中秋节 Zhōng Qiū Jié 2007

Moody light from the lanterns
25th September marks the mid-autumn festival for 2007. This year I celebrated the event with a few of my friends at Siao Tan's current place of residence at Bayu Puteri, Tropicana. Compared to previous years, it was a pretty low key affair this time round ... everyone after work and tired.

Whilst some when for a quick dip in the pool (whether voluntary or forced :D) others busied themselves with lighting the 6 lanterns ... yeah, 6 only. We weren't the only ones by the pool though as many other families and groups were also celebrating the mid autumn festival at different corners of the area. Some were having barbeques whilst others only had children around for them to light their lanterns. The wind blew strongly and threatened to blow off our lanterns in the beginning before we swtiched plans and used a piece of string to suspend them. Third time is really the charm when hanging the lanterns as the string caught fire ... we definitely did not graduate from "tiu tanglung tai hok"

Our initial arrangement, but it kept falling down
Pic with Cat
This is our shrine to appease the gods/deities of the night. Our god is very one kind one ... need alcohol (left and centre), cordial (right) and cigarettes ... very unhealthy. It is a recipe either for lung cancer, kidney failure or diabetes (hahaha!)

All together now!....OHMMMMMMMMM
Effects of setting up the altar is sudden cold gusts of wind and necessity to group close together.

Catherine Wong trying to show off her silap mata tak jadi. Still no one knows what she was trying to do ... maybe burn the gazebo down.

Now you see it...
Tutup kedai before moving up to Siao Tan's apartment for soup! Even this took nearly an hour 'cause Cat had a great idea of testing everybody's breath power with a candle. Long story short, every one all full of air only.

Ratu Tanglung 2007
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High School Musical 2 hits local shores!!

Huge crowd turnout Its been 2 weeks since HSM2 premiered on the Disney channel here in Malaysia (and whole of SEA I guess) and the craze has definately caught on. I went to the Astro HSM2 event held at 1 Utama yesterday just because it was so near and it's great to hear Jaclyn Victor sing live. The crowd was huge and was mostly made up of tweens and kids screaming their lungs out to the soundtrack that was being piped through the PA system.

The stage with the Hari Raya minaret at the back Every inch of space was filled on every floor! The event was scheduled at 1pm but as usual, local rubber time pushed the start time to 1:30pm with bubbly Natalie from Hitz.fm leading the crowd into a frenzy for prizes. The key word for the day was "ME!" repeat ad libitum.

Vince and Jac with Natalie on stage After a couple dozen goodie bags were grabbed away, Vince and Jac were brought on stage to perform after a quick interview from Natalie. They performed both versions of the song "You are the music in me" in english and malay live and they sounded pretty good. The duet was far better then the trio that was made for the first HSM which was a collaboration between Vince, Nikki Gil from Phillipines and Alicia Pan from Singapore. In HSM, the three of them (all good in their own way) did not work together musically on the song "Breaking Free" with most parts sounding forced or out of range. Imagine a guy singing a part higher than a girls' and that was how painful to the ear it was. Whoever did that arrangement and produced it needs to get his ears checked. Problems with HSM2? The translated lyrics were wierd - roughly translated back into meaning you are the music in my heart but I guess it had to be done to fit into the note/syllable/rhythm of the song. Oh well ... I'm gonna try out blogspot's video hosting feature with the same video I uploaded onto Youtube of both the performances by Jac and Vince. Enjoy!!

Kau muzik di hatiku

You are the music in me

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Blogger testing ... file uploads and downloads?

Blogger is limited in the sense of allowing file uploads and downloads. This is probably as a preventive measure to save on bandwidth resources. To overcome this there are workarounds but this involves hosting the file on external sites and linking back to the blog.

This post is just my own test to see how effective this method of posting/hosting is. The file below is my transcription of the reprise of "What I've Been Looking For" from Disney's High School Musical. Its not 100% true to the recording but close enough to pass. Its encrypted and protected so if you really want it you have to find a way to contact me. The score is NOT for sale. I just wrote it 'cos its the one song missing from the published PVG book from Hal Leonard (the other pieces suck anyway mainly because the songs are more percussive pieces instead of piano ones).

