純真天籟,童聲合唱

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2015 / 4月

文‧陳建瑋 圖‧林格立


還記得導演齊柏林的紀錄片《看見台灣》嗎?在看過兩個多小時的台灣空拍美景與環境問題後,畫面盤旋在玉山頂上,一群小朋友,用嘹亮的歌聲,唱出對台灣的祝福,讓許多觀眾感動落淚。

這群來自南投布農族部落的孩子,唱出玉山的聲音,讓全世界聽見,他們天真純潔的嗓音,就像霧霾之中的一道光芒,給予人們前進的動力,這就是兒童合唱的神奇魔力。


兒童合唱起源於中世紀,創團超過500年的維也納兒童合唱團,是目前世界最知名的合唱團之一。兒童合唱最初只在教堂和宮廷裡表演,時至今日,則廣泛出現在電影、流行歌曲與各種表演場所,以其純真無暇的天籟,喚起人們對天使之聲的想望。

台灣的兒童合唱開創於1957年成立的榮星兒童合唱團,創團團長呂泉生被譽為台灣合唱藝術鼻祖,在他的帶領下,榮星成為台灣合唱藝術成長的沃土,培育出不少專職音樂家。

經過近60年的發展,台灣兒童合唱迎來堪稱大豐收的2014年,除了台北國際合唱音樂節精采落幕外,台北愛樂少年兒童合唱團在加拿大Kathaumixw國際合唱音樂節奪下童聲組第一名,新北市少年合唱團則在拉脫維亞世界合唱大賽中得到少年組金牌的好成績,讓全世界注意到台灣的合唱軟實力。

唱歌,是熱愛也是堅持

星期五傍晚,新竹科學園區內大部分員工都已下班離去,卻有一群家長帶著小朋友,魚貫進入園區內的一棟大樓,讓人不免好奇裡面有什麼特別活動嗎?

其實這個活動已經持續了15年,每個週末不斷上演,他們都是來參加目前全國規模最大的兒童合唱團──晶晶合唱團的練習。

「挺胸,準備,好,唱!」「唱低音的時候,不用把頭低下去啦。」「唱得太可愛了,你們又不是小baby。」指揮老師手口並用,不停糾正同學們的發聲,台下的學生認真揣摩老師的要求,修正唱法,如此不斷重複,一個多小時的課程不知不覺就結束了。教室門打開,幾十位低年級小朋友剛走出門,高年級學生又迅速坐定,準備上課。

晶晶合唱團目前共有9個班級,四百多位學生,年齡層涵蓋小學1年級到高中3年級,因為人數太多,因此必須分散時段,讓7~10歲的小孩先上課,高年級的學生則從8點後再開始。

「大部分孩子都是從小1開始,一直唱到高3,甚至還有好幾位連續10年不缺課、不遲到早退的全勤紀錄,」晶晶合唱團執行長朱娟瑩說,看到這個紀錄,讓她嚇了一跳,「十幾歲的孩子,能夠不斷堅持,只有一個原因:愛。」

這種對唱歌的熱愛,特別體現在即將面對大考的孩子身上。許多國3、高3的學生,一直到大考前一周才難得請一天假。

今年高中3年級剛考完學測的王若芸說,每個星期五晚上她要先去補習班上課,但是她和媽媽一起跟補習班老師說好,只補習到8點,之後就要來練合唱。

「學測前幾周特別累,她來唱歌的時候,常常打瞌睡,但是一換到自己聲部的時候,就馬上醒過來唱。」王若芸媽媽說,當年只是想培養女兒的興趣,半哄半騙的來參加合唱團,想不到現在用拉的也拉不走了。

學合唱,不只是學唱歌

有些家長把合唱視為才藝班,有些則因為自己也喜愛合唱,然而孩子在合唱團學到的,總是超乎家長預期。

「兒童合唱團不僅是音樂團體,更是教育團體。」朱娟瑩指出,合唱團除了教唱歌,更要教態度,團隊精神就是一個重點。

合唱團裡一個班級,小則十幾人,大則近百人,要能呈現出合聲美感,必須所有成員共同搭配。每當有小朋友上課不認真,她就會跟他們說:「合唱團裡這麼多人,不缺你一個;但你既然來了,團隊就需要你全心全力投入。」

合唱不能只靠一個人,但只要一個人出錯,就可能毀掉整場演出。許多孩子在這裡,學到對自己負責、對團隊負責的態度,也有些孩子在這裡打開心胸,克服舞台恐懼,從不敢在陌生人面前說話,變成能夠面對觀眾大聲唱歌,這些「副作用」是許多家長始料未及的。

