[First published on Dec 24, 1996] A 17-strong group of singers from Hong Kong International School have been busy in the run-up to Christmas, entertaining crowds with their special versions of classic festive songs. The singers, aged 11 to 14, are members of a cappella group Allegretto. The middle school singers practise one or two hours each week. They have taken on a wide range of music since the beginning of the year, including songs by Duke Ellington, Henry Purcell, the Beatles, Bach and lots of Christmas music. Director Paul Stanley said the girls were talented, keen to learn and easy to work with. "They are very eager to perform and very motivated. They come to rehearsals with a real motivation to sing, as well as plenty of ideas on the pieces," Mr Stanley said. "All I have to do is to keep throwing music at them," he added. Cindy Kiow, a seventh-grade Allegretto member, described her audition as "quite scary". "There were a lot of girls trying out. There were over 50 of us. We had to audition individually, singing with and without a piano and then doing some sight-reading as well as theory," she said. Mr Stanley explained: "Rehearsals and performances will go a lot smoother if the girls are well-rounded musicians. Their attitude, self-confidence, and urge to perform are all very important. "I am not just looking for students with good voices." What helps, too, is that most of the girls have had training in classical piano, flute or other instruments. Eliza Hendrix said theories learnt from playing classical instruments helped with singing. "It is hard to get your part at first when you are singing a cappella. Each person has her own part, so you really need to be secure with your notes so that all the parts are balanced," she said. "It also helps to have the right pitch, because one note off-key would throw everyone off." It is this kind of preciseness and sense of music that makes Allegretto an excellent group. They have been performing busily over the past few weeks, adding to their heavy work load at school. Their concerts included one at the South China Morning Post's Morning Post Centre in Tai Po, to mark the switching on of its Christmas lights. Allegretto also gave concerts for fellow students and one for families. Many members have also been involved in the Middle School Christmas musical. The members of Allegretto enjoy the music they sing just as much as their audience does, and all of them said they would stay with the group until they were promoted to high school.