Download test file here

Two weeks, two competitions, two victories ... too tired (Part 2)

One week after the MOHE Inter-IHL competition was the Malaysian Youth Orchestra Foundation 2007 Malaysian Youth Music Festival. The event was held at the Palace of the Golden Horses and garnered over 400 entries (majority in the piano categories though). The place was packed with kids, teens, adults and parents all over the place.

Winning pose on stageWe sent two teams in; XUM and UMRC (or internally known simply as Team A and Team B ... alongside Teams N and X) and presented a total of four songs. Both teams comprised of students from various kolej-es in UM. As luck would have it, XUM was the first team to perform on that afternoon's competition against 8 other teams (not counting UMRC of course) and included groups from Young KL Singer's and Klang Chamber Choir. We sang two songs, Belaian Jiwa and Ice Kacang whilst UMRC sang Out of my Head and Obladi Oblada. UMRC was the fourth team to perform their set. I'm not counting the YKLS performance as the first because I'm still not sure if they were under the same category as us or not because they had far less people than us and were actually entered under the small ensemble category instead.

Surprisingly (and really honestly) XUM won first place and UMRC won third place in the competition. This time round I would have willingly surrendered the placings to the Klang Chamber Choir which was really well polished or to the Green Meadow Theatre Troupe which performed their set really well ... and they were kids probably not more than 12 years in age!! Second place did eventually fall to the Klang Chamber Choir that performed a tight rendition of the Korean song Arirang.

Trophies ×2
Klang Chamber Choir, XUM and UMRC
Bad points of the competition - prizes, or lack thereof for any other category other than the piano group. Seems that through lack of sponsorship/funding/support there weren't any prizes made available for other categories. Although it was an enjoyable and different experience, it unfortunately will probably be the last time we enter any competition organised by MYOF. It isn't justified to spend so much (RM600 for two teams not inclusive of other expenditures such as travelling, toll, printing, etc) and get practically nothing in return other than the trophy and a namesake in the 2007 records.

Good points - it allowed the choir members to feel what it is like to participate in a competition where you do not know the other groups and their capabilities. Feseni UM has become somewhat of a predictable event with the majority of the teams repeating old songs/arrangements and is very boring. It also allowed for greater repertoire instead of being held back into presenting patriotic songs in either English or Malay only.

Score/arrangement wise, I'm still fine-tuning the pieces but I've managed to find a style and range that everyone seems to be comfortable with. Belaian was an experimental attempt in trying to convey the same instrumentation from the recording made by Innuendo into a vocal a-cappella piece. There are still places to fix and parts to enhance which had to be changed from the original score due to vocal ranges and lack of practise, but overall I'm kinda happy with the outcome ... still need a better ending though 'cos the current one doesn't build enough for a strong impact.

Ice Kacang is an oldie sung by the Kopi Kat Klan group from Singapore. This arrangement was first performed by the KK9 choir in 2004 and is based around a score previously arranged by Issac Chia. His arrangement was for SATB voices for the group he wrote it for, and based on this I rewrote and rearranged (with permission) the parts and doubled up the voicing to a SSAATTBB arrangement so as not to break up the vocal phrases and complete the chords ala the recording style. The piece still needs work though as simplifications had to be made to the sop accompaniment and the altos are still sumbang at parts. These little problematic nuances do add a little charm to the overall effect of the piece though :)

Obladi-oblada is a re-arrangement of the piece performed by the King's Singers in which the altos now carry the majority of the melody line. This is rather rare as most often melodies go to either the sopranos or tenors since they are the higher voices and can be heard better against the accompanying parts. This arrangment was similar to the performance done by KK9 for the 2006 Feseni Choir competition in UM (we won back then too ... hee hee!!)

