Kristie Cheung Wai-yin, 13, knows she is getting a big break when she steps on stage for the Be Our Guests opening concert, launching a series of performances organised by the Hong Kong Children’s Choir to showcase young talent. Practising for a year, Cheung was one of 1,600 taking part in one of Hong Kong’s biggest choral events of its kind this week, which was hosted under the banner of the inaugural Asia Pacific Choral Summit and aimed to cultivate a new generation of young choristers in the region. She performed pieces from renowned local composers Dr Steve Ho Sung-chi, Austin Yip Ho-kwen and others on Monday, as well as works penned by composers in New Zealand, Australia and Singapore. For Cheung, who has been part of the children’s choir since she was four years old, what sets this summit apart is how mutual appreciation trumps competitive rivalry. “It is a different experience,” she said. “We do performances rather than competitions. This is like a showcase where you can appreciate others as well as learn from them.” Organised by HKCC in collaboration with the International Federation for Choral Music (IFCM), the summit commemorated the group’s 50th anniversary, running from last Sunday to Thursday. The event featured 20 workshops from elite choirs based locally and overseas. It also held six concerts performed by more than 10 choirs from Hong Kong, including the Asia Pacific Youth Choir and Diocesan Girls’ Junior School Choir. Lukas Ma Yat-hang, 14, hoped to make use of this unique opportunity to receive advice from conductors around the region, as well as to collaborate with other schools to enrich his love for choral music. “It’s a place for people to develop their passion and it’s not often that people from different schools will come together,” he said. Walter Lee, chairman of HKCC’s 50th anniversary preparatory committee, stressed the importance of different choirs coming together to exchange their experiences and views. “Competition is very common in this area, but learning from others is a way for choirs to improve themselves,” he said. “The IFCM provides a platform for exchange, learning and performance,” added Kathy Fok, music director and principal conductor of the HKCC. “We don’t encourage competition, which is different from other choral associations.” While there are ample learning opportunities, the young performers also faced challenges in preparing for the summit. “There are new songs we have to prepare because our conductor [Fok] wants us to have more exposure to different kinds of music and she encourages us to be more open-minded,” Cheung said. These songs come in various languages they are not familiar with, namely Tagalog, Japanese, Korean and Bahasa Indonesia. No matter the odds, the performers’ zest for choral singing brings them the most meaningful learning opportunities. “It is not only about singing or its techniques, we can learn to socialise with many people since and to cooperate with everybody,” said Cheung. Another member of the children’s choir, Brittany Wong Ho-ching, 16, said: “We learn things we do not learn in other places, such as life values.” Lee hoped this unique event could also spur the development of choral music in Hong Kong and encourage locals to appreciate the art form. To fulfil this objective, the summit also included two free concerts on July 22 and 24 on the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade. “We hope that Hong Kong citizens can chance upon these free performances and take some time to appreciate choral music if they haven’t done so before,” Lee said.