With a song in their hearts

Past and present DGS students express their devotion to the school in an ambitious musical, writes Katherine Forestier

DGS GIRLS NEVER DO anything by halves. From A-level results and debating skills to tennis and swimming, they are long used to coming first. And this weekend they once again will show they are the beneficiaries of one of the best all-round educations in Hong Kong.

DGS Girl, an original musical, vividly portrays what it is to go to the famed Diocesan Girls' School in Jordan by telling the DGS story. But the sheer scale of the production, involving about 700 primary and secondary students on stage, in the wings, the orchestra pit and choir, an original script and lyrics written by the girls and professional direction and choreography, is itself an indicator of the school's reputation for excellence. It is said to be the most ambitious musical embarked on by any school in Hong Kong.

Form Four student Therese Tsui Yue-man, 16, penned much of the script. The aim was to convey the values of the school. "We are one big family who stand together, even in difficult times. That is the main thing, and the friendship and sense of belonging," Therese said.

More than 3,600 tickets for the musical, which opened at the Sha Tin Town Hall last night and runs until tomorrow, are sold out. Old girls are joining parents and friends to converge on the theatre to go down memory lane as the school celebrates its 145th anniversary.

The musical was the idea of current principal and old girl Stella Lau Kun Lai-kuen, who wanted students to have the experience of participating in a professionally produced show.

It starts with the first DGS girls, a ragged band of orphans offered an education in the Diocesan Native Training School, in Bonham Road, thanks to the philanthropy of Lydia Smith, wife of George Smith, bishop of Victoria. Different eras are recalled through the eyes of a fictional pupil, Annie, who starts at the school in the 1930s, is a senior student during the dramatic eve-of-war days, a teacher after the war and returns as an old girl in the present. The spirit of the Christian school's motto, "daily giving service", runs throughout.

The story focuses in particular on two of its most cherished principals, Elizabeth Gibbins, who defended DGS during the Japanese invasion before being imprisoned at Stanley, and Dr Joyce Symons, an old girl who returned to teach geography before the war and later led it for three decades. Dr Symons is credited with turning DGS into the leading girls' school it remains to this day and pioneering all-round education to "nurture broader minds, with music, dancing, sports of all kinds".

One scene, based on Ms Lau's recollections of her student days in the 1960s and 70s, recalls the furore Dr Symons caused when she introduced the "evil heresy" of sex education, provoking rebellion among conservative parents and ridicule from the wider community. "I remember being pointed at on the bus," Ms Lau said. "In those days {hellip} there were many superstitions."

Ms Lau's predecessor, Elim Lau, is also remembered in the "10 As" song, for showing that balanced education includes driving to be the academic best.

Christie Pang Hong-yee, 18, a "10 As" student in her HKCEEs who is about to leave for the US to study philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, is one of the lyricists. She also plays the older Annie. "We are doing this for the school. I've enjoyed the whole process. It is my gift for the school," she said.

Jacquelyn Ng Ga-hei, 19, plays the young Dr Symons and wrote the lyrics for several of the songs. "It's particularly meaningful as I have been so attached to this school. It feels heavy leaving but I am glad I have had the opportunity to show what I have learnt and my gratitude," she said, days before she heads off to England to read international studies at the University of Warwick.

Jacquelyn feels a close connection with the former principal, who died last year at the age of 86. She was a recipient of the Dr Symons Scholarship, for a start. "I met Dr Symons when I was younger but I only really got to know what she was like this year [through the musical]," she said.

Ms Lau, seen moved to tears just watching rehearsals, said: "I was so touched. I cried every time I watched the run-through. I was touched by the love of the founder of the school, and subsequently of the headmistresses, particularly Miss Gibbins and Dr Symons." She studied under both - Miss Gibbins having returned in the early 1970s when Dr Symons was on leave.

"I was also touched by the students' love for the school." That, she said, was a major motivator for her to build on its reputation. Such shows will now be part of the legacy of Ms Lau, now in her seventh year as head. "It has been a learning experience for everyone," she said.

 文章編號: 200509030270139