I can't remember where I obtained the OOMH score from but the performance by UMRC was based mostly on the arrangement I got. I don't claim arrangement rights to the song though since I didn't do it ... I merely fixed it in places. The group did do an amazing job and the vocal percussion addon at the very last minute (the night before, actually) did help the whole piece gel together.

Overall it was a satisfying experience albeit very tiring. We (XUM) had to rush back for a night performance in which YABhg Tun Dr Siti Hasmah was the guest of the evening. She seem to enjoy our performance of Ice Kacang as I could see her smiling from her seat. Her feelings also seem to reflect into the audience that was present as they laughed and swayed to whatever we were singing on stage (we were also dead tired by then). She made it a point to actually come up to where we were seated and talk to us about our performance and ask us about stuff like where we were from, what we were doing and such. She also made a note that she wants to have a choir like ours in her university ... if she only knew (gawd help me!!).

Anyways, weeks of work and effort alongside several unplanned and unwanted events along the way paid off with two trophies, multiple photos and countless memories. Now they want to do a recording for their MYOF CD (which we are still contemplating) and then practices begin next week for the upcoming Feseni 2008 ... tak tahan liao ... need a break ... So what piece am I working/twiddling around with now? Trying out Aerosmith's I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing from Amah-ge-dan

Pic with our judge, Ms Delia
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UM Convocation 2007

Another year, another graduation ceremony. This year I only know of 4 people graduating from UM ... the least so far I guess. There are probably others but I can't for the life of me remember who they are right now. I only attended one day this year due to work obligations and traffic problems. So congratulations to all the UM graduates of 2007.

Two weeks, two competitions, two victories ... too tired (Part 1)

This is a very late post ... it's been a hectic couple of weeks with consecutive competitions, both at the public/national level. The first was on the 25th of August which was the Malaysian Institute of Higher Learning Merdeka Choir Competition (Pertandingan Koir IPT) finals held in Johor. We made our way to Johor on the night of 24th August by bus on a journey which took 5 hours ... with 3 long pitstops though :)

Bus trip to Johor

At the Ayer Keroh rest stop. Other pics not shown 'cos too mpssk

We were housed in the new UTHM hostels (Dewasiswa I think ... Desasiswa is the correct one) in different block across the campus grounds. The hostels were apartment styled with rooms for 3 - 4 students each. Some were in apartments with up to 7 rooms whilst others only had 3 rooms. The room I was in was waaaayyy up on the fifth floor. Although the climb was tiring the view was great. We reached at around 1:30am only to find out that UPSI was on their way and were expected to reach UTHM two hours later! With nothing much to do on that early morning we tried to get some sleep before the 7:30am scheduled meetup time to go for breakfast/warmups.

Hostel grounds at night. This is the view from the block I stayed in

Early morning stretches

Pre-rehearsal warmups

Our imported pianist ... yes we're still cursed without an in-kolej pianist even after 8 years

Up the steps to the backstage of the hall

After the quick rehearsal it was lunch time which was provided by the organisers and thankfully this time the choir didn't have to wait for the food to arrive (unlike what happened in Putrajaya)

Lunch time is a public affair

There was nothing much to do after lunch and there was still 5 hours to go before we had to be at the competition venue again at 7p.m. Checkout time from the hostels were supposed to be at 3 but we took a risk and told everyone to get ready for checkout at 4:30 instead. This would give everyone a chance to catch up on well needed rest/sleep. This plan was disrupted by a heavy downpour which lasted the entire night. We ended up having to checkout at 5 and reached UTHM campus again at 5:20. Just in time for dinner and a quick round to warmups and final rehearsals.

Sops in full costume for the final run




Overview of the hall and stage at Dewan Tunku Ibrahim Ismail, UTHM

Entering the hall and taking seats

Random glamour pic :P

Just before the competition began and before the VIPs arrived, the choir was asked to make the way to the foyer for a press photography session alongside the other performers of the night. This was just plain wierd as we were the only choir asked to go out. I did notice some other choirs trying to follow us out (maybe thinking we were going for warmups perhaps?) but were instead ushered back to their seats by the ushers in the hall. Still ... it was wierd exiting and entering the hall later :P

Press opportunity!!

