SOTY 2018: Performing Artist of the Year Wallace Lee reveals what he learned as chairman of DBS’s award-winning choir

By Donna Mah

The Diocesan Boys’ School student guided his team to two prizes at the World Choir Games

By Donna Mah |

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Diocesan Boys’ School student Wallace strives to be a good leader to the rest of his choir, helping to interpret new pieces of music and ensuring that no member ever gets left behind.

For Wallace Lee, music is an obsession. As a young boy, he would watch longingly as his older sisters sang in choirs. These days, however, you can find him right in the thick of the action, serving as the chairman of his school’s choir.

The winner of the 2018 Student of the Year – Performing Artist award says music has been one of the main guiding forces in his life.

“Music is very important to me … I’ve devoted a lot of time and effort to developing my musical skills, but music changed my life in many other ways, too. Through music, I’ve learned to see the world from a whole new perspective,” he tells Young Post.

In particular, singing in a choir has taught Wallace the importance of unity. He explains that in an all-male choir like the one at Diocesan Boys’ School (DBS), the leading voices tend to be the tenors, but that doesn’t mean the other voices should be neglected.

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“A choir is never complete without all of its parts, and no part is any more or less important than another.”

Being able to sing as one unit is key: “If our voices don’t blend, we won’t sound good,” says Wallace. But when all members of a choir are in sync, he says, they produce what he calls a “wall of sound”. “It’s mesmerising,” he adds.

The 18-year-old applies this philosophy to all aspects of his life. “We should work together and attempt to truly understand each other; we can achieve more together than we can alone.”

Music has given Wallace the opportunity to do other things he loves, such as travel and meet new people. Competing in international competitions means he has been able to go everywhere from the US to South Africa. Wherever he goes, he makes sure to gather as much wisdom as he can from the other choir members he meets.

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There is one contest that stands out above the rest: the World Choir Games, one of the biggest choral competitions in the world.

The contest is held every two years, each time in a different city. And so last year, Wallace and his fellow choir members found themselves bound for Tshwane, South Africa.

As the student chairman of the school’s senior choir and vice-chairman of the school’s junior and senior mixed choirs, Wallace had his work cut out for him preparing for the contest.

He worked alongside the other choir leaders to come up with a repertoire that was suitable for competitions without being too boring or difficult to understand. He explains that it’s up to the choir leaders to “interpret the foreign language or more difficult pieces for other choir members, so that nobody gets left behind”.

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This usually requires him spending hours researching each piece before introducing it to the rest of the choir. But, as he tells Young Post, discovering and embracing new styles of music is part of the fun.

With the guidance of his teacher, Felix Shuen, the support of his fellow choirs leaders, and the dedication of his teammates, Wallace was able to help secure not one, but two awards for DBS at the World Choir Games – one in the male category, and another in the mixed category. It was a momentous day for the school.

But for Wallace, knowing that the months of hard work put in by each member of the team had paid off was enough.

“I can still feel the rush of emotions that flooded my mind when I stood on that stage, with tears uncontrollably rushing from my eyes,” he says.

The Student of The Year Awards competition is organised by the SCMP and Young Post and sponsored by The Hong Kong Jockey Club