Deaf children's choir hitting all the right notes

Kids use sign language and movement to learn songs, and have competed in local competitions

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 September, 2013, 3:54am

Led by a sign language translator as conductor, 14 hearingimpaired children have set out to show the world that music really can be enjoyed by everyone.

"I like singing because it's fun," said Wong Suet-ying, 12, who is completely deaf and has been in the choir since it was formed in 2011.

"I love having the sign language to go with [the words].

"[This choir] shows that deaf children are no different from those who can hear. We can do the same things too."

On September 6, the children won fourth place in a local competition after becoming the first choir of deaf people to enter.

The choir now has three songs in its repertoire - including one written especially for it - and is looking forward to more performance opportunities, conductor Mindy Lai Man-chung said.

Lai was conducting a deaf adults' choir when she decided to start a children's one two years ago.

"We hope to show that they can do it too - this is levelling the playing field for children with disabilities," she said. "I realised a lot of children loved singing."

The choir, based at the Hong Kong Association of the Deaf centre in Choi Hung Estate, rehearses once a week when it has competitions or performances.

It started off with just five or six children, but quickly grew.

Now there are 14 members including two with no hearing impairments, three who are completely deaf and nine who have had cochlear implants and can hear a little.

Songs are taught first in sign language. The music is then played over and over loudly, so the children can become familiar with the melody.

By following Lai's swaying and sign language, the children can match the rhythm and the melody with the lyrics even though they may not be able to hear the music clearly.

Music has become a light in eight-year-old William Wu Wun-yin's life. Wu relies on aids in both ears to hear anything, but will spend hours singing and playing piano at home.

"It makes me happy," he said. "When I'm unhappy, I like to play the piano."

Namboot Nongnut said she discovered that her hearing-impaired son loved music two years ago.

She said he used to cry in his room when he was unhappy, but now music has become an outlet for him. He picked up piano two years ago and joined the choir a year and a half ago.

"[Singing in the choir] has also really boosted his confidence - he used to be so shy," she said.

Lai said conducting the children was "a joy".

"In fact, they learn very quickly. They behave very well, and it's great seeing how much their confidence levels rise."