VietNamNet Bridge – Composer Dang Chau Anh was the only Vietnamese member of the jury at the third Vietnam International Choir Competition held in the ancient town of Hoi An in June. The competition was one of the highlights of the fifth Quang Nam Heritage Festival. It featured the participation of about 500 singers from 15 choir troupes representing eight countries. Here, Anh reflects on the competition and the future facing choirs in Viet Nam.
The annual competition has been held in Viet Nam for the last three years and you’ve been on the jury each time. Is the competition a significant event for you?
Yes, it’s very meaningful to me and my career. I am very proud to do a job that I love. However, I also feel stressed when I work with Ralf Eisenbeib, the veteran artistic director of Interkultur, and my other fellow jurors [Interkultur is the German organisation dedicated to bringing together people of all nations, cultures and ideologies to take part in singing contests].
I was very impressed to see how talented and knowledgeable they are. It motivates me to prove to them that I was deserving of my place on the jury!
I learn a lot from my colleagues when we discuss the performances in the competition.
The choirs of Viet Nam have won prizes at every competition in which they have competed. Does their record of success prove that Viet Nam’s choirs have won over foreign experts?
Over the last three years, the world has learnt a lot about the art of choral singing in Viet Nam through several festivals and competitions. Foreign experts first showed their appreciation when the country won the gold prize and two special prizes at the International Johannes Brahms Choir Competition & Festival in Wernigerode, Germany in 2011. That marked the first success recorded by a professional Vietnamese choir.
In your personal view, what do you think of the development of Viet Nam’s choirs?
Actually, Viet Nam’s choirs have not developed much. Over recent years, the Viet Nam National Academy of Music has trained professional choir teams, but they are still not very popular in Viet Nam. They only perform during big events.
I think that in order to kick-start their professional development, choirs have to regularly maintain their activities. We have not been able to do this.
Moreover, a lack of funds often prevents Viet Nam’s choir teams from taking part more often in international competitions.
This year, only three Vietnamese troupes attended the competition. They were Quang Nam Culture and Information Centre, Hoi An Catholic Church and Hoi An Children’s Choir Club.
Every year, the Viet Nam National Academy of Music offers training to future conductors. However, it seems to me that there is a shortage of women becoming conductors. What does the training have to offer?
I wanted to be a conductor ever since I was a little child. I was always very interested in playing the game of “conducting” different kinds of musical instruments.
When I completed my studies at the Academy, I was selected to become a teacher.
I also worked as the choir’s conductor to develop my career, as I saw the positive impact of this art form on the development of human beings. It can develop everyone’s understanding of music and their concentration, patience, confidence, national pride and cultural integration.
Why did you establish the SolArt centre in 2007?
I wanted to create a centre for choirs that could nourish the souls of future generations. My centre welcomes not only gifted children, but all children, including those with autism. We want to stir the potential talent of each child. They can learn different art forms – music, body language and vocals.