Here it is, the unexpected continuation of the story of our speech choir!
Two months after the district-level speech choir competition, the Bright Stars celebrated their accomplishment with an awesome beach barbecue. We distributed certificates, took pictures, stuffed ourselves with good food, and enjoyed each other's company. We even chatted about how much we missed having rehearsals, and how sad it was that this would be our last time to hang out together as a choir.
Were we ever wrong.
Just a few days later, Madam Azimah grabbed me in the hall at school and shared some extremely exciting news - after months of silence from the organizers, she had just been informed that we were unexpectedly progressing to the state level! And what's more, the competition was on July 17 - in only three weeks!
The sense of panic and urgency that rippled through our members was by this time almost nostalgic. After two months of not practicing, we now had only three weeks to pull ourselves back together and improve our script into the bargain. Like the troopers they are, the Bright Stars stepped up to the plate.
Practices this time around were nowhere near as free and easy as last time. The students were coping with tons of pressure already, and several favorite parts of the script had to be cut out or revised. We worked frantically in the short time that we had.
All too quickly, the state-level competition was upon us. We would be competing with five other elite schools in the "Inspiration Group," while eight other schools in Terengganu would compete in the "Aspiration Group." The competition site was only half an hour away, but when we got there, we found that we still had hours to wait, as the "Aspiration Group" was going first.
While wandering around, I was happy to meet up with three other ETAs there with their schools: Kelley Whitson, Elizabeth Williams, and Andrea Williamson!
Finally, after an eternity of stewing and last-minute practicing, "Inspiration Group" was up. Out of the six competing schools, the Bright Stars were set to go first. The judges, officials, and all six choirs settled down in the auditorium, and then the Bright Stars were on! The only thing that kept me sitting still in my seat was my solemn promise to film the whole thing.
If I thought I was proud of these students the last time they competed, I had no idea what I was in for this time. The Bright Stars carried the performance like rock stars - they brought the new script alive so smoothly that you would never have known how little time they'd had to prepare it. They seemed to mean every word that they said, and their movements were controlled and confident. I was amazed at how much they had improved in just ten practices!
By the time they finished, the audience had burst into spontaneous applause several times, and I could barely contain myself long enough to press "stop recording" on my camera. They quickly streamed off the stage and back to their seats, where we whispered excitedly before settling down with relief to watch the next five schools.
The other schools were very, very impressive; I could see why each of them had been chosen among the top in its district. Their movements were often complicated and creative, requiring a great deal of precision. Some of the scripts actually rhymed, and seemed to flow more sensibly than ours, and Kelley's choir even produced enviable harmonizations in their songs.
The more I thought about it, though, the less worried I was - after all, we had never even expected to get this far, and yet we had put on a great show that actually did rival these expert choirs. After seeing all of the performances, I even gave us a fighting chance for third place.
When the time finally came to hear the winners announced, the auditorium was jam-packed. The announcer took a special delight in drawing out the pause before a school's name, so that when the suspense finally broke, it was on a tide of exultation. I can't really hope to match his effect in print, so I'll just say it right now: SMK Lembah Bidong won the prize for the "Inspiration Group"'s best script!
While we did not otherwise place in the competition this round, I am happy to report that Kelley's school, SMK Tengku Mahmud 1, did place first, and Elizabeth's school, Imtiaz Dungun, placed second! Congratulations to these very excellent choirs!
The prize-giving ceremony was held the next day, July 18, in a bigger and grander auditorium at the same college. It was held with much excited pomp and circumstance, and the yellow (not red) carpet was literally rolled out for a very special guest - the Sultan of Terengganu himself, who also happens this year to be King of Malaysia.
We heard the customary long speeches by officials and judges, saw the winning performance repeated, and then applauded as each prize was handed to a representative member of the choir by the King's own hands. Our own choir was represented by one of the students who had originally helped to write the script five months ago. Seeing her walk across the stage to meet the King was a fantastic and supremely proud moment - and I would have a picture just as fantastic, if my camera hadn't died at the exact second that she took the certificate!
Looking back, all I can say is, I am incredibly happy to have been part of something so fun and successful at my school. And even more than the certificates, I will always treasure the friendships that grew with my amazing students in this choir.
Here's the video that I took at the competition, of the Bright Stars performing the revised script "Globalization":