KENTVILLE, NS – His musical notes will soon resonate in New York’s iconic Carnegie Hall, just as they did in St. James’s Anglican Church in Kentville.
Carmen Peng, 16, of Wolfville, served as the choir director at Kentville Church from August to Christmas.
Her older sister, former Queen Annapolisa Chantal Peng, is usually the choir director, but she moved to the United States on an exchange program.
Chantal, 21, returns to her role as conductor for the Christmas service, while Carmen and their sister Charlotte, 19, will perform for a congregation in Baxter’s Harbor.
Next June, Carmen was invited to perform at Carnegie Hall, one of the most prestigious concert halls in North America. She always dreamed of playing there and said it was an honor to be invited.
In this regard, she once again follows in the footsteps of Chantal, who has also been invited to perform at Carnegie Hall.
“I was really happy when I heard the news,” said Carmen. “I was invited to play because I won first place in the American Protégé International Piano and Strings Competition. “
She was originally scheduled to perform at Carnegie Hall in December 2020, but the performance was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Looking forward to him for over a year now, his level of excitement and anticipation has only increased.
Carmen has said she will perform at a higher level now than if she had performed in 2020, so she sees it as a silver lining to the long wait.
A grade 11 student at Horton High School, Carmen is currently an ARCT (Associate Degree) pianist in the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) Certificate Program. ARCT and LRCM (bachelor’s degree) are the best academic results awarded under the program.
She said that the pieces at the ARCT level are more difficult, but she finds it pleasant to learn more about the different composers and to improve her repertoire and technique. Carmen said she hopes to take her exam this summer.
Filling as a choir director
Carmen sings, plays the violin and is a talented organist. In December 2020, she received an $ 8,000 grant from the Nova Scotia Talent Trust for her organ playing.
“I initially applied for the piano, but was so surprised that I received an organ scholarship.”
She said this has been a great incentive to further refine her organ technique and artistry, which has served her well as Acting Choir Director at St. James’s Anglican Church.
Carmen said the choir director position had been “a very big learning curve” for her. She’s not used to people listening to her and she didn’t want to sound “too bossy”.
However, she said the choir members were very nice and told her that they appreciated that she replaced her as director. Carmen said she especially enjoyed accompanying singers on the church organ, and sang with her when she could.
She got to know the nuances of the organ as she went along and said it was fun touching all the different stops to figure out what sounded best.
“I also love listening to the choir sing because they all sing so wonderfully, and it’s nice to listen to all the different hymns with them,” Carmen said.
Carmen works part-time at the Atlantic Superstore in New Minas and volunteers at events like the Valley Harvest Marathon and the Wolfville Farmers’ Market.
Carmen volunteered for the school breakfast program while attending the French Immersion program at Evangeline Middle School in New Minas. She now volunteers for the breakfast program at Horton High School.
She also gives free piano lessons to children who might not otherwise be able to afford them. Carmen said she found it exciting to see them learn new skills and that she loved “their smile and their happiness” when they could perform plays for their family.
Can’t wait to come back
Chantal, a fourth-year major in music student at Acadia University, began conducting the St. James Anglican Church Choir during her first year of college.
She said she was very grateful to Carmen for taking over the choir conductor during her absence. She is very proud of her sister.
“At first I was nervous because I started conducting choirs at the age of 18 and found it to be a stimulating and rewarding experience,” said Chantal. “However, Carmen exceeded all of my expectations.”
Chantal said her sister is very professional and is a natural leader who emphasizes collaboration. Carmen is not afraid to ask for help when needed. Chantal said this was a skill she wished she had developed earlier.
Chantal said she was thrilled to return to St. James and be a part of the choir, as participating through Zoom is not the same experience as being there in person.
“Carmen has done a great job accompanying the choir and I’m interested in honing my choral conducting skills, so I’ve been thinking about a few ways to integrate our two ambitions,” Chantal said.
She also thought about ways to provide opportunities for Carmen and other young musicians to attend church services.
Chantal said she mainly focused on the piano, but enjoyed studying musicology and the interactions between music and society. She participated in a one-semester exchange at American University in Washington, DC
Chantal said she has taken courses that complement her Canadian education focusing on the American music industry and its connections to cultural institutions across North America.
“In addition to taking American Studies classes, I got to play solo piano in a few concerts here at American University,” Chantal said. “It has been a wonderful experience and has broadened my understanding of how I can give back to communities in Canada. “
Mum Gwen Peng said that she is very proud of all of her daughters and that they are so accomplished, both musically and otherwise, at relatively young ages.
She is amazed that in addition to practicing music for two or three hours a day, they still do well in school and can devote time to work, volunteering and other interests.
“How do they have so much time? Gwen said. “That’s what I’m wondering.”
Did you know?
Carmen Peng has won several musical awards, including:
2020 – Nova Scotia Talent Trust Award Dr James Burchill.
2020 – Great Composers’ International Rising Talent of America, first place.
2020 – International music by the great composers of the 20th century, first place.
2020 – American Protégé International Piano and Strings Competition, first place.
2019 – Annapolis Valley Music Festival, Herbin Bowl.
2019 – Annapolis Valley Music Festival, pianist par excellence.
2017 – Kiwanis Music Festival, Canadian Intermediate Piano.
2017 – Kiwanis Music Festival, Colin Winter MacIntosh Bach Memorial Award.
2015 – Annapolis Valley Music Festival, Acadia University Rose Bowl.
2015 – NSRMTA scholarship competition, first place, preliminary class.
2015 to 2019 – Annapolis Valley Music Festival, Hester Jackson Baroque Award.