music projects for children and her Sol Art choir. — VNS Photos Thao Duyen
To win the audience's hearts, Anh presented the wet rice culture of Viet Nam, dressing her students in unique costumes made from grass cloth and rice seeds.
"In comparison to other nations, Viet Nam is still young in choir performance, but even the judge had to admit that no team surpassed us in winning the audience choice award twice," Anh said proudly.
After studying the piano, she soon realised it was not her life passion and decided to become a music theorist, then a conductor. That was how she discovered her love for children's choir.
"Children's choirs in our country are still small and underfunded. If we can find a way to develop them, surely it will beautify the nation's musical landscape," she said.
"The challenge for choir leaders is to win the hearts of talented singers. For some students who face full schedules at school and parental disapproval, I have to go to their homes to convince them."
With the assistance of composer Hoang Luong, she came up with simple songs like May Ca (Cloud Singing), Thuc Dem (Staying up all Night), Loi chieng Mo Nong (Mo Nong goong) and Lam Mua (Doing the Harvest).
At the moment, Anh is still engulfed in new music projects for children and her Sol Art choir. To her, children are an endless source of inspiration.
"When I decided to pursue this path, I only had a simple wish: that there would be a supportive musical environment for children so that I could pass on what I was taught. I believe that by participating in music competitions overseas, they can not only be entertained, but also gain confidence and understand their true potential," Anh said. — VNS