Saturday, May 22, 2010

Campus choir does the Vic

Just returned from a choral recital performed by our campus choir. It was a sold out crowd at the Vic, though with the number of choir-istas in the group, that's hardly surprising.

The performance was to showcase the repertoire they're bringing with them to the Czech Republic this summer. As far as singing as a choir goes, the kids have been well-trained. The first half of the show passed pleasantly enough with songs representing various languages and tonal textures. Personally, I was wondering why we don't hear our own choir more often. They are a competent lot, and they would benefit from more performance exposure in front of an audience.

The reason I say this is because the second half of the performance -- a dramatized rendition of "Beauty and the Beast" -- though musically sound, there was a clear lack of confidence in the presentation as a whole. The production values (especially the costumes of the mechanicals in the Beast's castle) looked like it took some effort to manufacture, but because they were ultimately just worn as labels it was hard to believe that the characters were household items magically brought to life.

Part of the problem was in the soloists being difficult to hear. Playing in the Vic requires miking, or really strong voices, as it's a relatively large space to play in. Sans amplification, their vocals didn't carry far and for us in the circle seats, it was "eh, what?" most of the time.

But they are choir, after all, and that's where the bulk of their training goes to. As long as they sound good together, that's the measure of their effectiveness. That they attempted a production that they have little experience in shows their spirit and a sense of adventure. That's a good thing. All they need is an audience to play to more often so that they understand what works and what doesn't.

Here, we don't have show choir, so I wasn't expecting "Glee", but playing to an audience is one way to build confidence, and that's the missing ingredient in tonight's show. Hope they gain some before they hit the Czechs.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The hamster wheel

I wonder if the current frequency I am updating my posts is indicative that I have succumbed to the malady that my expanded group of esteemed colleagues are railing about: the lack of a work-life balance for us who have sold our souls to the industry.

At present, even as I update today, my assignment pile to be graded over the weekend looms forebodingly. And as soon as I return it to the kids next week, I'll be immediately inundated with a new, bigger pile to grade over the summer hols. Kids are already lining up for consultation slots on my free afternoons, now that the endless rehearsals for sectionals and Drama Night are over. Oh, also conducting weekly remedials plus a make up class in the coming week.

But then, so what else is new? The grading is a necessary thing that won't change until the format of the exams changes. All the extra classes and CCA stuff are some of the most fun I've had doing actual teaching because here I'm dealing with kids who really want to learn, who ask genuine questions, who are anxious to listen to what I advise, and I feel that I am meeting real needs by having real discussions with a totally captive and responsive audience. We teachers keep asking for smaller classes, well, here they are.

I am also fortunate enough to have a bunch of great colleagues (yes, I've mentioned this before, but it's worth mentioning again) who still make it a point to find time to socialize as much as support each other with our workload.

Thing is, our external colleagues are so stressed out because everything they do they take as proprietary: my work, my job, my responsibility, my ideas -- which ultimately results in my time, my life... omg. Among my colleagues, nothing is proprietary, we share everything. We're as close to Communism as you can get, without the nonsense politics. None begrudges another of their success. In fact, if we believe strongly enough in each other's causes, we do what we can to help make it a success. That's our campus.

No. The only reason I have been updating so infrequently is because I'm getting lazy. There, I said it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Currency exchange

With the Euro taking a big plunge against the SGD recently, we decided to convert a fraction of our meagre savings as a sort of investment for the future. Not that we're likely to see a grand windfall, but at least we're hoping to get back a little better than bank interest rates which are pathetic at the moment.

Went with a DBS foreign currency chequing account. No interest earned, but we can cash out any time it's favourable to do so. If anything, we'll earn a bit from the exchange rate when things get better for the Europeans, or should we suddenly want to go and see Europe we'll have currency on hand that we bought at a good rate.

Note that to withdraw funds in SGD, current exchange rates apply; but to withdraw funds in Euro, the bank charges 1.5% commission, so the Euro has to pick up significantly before it's worth withdrawing anything. If it's going to be a waiting game, I can wait... but still...

here's to a return to good times for the Euro!