Boys’ School Performs in New Caledonia

September 29, 2015 at 9:27 AM

With thanks to Deputy Principal, Mr Grayson Aspinall

The trip to New Caledonia by the Performers' Choir was a prize opportunity for the boys to immerse themselves into their performances, into the French culture, into their host families and into the beautiful surroundings of the Pacific paradise. Prior to their departure last week, the 23 students were a tad apprehensive about the journey ahead but excited about what the unknown would bring. The boys wore their chapel uniform for the flight and the five staff members accompanying them received a number of comments about the boys' manners and standard of dress. After arriving in Noumea, the group was greeted at George Baudaux College with open arms. The local students and billeting hosts were very excited to have New Zealand boys in their houses to talk about the All Blacks!

The second day of the trip started with classes at 7am. The boys were involved in many lessons which included science, English, physical education and mathematics. This was where the boys really had to work hard on communicating in French with their counterparts. Boys' School French teacher, Madame Lesley Birch was delighted to see them fully engaged in conversations. Later in the morning theyvisited the local cultural centre for a guided tour and learnt a great deal about the history of this country. The boys had their first opportunity to warm up their vocal chords at the centre and sang three songs in the bright sunshine in front of a small gathering of tourists, all of whom thought the singing was so good that they should have paid to watch the performances!

Day three bought a much-anticipated trip with the billets and their families to Amedee Island, off the coast of Noumea. The activities included a ride on a glass-bottomed boat to see the underwater environment and feed the fish amongst the coral, and a hula dance show that featured Mr Hessey and Mr Aspinall being dragged on stage! After a traditional island lunch of seafood, roast pork, and fried rice, the choir performed to a packed audience of tourists. An impromptu school haka led by Meli Young Yen had the crowd on their feet in appreciation. This was a pioneer moment in the history of the Boys' School as it was the first time our haka had been performed outside of New Zealand. The trip was capped off with a refreshing swim. The most significant and positive aspect of this day was the interaction between our boys, the billets and their families – a very successful day of cross-cultural bonding had by all!

The following day started with a guided train trip around Noumea. At the first stop, a gun emplacement from World War II, the boys took an impromptu opportunity to sing to the many tourists visiting. Then, to our surprise, one of the tourists from Australia came forward to let us know he was an Old Boy of the School and College, Mr Geoff Ward, along with his wife – who is an opera singer. We simply had to sing 'Pokarekare Ana' to make them feel at home. The critique from Rebecca was outstanding – she was suitably impressed with the boys and their strong tone. One of the subsequent stops was the aquarium where the boys completed worksheets about the inhabitants of each pool – all in French, of course! The tropical heat necessitated another swim in the afternoon followed by an uplifting performance by the host school.

A trip to the markets on day five offered an ideal chance for the boys to hone their French language skills while purchasing a prized gift for mum or dad. Madame Birch watched on with pride as our novice linguists cut deals with the locals and exchanged their francs for various trinkets. Never wishing to miss an opportunity, the staff realised that there was a large throng of shoppers – so the boys got into formation and sang four songs to the gathering masses. This was a real hit to all the folk in the market square, as people emerged from all directions to listen to the boys. The haka was again performed and with such gusto it had the market security guards thinking it was a protest! From there, they walked through the city centre to the Cathédrale Saint Joseph, built in 1890. This is a stunning building and we were in awe of its exquisite architecture. They ventured inside, in the hope to possibly sing in the cathedral as the acoustics would be superb. As always around Noumea, nothing ever seems to be a problem so the local grounds staff insisted they sing! The boys showed their class in all facets inside the cathedral, respecting the beautiful surroundings by being quiet upon entering and then singing to utter perfection within the hallowed walls. It was certainly a highlight of the week for the staff listening to their glorious sound inside such a magnificent environment. It was unanimous that the boys deserved a treat for lunch in the form of McDonald's. The boys were very much in favour, however, Madame Birch ensured they ordered their burgers and meals in French. The afternoon involved a treasure hunt around the town square which the boys conquered with reasonable ease, showing their French had really improved in a short time.

The boys spent the penultimate day with their host families doing a variety of activities, including kayaking, picnics, go-karting, sailing and jet-skiing, which truly cemented their new-found friendships. On the final morning, they headed to a marine reserve to go snorkelling and got up close to turtles, parrot fish and even white-tipped sharks! The tour concluded with a concert at College Georges Baudoux that included a rousing haka and pitch-perfect choir recital. This was indeed another stellar performance from this fine group of boys – they saved their best until last for their host parents. It was an emotional farewell as the families departed. Having spent a whole week together, our lads and their Noumean counterparts had formed a close bond which we are sure they will aim to continue. Over the course of the trip the boys proved to be fine ambassadors of Saint Kentigern and in every performance, they sang with confidence, pride and conviction. The many activities and experiences provided an introduction to French culture which the students can compare to their lives in New Zealand.

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