The young musicians of Voice.Print Music Academy, trained by Dilan Irugalbandara and Matheesha Udawatte, represented Sri Lanka at the World Virtual Choir Festival 2021 (WVCF 2021) held from 30 April to 7 May. These kids performed so well that they were awarded the highest score and received the gold medal, making them the winners of their category at the WVCF 2021. They also received a special award for the “Most Expressive Performance” at the WVCF 2021 in their respective category.
The virtual festival was intended to provide a platform for singers to continue singing and performing as the Covid-19 pandemic is still ongoing and did not provide opportunities for singers to gather and attend the choir competition as usual before the pandemic hit. As the festival was held virtually, this allowed Sri Lanka to participate in such a prestigious competition.
Brunch had a chat with Dilan and Matheesha on their experience with this virtual festival.
Upon asking them how difficult it was to train young kids entirely online, Matheesha explained that Voice.Print had taken part in this competition about 10 years ago, and they would practise for six months at a stretch daily, and those practices were held physically. This time, they had to train 86 kids – the youngest being a three-year-old and the oldest being 13 – who had never taken part in an international competition, and the practices had to be held virtually and they only had one month to get it done. Dilan added that he has been with choirs since he was 12, but he had never had to do anything online, so this was a new and challenging experience for him. “When you’re signing online, you can never sing together, so we had no idea what the kids sounded like as a group, which was the main problem we had,” stated Dilan.
After some discussion amongst the two of them, they simplified the process by asking the kids to watch the movie Free Willy, which is where they remembered the song from. After that, the two of them recorded their voices and made a dummy version of the song and split the track into eight parts. Matheesha joked that instead of doing a normal harmony, Dilan was insistent on perfecting it with an eight-part harmony while maintaining the same level of work that he puts into Voice.Print. They added that the kids’ parents helped so much to co-ordinate practices and ensure that the kids did their homework as well.
Not only did they have to perfect the song, but they also had to focus on choreography and dancing.
Despite the pandemic, Voice.Print Music Academy was able to responsibly train the children virtually and in the utmost safest manner and submit the performance online. All their hard work eventually paid off because the kids were able to impress the judges and win them over with the out-of-this-world music arrangement, fun and catchy choreography, innovative video concept, and passionate performance.
The Voice.Print Music Academy choir performed a rendition of the song Will You Be There by Michael Jackson. We asked them why they chose this song in particular, to which Matheesha explained that they wanted to combine a bit of Sri Lanka into western music, so they wanted to go with a song about the ocean. “It was very easy to introduce that Sri Lankan component because the song was centred around the ocean. We also wanted to choose a song that would give a good message to society that would be relevant to the current situation,” they added.
Talking about the special award they received for the “Most Expressive Performance”, Matheesha commented that with any performance, their main goal is to get the choir to show what they are signing. “Our kids are very expressive. They even put in the effort to study Michael Jackson and learn his moves and expressions just so they could perfect the performance.”
“At Voice.Print Music Academy, we try to train the kids by making them sing songs like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with an angry face, so they learn to show and control expression. If you take Sri Lankan culture, the performance (level) is quite less in comparison to other countries because we tend to hold back out of shyness,” commented Dilan. Adding to this, Matheesha explained that the kids at Voice.Print will never be afraid to deliver and he said that during their classes, they never allow anyone to switch off their video, so they are encouraged to be themselves. “Even if they are doing cartwheels on their bed, that’s okay, because they are showing energy and excitement.”
The two of them dedicated this win to all the kids who worked tirelessly and gave their 100% and to all the parents who gave their 200% in making sure they brought this win home.
You can watch Voice.Print Music Academy winning the awards at www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9CvAjWf7_c and the performance of the choir at WVCF 2021 at www.youtube.com/watch?v=WC_EqR-X4o0.