更令家長開心的「副作用」是,參加合唱團有助於大幅提升語言能力。

兒童合唱指揮資歷超過15年的呂錦涓老師指出,音樂沒有語言隔閡,儘管用母語演唱能詮釋得更好,但基本上合唱團裡什麼語言的歌都可以唱。

「中文、英文、台語、客語甚至義大利語、德語,只要老師開出歌單,小朋友就學得會。」呂錦涓說,發音、唇形經過聲樂教學拆解,就變得平易近人,即使一開始不清楚歌詞意思,但發音咬字都清晰正確,日後學習更加輕鬆。

對孩子而言,能夠堅持參加合唱,動力不外乎自己的熱愛、同儕的陪伴與釋放壓力的出口,因此即使課業沉重、甚至感冒生病,孩子們也總是堅持上課。

不過堅持練習,總要有目標,才能持續,兒童合唱團的目標又是什麼呢?

站在自己的舞台上

許多人都曾經有在學校參加合唱的經驗,通常都是為了校內的合唱比賽而勉為其難加入,最後的成果也就不那麼在乎。

然而參加晶晶合唱團,或是台北愛樂少年及兒童合唱團這種私人團體時,目標可不只是如此。

2014年,台北愛樂少年及兒童合唱團在加拿大Kathaumixw國際合唱音樂節拿下童聲組第一名;晶晶合唱團則在今年2月獲邀,前往美國紐約卡內基音樂廳演出,此外,該團每年6月固定舉辦的售票公演,更是一票難求。

孩子們為了能登上自己夢想中的大舞台,因而能夠堅持不懈,透過演出,孩子也有擴大眼界的機會,尤其是參加國外的合唱音樂節,能體會不同的音樂氛圍,有認真嚴肅的,也有活潑熱鬧,台上台下唱成一片。

出國表演,對孩子來說是難得的機會,對相對弱勢的部落孩子而言,更是加倍難得,來自南投的台灣原聲童聲合唱團卻做到了。

馬校長的夢想:讓世界聽見玉山唱歌

2013年,台灣原聲童聲合唱團在總統夫人周美青的陪同下,登陸美國加州,讓來自玉山的聲音穿越太平洋,成為台灣送給美國國慶的一份溫暖禮物。

「美國人真的長得跟電視上一樣耶!」原聲學校的小朋友下飛機後,就開始驚嘆聲連連,一路體驗了舊金山、帕沙迪那與環球影城,興奮度破表。

2008年原聲學校創校時,從小孩到家長,沒有人相信部落的小孩會有出國的一天,除了一個人,馬彼得校長。

「透過音樂,我們的孩子可以走到世界任何地方。」馬彼得說,今天是校長帶孩子出國,未來孩子們都可以靠自己的力量出國。

得知要去美國表演的那天,許多家長都哭了,因為整個村子裡,沒有人去過美國,孩子們讓大家看見了改變的可能。

2014年8月,台灣原聲童聲合唱團又應日本合唱聯盟邀請,前往東京表演,堪稱是近年最活躍的外交小尖兵,透過合唱藝術,為台灣搭起國際友誼的橋梁。

看見台灣,聽見台灣

場景回到南投信義鄉,每個週末,是原聲音樂學校的上課時間,來自附近十幾個部落的孩子齊聚在羅娜國小,一起大合唱嗎?不,他們在這裡學數學、英文、閱讀,然後才是合唱。

馬彼得說,與其說是表演團隊,原聲音樂學校更是一個教育團隊,一個跨部落的教育體系,給部落裡資源弱勢的孩子一個翻身的機會。

「部落孩子最大的致命傷就是沒有自信。」馬彼得說,第一次帶孩子參加合唱比賽時,小朋友聽到平地學校的美聲唱法,都嚇得不敢唱,他們說:「他們唱得跟我們不一樣,他們是對的,我們唱錯了。」

馬彼得要孩子們不用害怕,就按照平常練習的去唱,結果他們憑著純樸直率的嗓音,拿下分組冠軍,孩子們才慢慢建立起自信。

2009年,台灣原聲童聲合唱團以專輯《唱歌吧!》,獲得第20屆金曲獎評審團特別獎肯定,2010年獲邀至上海世界博覽會台灣館演出,2011年更成為中華民國建國百年國慶的演出嘉賓。然而,讓所有人印象最深刻的,莫過於在紀錄片《看見台灣》片尾時,這群在玉山頂上唱歌的孩子,片中演唱的〈拍手歌〉,如今更是原聲的招牌。

《看見台灣》導演齊柏林回憶拍攝當天,為了能在氣流穩定的清晨進行空拍,馬彼得校長與小朋友半夜兩點多就出發,清晨6點左右抵達山頂。但天公並不作美,直升機駕駛甚至一度考慮放棄拍攝。

