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Going Solo

The Global Orchestra trip to New York has provided many amazing opportunities for the BISS Pudong and Puxi students selected to attend.

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From meeting other musically-minded students, getting to perform in a large orchestra and choir, and exploring the sites and culture of New York, the students have certainly had their horizons expanded during the weeklong music camp. On top of all that, three of the girls also had the opportunity to showcase their talents as solo performers at a special concert held at the Nord Anglia International School New York, in front of not only the other members of the Global Orchestra and choir and parents and guests from around the world.

Performing in front of her parents who flew in from Shanghai for the event, Arianna Pantalone chose "When I Look at You" from The Scarlett Pimpernel. Explaining her choice, she says, "I like to sing pop with my friends, but for performances, I usually sing musical theatre because the songs are very original and have true meaning. There's always a story to tell and the songs don't rely on technology… they stand on their own."

Although she didn't look worried, and certainly sounded confident as she gave a flawless, emotional performance, she confides, "Before I was called, I was freaking out. I was so scared because I didn't know when I would go on and normally I have lyrics in front of me to go over, but I left them in my bag. Each time a singer finished, my heart just beat frantically."

In the end, she was happy with the performance, with good reason: "I felt it was pretty successful as it was my first time singing the song in front of a big audience…. And I made my mum cry!"

Among the other 20 students sharing the bill were BiSS Puxi students, 17-year-old Helena Smith and 12-year-old Silvia Cassanelli who both opted for jazz for the evening, classic and modern. 

Silvia's choice, "New Soul" by Yael Naim beautifully matched her deep soulful sound and she explains, "I chose this song because it's very summery and it gives off a very summery vibe and I think it's a very good song for me to sing."

A fan of contemporary Jazz and Soul singers like Adelle, Lorde and Amy Winehouse, Silvia says she looked to a song which would have a big emotional impact. She says rehearsing during the day with the other soloists put her at ease about this, her first ever solo performance. "At the moment when I had to do my solo, I was really nervous, but when I got on stage I felt slightly better, and in the end I was really happy!"

With a preference for more classic Jazz and Soul singers like Billy Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Judy Collins, Bessie Smith and Ray Charles, Helena's choice of Gershwin's "Summertime" was for very personal reasons. "It's a song that I strongly identify with because my granny used to like it and my mum often plays it on the clarinet," she says.

Taking a very sage approach to the topic of nerves, Helena continues, "I was a little bit nervous because I'm not used to singing solo… or performing in general on my own. But, you just have to go for it really. You have nothing to lose by going for it."

Helena  sums up the girls' feeling about taking part in this solo showcase, saying, "It's made me appreciate everyone's individual talents, as well as being able to work in an ensemble. And it offered a contrast between working in a choir and solo. It was also a chance to show people how I sing."​