On a High Note

The word “soprano” comes from the Italian word sopra (meaning above, over, on top of), as the soprano is the highest pitch human voice. A staple of classical music, soprano singing is mostly associated with female singers. While Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey are contemporary examples of this highly coveted form of singing, Katy Ho, has had her share of achievements with it too.

Music has always been a big part of Katy’s life. She started off by learning the clarinet and piano from age eight and when she was twelve years old, she found her passion for singing. “I became a member of the Hong Kong Music Office Children Choir, which was a choir under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. But my exposure was mainly limited to choral singing back then,” she shares. Katy’s first stint with solo singing did not happen until she relocated to the United Kingdom to complete her sixth-form studies. “I started my first solo singing lesson in the United Kingdom at the Bishop’s Stortford College in Hertfordshire, where I pursued my sixth-form studies with an academic and music scholarship,” she shares. “I was very fortunate to have been coached by some very good vocal teachers. I also very actively took part in music competitions and concerts in the school. My first solo singing performance happened during the first year of my sixth-form studies in the school,” she adds.

Since then, Katy has diligently honed her craft and been an active member of a range of associations and initiatives in Hong Kong and overseas. She has spent a significant amount of time with the Music Office Children Choir and the Music Office Youth Choir and was also a part of the Asia Pacific Youth Choir 2020, Hong Kong Bach Choir and the Musica Viva opera chorus. She has also previously performed with various groups such as the Hong Kong Youth Choir, International Festival Chorus (Beijing), the Learners Chorus and University of Hong Kong Students’ Union Choir, and performed in Singapore, Malaysia, Beijing, Tianjin and London with these groups.

One achievement that Katy is particularly proud of is being selected as a member of the Asia Pacific Youth Choir. “Last year, I went through the audition and was selected as a member of the Asia Pacific Youth Choir. The choir consists of selected singers from different countries in the Asia Pacific region, and all singers would get together in a city for a week for rehearsals and performances,” she shares. “At first, I did not think I would get selected as I am only a leisure, not professional singer, but I was very happy about getting a place. The tour to Malaysia with the choir was scheduled for last year, although it has been postponed to next year due to Covid. I will be one of the three representatives from Hong Kong, and am really looking forward to the tour,” she adds.

Despite a considerable amount of experience under her belt, (all while maintaining her full-time career as a lawyer) Katy has routinely dedicated time to improving herself further. “I join a lot of intensive training and masterclasses. Two years ago, I was in an opera intensive programme with Professor Janice Chapman in the United Kingdom,” she shares. “I also joined an intensive course on lyrics diction with Professor Cheri Montgomery recently and benefited a lot from it,” she adds. “I also passed my ATCL exam (Trinity) three years ago. I think I will continue taking vocal exams as they motivate me to improve,” Katy explains.

What fuels Katy’s desire to continually practice singing is how happy it makes her. “I feel happy every time after I sing, it is like magic! My little dream is to share the music with others and share the joy that it brings to me,” she shares. Katy also values classical music and singing because of their history. “There are so many interesting stories behind the songs I sing, which never fail to fascinate me,” she shares. Katy also finds classical singing great for mental and physical health. “To me, classical singing is like meditation in the sense that you get to understand your body and control your own pace and breathing. I am also a big believer that all the deep breathing involved in classical singing would bring health benefits, just like any other aerobic exercises!” she explains. Practicing classical singing has allowed her to sing in various European languages such as Italian, French and German – a challenge Katy has thoroughly enjoyed.

Singing has brought other benefits too, such as helping Katy develop interpersonal skills as well as teaching her the importance of teamwork. “Since I was a kid, I was used to meeting new people on performances and exchanges between choirs, and that helped me build up my interpersonal skills. I am never too nervous talking in front of a big group of people, because I am used to singing in front of big audiences anyways since I was very young,” she explains. “Participating in a lot of choirs also helped me appreciate the importance of teamwork, because it takes everyone to make a good harmony. And of course, teamwork is also very important in the setting of law firms,” she adds.

Another crucial element of her practice has been understanding the significance of consistent hard work and training. “Singing has helped me realise the importance of hard work and practice, because a lack of practice would mean that your vocal muscles would not get the right muscle memory to make the good sound,” Katy shares. While doing so may have been challenging, owing to Katy’s role as a commercial construction lawyer, she has always managed to find time. “A lot of my annual leave quotas go to master classes and rehearsals. I am also lucky because my singing teacher is very understanding about my work and tries her absolute best to cater to my schedule,” she shares. “I like learning my music on the MTR on my way to work. Sometimes I get attention holding my scores and moving my lips trying to learn the pronunciation (without actually making the sound) but I would say I am used to it,” she adds. In fact, Katy finds that such a consistent singing practice has helped her in her work. “Singing has helped the way I project my voice and deliver. I think that is very useful when it comes to communicating with clients and doing presentations,” she shares.

Katy’s advice to budding singing enthusiasts would be to start off by taking singing lessons. “I often get asked – why does anyone need singing lessons because everyone already knows how to sing. I would say if you want to learn how to sing healthily, try some singing lessons and you will get a lot more than you expected!” she shares. She also finds that there are quite a lot of choirs, ensembles and opera choruses that welcome leisure singers – perfect for those who want to improve their singing. For lawyers particularly, Katy would love to see conducive set-ups in firm. “When I was on my secondment in London, there was a music room in my office building for practice and music lessons. It was my favourite place to spend my lunch hours, and I would really love to see the same thing being done in Hong Kong!” she shares.

For Katy herself, she is keen on remaining an active member of the singing community and contributing as much as she can. “I would be keen to join performances organised by charities, so I can give a helping hand to those in need while doing something I enjoy,” she shares. “I also enjoy being part of different choirs and opera choruses, where I meet a lot of interesting souls outside of work,” she adds. When Katy is not advising on infrastructure and real estate projects or practicing singing, she enjoys listening to songs by her all-time idol - Renee Fleming. “She is definitely a superstar and she moves people’s hearts every time she opens her mouth. Her voice is powerful and touching. I very much enjoyed watching her concert in Hong Kong two years ago,” Katy explains. 

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On stage singing! Can you spot Katy?
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Before a performance at the Tianjin Grand Theatre
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Before a performance at the Peking University
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 Renee Fleming
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Katy’s look for the opera “Norma”
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Katy with Dr. Angelina Au, conductor of the Music Office Youth Choir
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Before a performance a一次t the Hong Kong Cultural Centre
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