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VIDEO: Maestro and queen at 19: meet Wolfville’s Chantal Peng


WOLFVILLE, N.S. —

Chantal Peng runs her finger along edges of empty pews lining a red carpet in the St. James Anglican Church.

She’s quiet and unassuming as she casually saunters toward an organ in front of the stage.

The 19-year-old is no stranger to having an audience.

Peng has performed for years. In 2015, she graced the stage at New York City’s famed Carnegie Hall.

More recently, she’s been sharing her talents with the congregation at St. James as the organist at the Kentville-based church.

Today she’ll entertain an audience of one.

She takes a seat on the organ bench. Her arms relax.

Hands propped on the keys and a warm smile signal that it’s time to press record.

Another side of Peng comes to light as the church fills with the sound of Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 3 in A minor.

She commands the room. Her hands flit and flutter like clockwork.

It’s not uncommon for Peng to astound with her talent.

The second-year Acadia University music student brings her brief performance full circle by closing with the same warm smile that cued the videographer.

She watches the video to deconstruct what seemed like a flawless performance to the untrained ear, examining the audio to identify areas for growth.

“My priority is school right now because I think that education is very important and, since I’m so lucky to be able to receive an education, I might as well make the best use of it,” she says.

The Wolfville resident sets big goals and works hard for what others might consider little rewards.

Chantal Peng of Wolfville was crowned Queen Annapolisa LXXXVII during the Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival coronation hosted in her hometown May 31. ASHLEY THOMPSON
Chantal Peng of Wolfville was crowned Queen Annapolisa LXXXVII during the Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival coronation hosted in her hometown May 31. ASHLEY THOMPSON

She was thrilled when a top performance at a national piano competition meant she’d receive her own brand-new copy of a spy novel she had her eyes on – in hard cover.

She vowed to treat herself to a “nice ice cream” from The Real Scoop in Wolfville if she was pleased with her GPA at the end of her academic term at Acadia.

Peng, the eldest of four sisters, was raised to take nothing for granted – to be humble.

“I’m lucky to be involved in my sisters’ lives,” she says.

Her parents, Jianan and Gwen Peng, immigrated to Canada from China before she was born.

Her father worked hard to earn a PhD and secure employment as a statistics professor with Acadia University.

Her mother fills bellies, manages schedules, nurtures creativity, provides transportation – you name it.

“Both of them work really hard,” says Peng, adding that she’s reaping the rewards of having their guidance in her life.

The Horton grad received the Lieutenant Governor Education Award in high school.

Accomplished public speaker, proud community volunteer, ambassador for the Annapolis Valley – she’s checked all those boxes.

And she’s just getting started.

Peng is determined to use her skills – and music – to do her part in making the world a better place.

“I’m really passionate about social activism,” she says.

She travelled to West Africa last summer to learn about gender equality movements in Ghana. She continues to learn more and more about how health and gender equality are connected in other parts of the world.

“Here in Nova Scotia… we are lucky that we have the opportunity to celebrate pregnancies,” she says.

“We have the opportunity to celebrate living a life and, in other parts of the world, this is not as… accessible.”

Later this month, Peng will draw from the public speaking skills she’s polished as the Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival’s reigning Queen Annapolisa when she attends the Canadian Global Health Conference.

She firmly believes in advocating for equal opportunities for all.

“I think all of us have unlimited possibilities,” she says.

Peng hopes this message resonates close to home.

She enjoyed meeting Annapolis Valley residents of all ages as she toured the region in her Queen Annapolisa sash, gown and crown this summer.

She saw children light up at the sight of the princesses. She heard stories about the festivals of yesteryear while visiting seniors in care homes.

She remembers sitting atop the Queen Annapolisa float for the festival’s signature parade in Kentville, her thoughts initially consumed by a self-evaluation of her clamshell waves.

She eventually let her mind wander to her days as a parade spectator.

“It was definitely different being in it because when I was waving, I didn’t expect it to be so quiet up there because the band was playing in front of me, which was great. Parades go by slower when you’re on the float,” she recalls.

The heartwarming reception from the crowd put her at ease.

“It was really cool when people started clapping because I did not expect clapping… being up there I was really appreciating the cheers and support and when people smile at you, it really makes a difference.”

With the busy festival season well behind her, Peng thinks her polished Queen Annapolisa persona will continue to serve her well long after her successor is crowned next spring.

“I’m thinking maybe I should act more like Queen Annapolisa when I’m not in my dress,” she says with a laugh.

“It’s definitely an attitude that I like.”

UPCOMING EVENT:

Watch Chantal Peng’s upcoming recital at St. James Anglican Church Oct. 20 at 2 p.m. It’s a free concert supported by a grant from the Nova Scotia Talent Trust.

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