在齊柏林堅持下,直升機在雲海上盤旋許久,等待好天氣。也許是眾人的祈禱奏效,當烏雲散去,小朋友們已經等不及放聲高歌,完成這偉大的一幕。

從合唱開始,找到自己

合唱幫助部落的孩子找回自信與成就感,進一步養成孩子的使命感,培養正確的價值觀。「我的夢想不只是出國表演,而是孩子長大能投入部落的改革,讓部落向上提升。」馬彼得說,一個馬彼得可以培養出十個馬彼得,就能改變十個部落。

馬彼得敢作夢、敢行動的身教,鼓舞了孩子,也鼓舞了老師,許多來自都市的退休教師號召學生一起上山當志工,每個星期不辭艱辛,千里迢迢,因為在這裡的付出,讓生命活得更有意義。

校長和老師的付出,換來的是學生們日夜不斷苦練的熱情。有些孩子住得遠一些,走路加上轉搭接駁車要花上好幾個小時,有時颱風過後,路都斷了,還是要上山上課。「不要說原住民的孩子天生就會唱歌,那樣只會抹煞了他們辛苦練習的努力與付出。」馬彼得說。

歌聲,是上天賦予人類最天然的樂器,透過合唱,更能聯繫人與人之間的情感,觸動彼此心靈。聲音嘹亮清澈的兒童合唱,有著天使般的魅力,帶來感動、也帶來希望、帶來繼續前進的勇氣。

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EN

The Sound of Angels: Children’s Choruses

Kobe Chen /photos courtesy of Jimmy Lin /tr. by Jonathan Barnard

Do you remember the documentary Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above? After two hours of material on Taiwan’s scenic beauty and environmental problems, the film’s airborne camera circles the summit of Yu­shan. A group of children there with resonant voices offer blessings to Taiwan in song. It left audiences teary-eyed.

The singers were Bu­nun from Nan­tou. As they sang about Yu­shan to the whole world, their pure voices were like rays of light piercing a dense fog. By lifting people’s spirits and encouraging them to keep pushing forward, their singing was an excellent demonstration of the magic of children’s choruses.


Taiwan’s first children’s chorus, the Rong-­Shing Chorus, was founded in 1957. Its director Lu Quan-­sheng has come to be known as the flagbearer of Taiwan’s choral arts. After 60 years of growth, Taiwan’s choruses reaped a bumper harvest in 2014. Apart from the Tai­pei International Choral Festival, which went off swimmingly, the Tai­pei Philharmonic Youth and Children’s Choir took first place at Canada’s Kathaumixw International Choral Festival. Meanwhile, the New Tai­­pei City Junior Chorus won the gold in the children’s division at the World Choir Games in Latvia. These achievements brought the world’s attention to the “soft power” of Taiwan’s choral groups.

Love and determination

On a Friday evening, when most employees at the Hsin­chu Science Park have already left for home, a group of parents and children are filing into a high-rise in the park. The sight prompts curiosity: Is something special happening this weekend?

In fact, the same thing has been going on every weekend for 15 years. The children are members of ­Taiwan’s largest children’s choral group: the Crystal Children’s Choir–Taiwan.

“Backs straight! Ready, set, sing!” “When you’re singing the low notes, there’s no need to lower your head.” “You’re singing too cutesy. You guys aren’t babies.” The conductor’s hands and mouth never stop moving. He’s constantly correcting the students’ singing, and the students do their best to figure out how to meet the conductor’s demands and correct their mistakes—again and again. Before you know it, the class, which is more than an hour long, is over.

The Crystal Children’s Choir currently has nine classes and more than 400 students in all. “Most of the kids join in first grade and keep at it until their senior year of high school. Many have perfect attendance records. They not only haven’t missed a class in ten years, they haven’t even been late.” Zhu Juan­ying, the choir’s executive director, was herself astonished when she checked the records. “For teens and preteens to be able to persevere in the face of so many distractions, there’s only one explanation for it: love.”

This passion for singing is striking even in students who are about to take the joint entrance exams for high schools and colleges. Many students in their final year of junior high or high school don’t ask off from choir practice until a week before the exams.

More than just learning to sing

Some parents regard these choral singing classes just as they would any other kind of music or arts lessons. Others specifically enroll the kids in them because they themselves enjoy choral singing. Yet the kids always learn much more than their parents expect.

Choral groups range in size from a dozen or so singers to nearly 100. If their voices are to come together beautifully, then each member of the group needs to work on matching their voice to that of the group as a whole. When a kid starts slacking off, Zhu shows tough love: “The choir has so many people that it wouldn’t miss you if you weren’t here. But since you’ve come, the choir needs you to give it your best.”

Although choral singing doesn’t spotlight individuals, a single person can ruin a whole performance. By joining a choir, young people cultivate an attitude of responsibility toward themselves and the group. Some face their inner demons by overcoming fears of performing. From not being able to speak in front of strangers, they become eager to perform in front of large audiences. These “side effects” are often unanticipated by parents.

