On Saturday night, after the Opening Ceremony at work, I attended the Top 10, a music competition between members of Dr. Le’s choir. Let me elaborate a little more before you write this off as some lame high school-esque talent show. Dr.Le, in addition to running what seems like every other international school in Ho Chi Minh City, is also an accomplished choir director. He has assembled an impressive choir here that includes faculty from all of his schools in the area and trust me, this isn’t some glee club. Several of the members are classically and professionally trained, so the caliber of the performances were truly impressive. Every year they put on a performance I would liken to American Idol. Members of the choir audition months in advance and the top 10 (hence the name of the show) are selected to compete for large sums of cash, prizes, and of course endless bouquets of flowers.
There are of course hosts for this event and several other performances throughout the show. A large theater was rented for the evening and the proceeds from tickets go to charity. I saw several other people and students from work, but was a little surprised to find my roommates and I were the only people from the American staff present. This was such a good chance to learn more about the Vietnamese culture and the Vietnamese staff at work that I just couldn’t pass it up. Several of the people we work with on a daily basis are in the choir and Hong, the music teacher from our campus, was actually a contestant. We didn’t know this until we arrived and saw his face on the huge banner hanging in the entrance hall. The opening act was quite interesting to say the least. As customary for this annual event, the cheerleaders came out and performed to pulsing electronic music, a little random but entertaining.
In between performances from the competitors, the entire choir sang a few songs. During this time we were able to pick out some of our coworkers among the massive group of singers. I would like to draw attention to the fans on stage pointed at Dr.Le. This is true for anywhere he goes since he apparently he gets warm very easily. Sitting in the front row of the auditorium for instance he had 3 fans pointed on him the entire performance.
Hong was the second to the last contestant to perform and they were definitely saving the best for last. I was blown away by how amazing and powerful his voice was, not to mention he started by playing the piano while singing at the same time, he truly is very talented. Even though we obviously couldn’t understand any of the words in the song (everything that evening was in Vietnamese) it was very clear he was the best singer of the evening. Once his scores were revealed on the big screen, we saw the judges agreed as well. With only one more singer to go, Hong was in first place. And while the last act was another talented young woman, she didn’t stand a chance.
After receiving his awards he then shyly delivered an acceptance speech, which our coworker Hannah translated for us. He thanked Dr.Le and the rest of the staff, you know, the standard stuff. But then he announced he was going to donate 5,000,000 VND ($250) out of the 25,000,000 he won to one of the orphanages the school frequently donates to. I thought this was such a great gesture, especially since that amount of money goes a really long way here.
It may seem this would be the way to end the night, but there is more to come. I am waiting for my boss to email me incriminating photos of myself that I will be sharing with you soon.