|Zimfira Poloz, Artistic Director
Hamilton Children’s Choir
I spoke with Zimfira Poloz, the Artistic Director of the Hamilton Children’s Choir, a cluster of four graduated choirs and a Kindersing program for 3 to 6 year olds. Poloz was educated in Kazakhstan where she became the Principal and Conductor of the country’s first Choir School. She has a distinguished international reputation as clinician and adjudicator and has worked in those capacities all over the world.
In the course of our conversation, Poloz noted that the HCC is better known internationally than here in Hamilton. It became clear that her primary commitment is to Music Education. She said, “I hope that someone will recognize the value of the choirs and sponsor them because I think every child, regardless of their means, should be able to join if they want.” She voiced her hope that more teachers in the school systems will encourage their students to join the HCC, in addition to choirs in their home schools. She also put out the call for adult volunteers to help share the load.
I asked her about the Chamber Choir’s recent trip to Guangzhou, China where they won the €5000 1st Xinghai Prize in the International Choir Championships.
GHM: How were you invited? How did Interkultur, the German organization which runs these international events, learn about the HCC?
ZP: We have sung at big international events and people know about the Hamilton Children’s Choir. In recent years we’ve performed at the Let the Future Sing festival in Sweden and won the Children Choir Category of the Let the People Sing Euroradio Competition. We were invited as a guest choir, to do some special concerts and to sing at the opening ceremony. At the last minute, I decided to ask if it was possible to compete. I think it was a great experience.
GHM: How long was the trip to China? Where did you stay? What did you eat? Teenaged girls might not be very adventurous.
ZP: It was such a long journey. I think it was 16 hours altogether. We had a direct flight from Toronto to Hong Kong and then we changed to fly to Guangzhou. We stayed in a hotel. Because we were invited, we were accommodated by Interkultur who staged the event with the Chinese choral organization.
The first day we had a very shocking food experience. The people were trying to be so nice and the food was so different from what are kids were used to. They were very polite and tried everything. There was a lot of rice. By the second day they started to change the menu to things we were more used to. We had a European style breakfast at the hotel, but the other meals were served at a very big centre where all the choirs came to eat. It gave the choirs at chance to see each other and talk to each other. That was a great, fun experience.
GHM: Where were the other choirs from?
ZP: There were 7,000 singers! There were choirs from all over the world. They came from Russia, Latvia, Russia, Sweden, Colombia, Mexico, the Philippines.There was a lot of diversity. Choirs of all sorts: male choirs, mixed choirs, women’s choirs, children’s choirs.
GHM: How was the trip funded?
ZP: We took about 36 choristers and 5 adults. There was very little cost in China so it was mostly the airfare and even that was subsidized by the Chinese. It worked out to about $2000 per child, paid by the families.
GHM: Where did you sing?
ZP: We sang at the opening ceremony at the Guangzhou Opera House. It was huge and it was a sold out concert. We had just arrived and the kids were so tired they wanted to lie down and sleep on the floor. It was a unique event and sold out so quickly they made the dress rehearsal a performance. Otherwise, people from the other choirs, who had come so far, wouldn’t get to hear it.
GHM: Did you hear other choirs there? How good were they?
ZP: We were so busy with our rehearsals and performance that we heard very little. The opening ceremony we couldn’t see because we were in it. The closing ceremony we were able to see. We also did concerts with other choirs.
I wish we could have 12 hours of rehearsal (like they do). It’s quite intense to work in such a situation. I know, I was the founder of such a choir school. I know if I were back home (in Kazakhstan) we would work through the whole summer intensively. In Canada it is tricky to ask for such commitment. As it is, I teach everything: theory, sight singing, vocal production, and life skills in four hours a week.
GHM: So what’s next for the HCC?
ZP: We have a number of high top standard international opportunities and are considering a high level tour. Unfortunately, even if we are accepted, we may not be able to afford to go.
The big project next year is a concert with the Hamilton Philharmonic. It is always a good opportunity for the children to sing with a professional orchestra.
There will be a very interesting production in the spring with the chamber choir for which we are seeking an interesting venue. It will be a theatrical production to push boundaries a little bit and develop a story connecting the songs throughout the concert.
GHM: Thank you for your time.
The choir’s championship performance is well worth watching. Here’s the link.
To see the list of where in the world the Hamilton Children’s Choir has performed, go here.