Another unexpected benefit in the eyes of parents is that participation in choral groups raises language ­ability.

“Whether the song is in Chinese, English, Taiwanese or Hakka—even Italian or German, for that matter—children have to learn the words to the songs that the teachers choose.” Rita Lu, who has conducted choral groups for 15 years, says that voice training, with its focus on pronunciation and lip positioning, makes foreign language songs more accessible. Even if one is uncertain about what the lyrics mean, sung words are always clear and resonant, making further study of the language just that much easier.

As for the children themselves, they continue with choral singing because they love it, enjoy the interaction with peers, and use the lessons to release tension. Consequently, even when they have heavy schoolwork, or are under the weather, they insist upon coming to practice.

But there must be some objective that keeps them so determined. So what goals do the children have in participating in choral singing?

Standing on their own stage

Many people know what it’s like to take part in school singing groups. Often these are set up for intramural competitions, and the students aren’t too concerned about the results.

Yet members of the Crystal Children’s Choir or the Tai­pei Philharmonic Youth and Children’s Choir have much more ambitious goals.

In 2014 the TPYCC won the top prize in the children’s division at Canada’s Kathaumixw International Choral Festival. The Crystal Children’s Choir, meanwhile, was invited in February 2015 to play at Carnegie Hall in New York. What’s more, the concert that the choir gives in Taiwan every June is eagerly awaited and always sold out.

To get up on the big stage of their dreams, children can become very determined and directed. Performing overseas is a rare opportunity for any child. For Aboriginal children, members of a disadvantaged group, it’s only that much more rare and precious. But Aboriginal kids in the Vox Nativa Children’s Choir of Nan­tou got precisely such an opportunity.

Bringing Yushan’s sound to the world

In 2013, accompanied by ROC First Lady Chow Mei-ching, the choir flew off to California, taking the Yu­shan sound with them across the Pacific. It was Taiwan’s heartwarming gift to America for its July 4 celebrations.

When the Vox Nativa Music School was established in 2008, no one, from children to parents, believed that one day it would lead to these tribal children performing abroad—no one, that is, except for principal Peter Ma.

“Because of music, our children can go anywhere in the world,” Ma says. He leads them overseas today so that in the future they can go abroad on their own.

On the day it was announced that the children would be performing in America, the news brought many parents to tears—because no one in their communities had ever gone to America before. The children were letting everyone see the possibilities of change.

Seeing Taiwan, hearing Taiwan

Back in Nan­tou County’s ­Xinyi Township, the Vox Nativa Music School comes into session as some dozen students from nearby communities gather in the ­Luona Elementary School. They must immediately break into song together, right? Wrong. They come here every weekend to study math, English, and reading. Only after­wards do they start singing.

“The biggest handicap that Aboriginal children bear is a lack of confidence,” Ma says. The first time he brought the children to a competition, when they heard the beautiful singing of children attending school in the lowlands, they were scared off from performing. The children said, “They sing differently from us. They sing the right way. We sing the wrong way.”

Ma told the children not to be afraid and just to sing as they had in their regular practices. When their simple unpretentious style won them first prize in their group, they slowly started to develop some confidence.

In 2009, Vox Nativa’s album Sing It! won the special jury prize at the 20th Golden Melody Awards. But in terms of what left the biggest impression on people, nothing can surpass the end of the documentary Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above, when those children from Yu­shan perform “Ki­pah­pah Ima” (“Let’s Clap Together”). It has since become Vox Nativa’s signature song.

Finding themselves in choral singing

Choral singing helps Aboriginal children to gain a sense of confidence and accomplishment and then to go a step farther and cultivate a sense of mission and proper values. “My dream isn’t merely to go abroad to perform,” says Ma. “It’s also that the children will grow up to throw themselves into reforming and elevating their communities.”

Ma dares to dream, dares to serve as an example and to encourage the children and the other teachers. Many retired teachers from the city volunteer to make the long trip up to this village in the mountains every week because they find it gives their lives greater meaning.

But in return for all their hard work, the principal and teachers get the students’ passion and commitment, day after day, night after night. Some of the children live farther away than others. When you combine the time they spend walking and on the shuttle bus, it may take them several hours to get to practice. Sometimes, when roads are damaged after typhoons, the children nonetheless still make it up the mountain for class. “Don’t say that Aboriginal children are natural singers, because that discounts all the discipline and hard work that goes into practicing,” says Ma.

Voices are natural gifts, instruments of nature. Choral singing is a great way to foster a sense of connection among people, to provide them with a means to move each other’s spirits. The clear resonant collective voices of children’s choirs have an angelic charm that is poignant, hopeful and full of the courage to keep pressing ahead.

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