CZECH REPUBLIC — Recently arriving home from the Czech Republic, two girls from the Clarenville area and one from the Carbonear brought home an international gold medal.
Leah Peddle, 18, and Bella Martin, 10, from Clarenville, along with Rubyanne Whelan, 19, from Carbonear were a part of the Atlantic Girls’ Choir, based in Newfoundland. The choir received the highest mark in its category at the Svátky Písní Olomouc – 47th International Choral Competition.
The group that went to the Czech Republic is mainly made up of 21 girls in junior high and high school, with some being as young as 10 years old. The girls received a remarkable score of 27.13 out of 30 in the competition.
“We all screamed... it was a very emotional moment; it was super exciting,” says Martin.
Martin, Peddle, and Whelan say their 10-day journey in the Czech Republic was both educational and cultural, but also filled with bonding opportunities and, of course, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“When she got back, Bella gave a two-hour history lesson to her Grade 5 class on the Black Plague,” says Martin’s mother, Kelly Martin, who went along as a chaperone on the trip.
The girls say the trip has helped them learn to become a lot more independent and has taught them a lot about themselves and each other. They have formed a lot of strong relationships with each other as well as with other girls in Europe.
“They would cook traditional Czech meals for us, some of the girls would travel to rehearsals with them…we really got to experience what it was like living there, we’ve definitely made lifelong friendships,” says Whelan.
The group participated in many of the Czech Republic’s cultural norms, including sharing a monk meal to protect their voices on the day of the competition, participating in classes, singing songs in Czech, and going on tours of castles, and churches. And, of course, they broke out into song whenever they could, singing various songs from Newfoundland.
“Definitely a highlight for me was when we were at this church, and there was this woman playing “Hallelujah” on classic guitar. Our choir broke out into song, it was so spontaneous,” Peddle says.
Aside from singing, some of the pieces the choir performed also required actions. “A Puppets Dream” required the girls to act like puppets, using facial expressions and actions to imitate a puppet coming to life.
“It was like musical theatre,” says Martin, as she imitates the actions in her seat.
Passionate about music
Throughout the trip, the group faced some challenges from jetlag and lack of sleep, to learning about, and adapting to the different currency, speaking and singing in Czech, and the endless amounts of walking, even “getting a hold on how much money I had left, and how to spend it, I had to do this at the bank by myself, it gave me the independence for sure,” Peddle says.
Each one of these girls wants to pursue music in some way in the future. Peddle is accepted into the MUN school of music; Whelan is going into her second year of music at MUN in September; and Martin would like to become a famous popular singer or music teacher when she gets older.
The judges, adjudicators, and everyone involved with the festival were so impressed that The Atlantic Girls’ Choir was invited to participate in another international choral festival in Asia in September 2020.
“We were one of the only choirs to consist of only girls at the festival,” says Peddle.
The group is planning on making a CD in the near future.
The experience, they say, changed them forever; it has made them feel more open and more confident in themselves, ultimately preparing them for their bright futures ahead.