The competition started late at 8:45 but everything proceeded quickly enough because each team only had one song to perform. UM was the second team to perform after UPSI. Eng seong and I had to run for out lives to get from the backstage (where we were doing last minute mic settings and checks) to the hall to grab pictures and record videos)

Backstage shot ... seconds before performing for the competition!

One mad dash later to the front entrance caught them at the entry of the main verse

UCSI were once again at their best with their amazing sops and altos ... this made their guys sound a little weak though in comparison. UKM performed an amazing medley of 5 or 6 patriotic songs very ingeniously blended together. Supposedly they had just learnt the piece in the weeks after the prelims at Putrajaya. Kudos to them for a job well done!

UTM presented a very familiar arrangement of Wawasan 2020 (alongside another song which I forgot) which we managed to confirm was written by none other than their own choir director, the great Pak Herman. Seems that the score was leaked out and Kolej kediaman Ke-4 from UM managed to get the score and performed it in last year's Feseni choir competition. One thing though, you DEFINATELY can't beat the original (ciplak tak best la) and hearing UTM perform the piece was amazing. Comparing them, KK4's version sounded lacking, dead at times and to mechanical.

Ten teams later and after an inspiring and exhilarating performance by the dancers from UTHM, the results were announced ... but this was not before the trophies and mock cheques were paraded in. Everything really had a sense of pomp and circumstance to it (no matter how simplistic it was ... Good Job UTHM!).

Entrance of the prizes

First and second place trophies in gold and silver hues

Third place trophy in bronze hue

Long story short, we won the first ever Inter IHL Merdeka Choir Competition. Second place fell to UTM whilst third went to UCSI. Honestly speaking, I had already surrendered the first second and third placings to UKM, UTM and UCSI respectively and did not expect the first prize at all. Maybe its because I'm so sick of the song ... or we know it too well and we can easily hear the mistakes (there were many believe me, from pitching to tempo mistakes) but I tend to criticise the choir's performance too much. Along with the trophy came a cheque for RM3,500 of which we have yet to see a sen of it. Who knows? We may never see any of it if HEP gets their way. Oh well ...

More press pics ... but never in any newspapers *sigh*

After a final performance of both the songs sung at the preliminaries and finals the competition came to a close with everyone feeling elated and on top of the world. It was 12:30 when we started out journey back to KL by bus. Couple of hours later, we made a roadside stop as we noticed that the UKM bus was pulled up on the side of the dark highway. Upon alighting the bus, it turns out they had a pretty bad busted front tire. Their driver seemed a little blur 'cos he didn't know how to do much of anything about the problem ... 'heck' he didn't even have the right tools on the bus to fix anything. Whilst the drivers tried to figure out the situation, both the choir members from UKM and UM held a roadside concert for the highway ghosts :D

After many attempts and 1.5 hours later, the drivers decided to give up (they had drained the UKM bus' batteries too because their headlights had been on high the whole time). After calling the PLUS RONDA hotline, we decided to give a lift to the UKM team on our bus to the nearest R&R since it was pretty dangerous to be at the side of the highway - especially with the other cars and lorries going at least 150kph and with their bus having no indicator/warning lights.

Its amazing that the UM bus managed to move at all. We were overloaded (Sorry JPJ!!) over the maximum capacity of 40 people OTR. With the UKM team, we probably had around 90+ people on board but a 45 minute trip later, we made it to the Pagoh rest stop at which we parted ways with the UKM team (they made it back later at around 12). After everyone made a quick pitstop, we continued our journey back to KK9-KL and reached at around 6:15 in the morning.

4a.m. at the Pagoh R&R ... and its not out of focus, thats just cold mist!

Everyone just went straight to their rooms/homes cos there was practise later at 7p.m. later that day ... now you know why I said it was tiring.

[End of part 1]

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