Dedication of a Coach and a Mother

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A former student of the Bukit Bintang Girls’ School, Rayhana Tong’s interest and dedication towards the art of choral speaking began from secondary school. It all started from the time she became the conductress for her Form 3 class until she completed her secondary education in Form 5. However, her interest and passion for choral speaking did not end there as she left her secondary school life behind. “After I left school, somehow I kept going back to doing choral speaking.”

Due to an almost constant involvement in choral speaking since leaving school, she had the idea to continue the legacy of choral speaking and involve the younger generation. “It [choral speaking] has stayed with me even after I left school. I used to be called back to help out with the junior classes in BBGS. I have taught kids from a Tahfiz school, kindergarten kids, school kids, as well as teachers at a teaching college. These past two years, I was also asked to help out one of the primary schools in Selangor to prepare them for the district level inter-school choral speaking competition.”

As a mother, she wanted to bring the art of choral speaking and the lessons and benefits that comes from it to her own kids as well as the kids who make up Studio2. That is why she had the idea to form this group that consists two of her own children and their friends. “I thought, why not share what I know with them, so that they get a taste of what choral speaking really is.”

However, she was quick to point out that choral speaking has evolved much these days, incorporating more (and sometimes, excessive) movements and putting too much importance on uniforms and overall demeanour. “There is just not as much emphasis on what constitutes a good choral speaking performance which are proper pronunciation and articulation, good facial expressions, and varied tones in the voices of the speakers.”

The group Studio2 represents an independent group of kids coming together to perfect and perform the art of choral speaking. Under the guidance of Rayhana Tong, the group began to meet and practise different poems since its formation in the last quarter of 2016. “I have been doing choral speaking with the kids from August 2016. It has been almost 3 years since we started.” She mentions that Studio2 is on their 7th cycle right now and have performed 7 poems in total.

Even now, her dedication to the art form remains strong. Rayhana would go so far as to try and organise extra activities related to the topic with her group of kids. An example provided by her was when Studio2 was performing the poem titled “Chocolate Cake” by Michael Rosen, Rayhana booked a session where she and her kids baked chocolate cakes together. “I always try to do something that ties in with the poem for the kids.” Another instance she provided was when the group practised the poem entitled “The Blind Man and The Elephant” where she brought her kids on a chartered bus to the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sactuary in Pahang.

Studio2 is currently preparing for a performance that takes place in August this year at Intermark. The group have practice sessions hourly, once a week. However, Rayhana mentioned that should she feel that they require extra work before the performance, she would add more hours to practice sessions.

When asked why does she continue to teach choral speaking even to this day, she said “Choral speaking is a fun way to learn poetry. I think it is important to be able to speak clearly and properly – and choral speaking helps with that. But that’s not all, a lot of work goes into coming up with a performance that usually doesn’t last longer than 10 minutes. Take-home lessons include team work, resilience, and dedication. How to be more tolerant of one another. Also, poetry appreciation doesn’t seem to be so important these days, in our time of gadgets and technology. So I think it is important keep the art of choral speaking and the love of poetry alive.”

Come and listen to their latest poem, a self-written piece which Studio2 will perform – sharing with the audience what makes them young and proud Malaysians.

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