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A New Voice

October, 2005
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Perhaps it’s music that makes the world go ‘round, rather than money. Helena Murchie brought her passion for singing to Harrow International School’s new Beijing branch.

She has only been in Beijing for three weeks, but she has already affectionately dubbed it a “crazy city”.Helena Murchie

“There is always something happening. It’s very exciting. Culturally, Beijing has a lot to offer, such as theatres, orchestras, dancing, and acrobatic performances. Beijing’s music scene is great, too, with a lot of jazz ensembles and other people interested in creating music. It has also been nice to have the opportunity to talk with Chinese people.”

Helena has joined the International Festival Choir, which puts on concerts three times a year.

“I spend all my time practicing at the moment. I hope to get involved in a lot of community musical projects here.”

Helena worked at an English school in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, prior to coming to Beijing, and she is excited to be part of a new school and new team.

“The school I taught at before was much larger, but the nice thing about this place is that you can really get to know the students. I know exactly where the students are in terms of musical and dramatic abilities, what instruments are available, and where they need to go. I can develop very personal relationships through music education.”

Helena has been teaching music and drama for the past six years.

“Harrow is very famous for its music program, and has a long musical tradition going back 350 years. Every student at Harrow has the opportunity to learn an instrument. I very much believe that instruments can contribute to all aspects of education, discipline, fun and creativity. It also teaches students plenty of important life skills.”

She shares the headmaster of Harrow Beijing’s conviction that the school should be musically oriented.

Every group of students takes both music and drama classes twice a week. Helena also started a program inviting teachers to come in and teach certain instruments.

“I’ve invited an erhu (a two-stringed Chinese fiddle) player to the school to talk to the students, and I am also running choirs. We now have two choirs in the school.”

Language differences present a lot of challenges in the classroom, but Helena believes that singing can be an enjoyable way to overcome such obstacles. Music, more than any other subject, can break down international language barriers, so she is keen to get every student involved in the choirs.

“All of our students will take the ABRSM (the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) exam, which is recognized in over 92 countries worldwide. We just started up the school, however, so the students will definitely be prepared next year.”

Helena herself started playing piano at the age of eight and was a professional singer for 10 years.

“The best way to learn music is to listen, find a teacher, and practice. You should do something enjoyable, such as joining a choir or a band. I would like to learn some Chinese instruments, but I think I’ll stick to the language first,” she adds.

“I have already mastered ‘taxi Chinese’: here, left and right.”


By Xing Yangjian

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