Friday marked the pinnacle of our Tongan journey. It is a day to be remembered by both New-boys and Tupou boys for years to come. Both our Rugby boys, and Choir boys had major events.
The first event was for the Rugby boys. We drove into town, past the Prince’s mansion, and met at a grand stadium, where we witnessed two rugby matches, played out by our under 14’s and 15’s.
Both teams won in a spectacular fashion: through grit, determination, and innovative ball skills. What is best is that they held up with confidence, in face of a physically intimidating opposition. The choir boys were there to support, clapping with enthusiasm, their voices silenced (as we had a demanding concert planned for later that night).
One highlight of the games was most definitely Mr. Scott’s half time show. A man so brilliant intellectually and musically, challenged himself in the realms of athletic ability. With precision, and great care, he took his first kicks of the rugby ball, and watched as it graced the air, landing a strong 4 meters away. Mr. Godfrey and Mr. Egerton cheered with love, after witnessing such a feat.
After the rest of the day had focused on eating and rehearsal, the time had come for the Great concert. Situated in the Moulton Chapel, with the presence of the King and Queen, televised all around Tonga, and with a sea of faces – both Newingtonian and Tongan- was the congregation. The night offered a range of musical numbers. Every single piece was beautiful. Executed with excitement and a uniqueness. There were Brass Bands, String Bands, Choirs, and Jazz Bands- both from Toloa and Newington.
Mr. Scott commented in his opening speech for the Newington choir, that it was extraordinary to see the great songs of Western Classical music, performed in Tongan, in the center of the Pacific, by the Tongan people.
Men like Handel could never have imagined such a thing. Just before the concert, a Toloan boy said said to me:
“We love music. It makes us different. The other schools – they are pretenders. We feel it. It is all we know.”
To this boy, music meant everything. It was a source of electric pride, of self esteem. The concert made me realize that for the Tongan people music is an act of invocation. A worship of the divine. The Tongan people sing how they live: with passion, dedication, and humility. All life for the Tongan people is an act of reverence. Another boy, this one being 15 years old, said to me: “This is our talent. Isn’t a talent the thing we are put on this earth to use?”
The wisdom in his statement can’t be learnt from books. That’s Tongan wisdom for you.
I would like to finish by recounting a conversation I shared with my new found friend Seti. Seti is a quiet Tongan boy in his final year at the college. He is defined by an immense pride of Tupou. When he speaks of the place, he forces himself upright, standing tall for a school that has given him so much. I have spent hours with him over the past few days, in passing and in rehearsals. In the minutes before the singing of the final Hallelujah chorus, Seti whispered to me, under the echoes of a speech, his eyes ponderous:
“We Toloa boys will never forget this night. Look around Jack, soon these boys will all be old. Still, they will remember.”
I understood then. This night, this week, was not about us. For the Tupou boys it was a celebration of a lifetime, the greatest honour, that they will carry around in their hearts. Here were we, Westerners, worrying about exams, looking only forward, to life outside.
Never do we stop to reflect on what has been, and on the legacy we will leave. For Seti, as for the other boys at Tupou, this is a truth they understand. Their experience might just be the greatest of their life.
That is how special Friday was.
By Jack Jacobs