Model citizen: Joel Lai (Chorister)
By Rachel Jena
Are you from KL? Where did you go to school?
Yes. Sayfol International School.
Were you a popular kid in school?
[Long pause] That’s so hard. That’s a hard question.
Okay. We’ll move to the next question then. What do you love most about your city?
The night lights. At night, KLCC has all the lights on and it looks like corn. I also like that Malaysia is a multicultural country.
Do you have any other favourite cities in Malaysia?
I don’t really know any other cities in Malaysia.
Well, you’re only nine years old. Plus, you’ve got a lot of travelling ahead of you with the Vienna Boys Choir. When did you start singing?
I’ve been singing for three years, in my church choir. Last year, it was only boys. Now, it’s opened up to girls too. I preferred when it was just the boys. The girls are mean. Jie Jie says I sing like a girl. Jie Jie and Tania.
Aww… maybe they’re just jealous. What’s the best thing about singing? Worshipping, and I enjoy it – it’s fun.
Are you looking forward to joining the choir?
Yes, because it will help me in my future.
What are you going to pack?
Clothes. Lots and lots of clothes because I need to keep warm. Thermal underwear too.
Smart move. What do you already know about Vienna?
There are lots of beautiful buildings, and the choir is almost 600 years old.
Did you know they’ve got great chocolate cake?
Yes! The sachertorte. It was invented in a hotel there.
Are you going to miss KL?
Yes. I’m going to miss my family, friends, and people – lots of people walking in the streets, people taking photos of the Twin Towers, the corns. And I want to go on the Skybridge before I leave.
If the Vienna Boys Choir came to KL, where would you take them?
The Skybridge, so I can go too. Also the fun waterparks. Fun places.
Would you make them eat durian?
You mean the fruit that smells like hell and tastes like heaven?
Err, yes, that one.
No, but I’d put it near their noses…
That’ll be interesting to watch. Have you learnt any German yet?
Half-half, or I think a quarter. Hallo, guten tag, guten abend, gute nacht (and more). I’ve got a German teacher and I’m using ‘German for Dummies’. But it’s not really for dummies, it’s just a simpler way to learn it.
When exactly will you be done with the choir?
When my voice cracks. But Justin Bieber’s voice has cracked and he’s still famous for it.
Do you like Bieber?
Half-half. I’m a half Belieber and a half believer.
What will you do when you retire from the Vienna Boys Choir?
Cry for my life? Anything but sing because my mum will kill me if I want to be a singer.
No career in pop for you then?
Pop? I don’t know. Who knows?
But you could have Joelibers…
That just sounds so wrong. That’ll be a nightmare. I can’t imagine it. Can you please write that I have a mean sister?
No problem. What advice do you have for other boys hoping to follow in your footsteps?
That’s a hard one, but I say no matter what, keep trying.
Joel Lai recently became the first Malaysian to be admitted into the legendary Vienna Boys Choir (www.wsk.at). He departed for Vienna in early February.