Home' Christchurch Mail : August 23rd 2012 Contents 7
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Golden voices of Burnside High
BURNSIDE HIGH School's Bel Canto choir sang their way to a stunning
win at the Big Sing in Wellington on Saturday night. Conductor Susan
Densem had the best seat in the house. The busy mother of two talked
to Mat Kermeen about the victory and how she ended up teaching her
favourite subject at her old school.
Canto Conductor: Bel Canto conductor Susan Densem studies her music
book at home.
Platinum Voices: Members
of Bel Canto on the Big Sing
stage in Wellington.
The Big Sing is the biggest
and most prestigious singing
competition in the country
and two of your choirs fin-
ished in the top five, tell us
about the results?
Both Bel Canto and the
Senior Chorale were awarded
the gold award before Bel Canto
was promoted to the platinum
award, making them the overall
winners. It's an amazing result
for us, only three other schools
were awarded the gold award
and it was the first Big Sing for
the Senior Chorale.
How proud are you of the
Really proud, it's awesome.
Both choirs preformed bril-
liantly well. For Bel Canto to be
awarded the platinum award is
an amazing achievement. We
have won it twice previously in
2005 and 2007 but obviously
none of those girls are still at
How much practice is done
before the Big Sing?
The students are really com-
mitted, they know what needs to
be done and they work very hard
to get there. We practice as a
group but they also have their
own training, Bel Canto mem-
bers probably do four hours a
week all up. When we are about
a month out from Big Sing we
usually do four hour sessions on
Sunday evenings also.
That's a lot of time the stu-
dents put in?
It sure is, often when we get
new members they don't under-
stand why they have to practice
so much, but when they attend
an event like Big Sing they soon
realise why they had to put so
much hard work in.
So what exactly is your role?
I conduct the choirs at Burn-
side and I also teach singing
there. I actually work for Hagley
Community College as an itiner-
ant teacher of music. We go
around different schools but I
spend almost all my time at
How did your association
with Burnside come about?
I was actually a student at
Burnside High, I studied music
and was a member of the choir
and leader of the school orches-
tra. I went on to train as a pri-
mary school teacher before
teaching at a couple of local pri-
mary schools. I also studied at
the Conservatorium of Music in
Brisbane but I always had a
desire to teach at a secondary
level. When my current role
came up I was thrilled.
You are also a professional
Yes, I sing mostly classical, I
haven't done as much after the
earthquakes, as I used to sing in
the cathedrals but I still manage
to fit a little bit in.
So what does the future hold
I hope to keep developing as a
conductor and hope to study
more in the future. At Burnside
we will keep working hard lead-
ing up to the annual November
Extravaganza performance at
the school and ultimately
through to next year's Big Sing.
I would love to tour overseas
with the Burnside choirs and
that is something we will con-
sider in the future.
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