Category Archives: Guest Post

Confessions of a Chorister

By Khoo Wei Cyn

You may think that to join a choir group, you need to be able to sing well from the get-go. That’s got some truth to it, but only to a certain extent. What you really need in a group is the spirit of teamwork. We breathe together. We hit the high notes and low ones together. And we cover for each other when one of us runs out of breath. That’s what a choir is for; we sound good collectively when we can’t on our own.

Choral singing had been my lifeblood since 2010. The weekly practices with the Penang Philharmonic Chorus (PPC) are my panacea from life’s doldrums. Meeting friendly and familiar faces, taking part in the chatter and for two hours, breathing deeply then singing my heart out distracts my mind from trivial tribulations. Over the years, I’ve even learned to like the sound of my voice. I know the flaws in my voice and I appreciate the strengths that I have, experimenting with my breath and vocal articulations wherever I am least likely to embarrass myself.

I’d parted ways with the chorus after Martin Rutherford left. He had been our chorus master before he made penangpac his new “home”. However, the number of chorus members who remained at PPC weren’t enough to perform any major choral works in his absence, and when I heard news that he was appointed chorus master for The Actors Studio Chorus (TASC), I decided to join this new group, hoping to sing more grand pieces such as the Hallelujah Chorus and Zadok the Priest.

TASC was well into Week 6 of practice when I joined them. I had been swamped with Short+Sweet Theatre Festival before that, and between academic studies and my day job, I was stretched thin. Banking on my assumption that most of the carols were the ones I’d sung before at PPC, I hoped I could catch up with the choristers. Then I asked Martin if I could sing with them. The answer was yes.

Although there were many new and strange faces in the chorus, I warmed up to them very quickly. Now they are my new family, even though I hadn’t been looking for a new home. And I love the melody of all the carols! The Cowboy Carol, The First Nowell, Jubilate Domino and Sing Gloria are some of them. But the two songs titled The Holly and the Ivy and the Hallelujah Chorus are my all-time favourites as they feature uniquely polyphonic, contrapuntal music which sound amazing when performed flawlessly with an orchestral backing.

Martin is conducting with his usual emphasis on consonants and synchrony. It’s pronounced “lit-tel”, he keeps reminding us. Don’t sing during the two-beat rest unless you want your name to be in the programme as a soloist! he teases. But after 17 rehearsals, those words don’t faze us anymore. We’re ready to sing our hearts out. We’re ready to draw you into the beauty of choral music. And we’re dead serious about making good music for everybody!

A neophyte to theatre, Khoo Wei Cyn has just survived a thespian’s adventure at Short+Sweet Theatre Malaysia 2013 in Penang. She enjoys writing, reading and appreciating art in all forms. Her latest adventure will see her perform on stage in the The Actors Studio Chorus’s Family Christmas Concert 2013.

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Tickets for Family Christmas Concert 2013 can be purchased at TicketPro or the penangpac Box Office. For reservations or more information, call penangpac at 04-8991722 / 2722. 

 

Review: Marrying Me

Tying the Knot? … Not!

By Khoo Wei Cyn

Images courtesy of PenTAS

Everyone has their own notions on what a complete and well-lived life comprises. For most of the older generation, their notion is centred on marriage, which, in part, is the product of our survival instincts for ensuring the continuity of our genetic line. Produced by The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac) and Performing Arts Centre of Penang (penangpac), Marrying Me: A New Musical, directed by Christopher Ling, addresses this concept through script, dance and song for four days; from 5-8 December at stage 2, penangpac and 12-22 December at pentas 2, klpac.

Be sure to get your ticket today!
Be sure to get your ticket today!

In the musical, Stephanie (the main character) rebels against tradition and stigma to live a life she wants; freedom from all the problems that come when the “going gets tough” in a marriage. Her idea of normalcy clashes with that of her mother’s (Sandra). For Sandra, the desire to live as a woman in a matriarchal role and having a happy marriage is the normal path where as Stephanie, the NGO fighter for women’s rights, has seen the reality of marriages gone sour. To Stephanie, that reality is normalcy, and she wants to protect herself from that situation by being independent and self-sufficient.

More and more details about Stephanie’s upbringing are revealed as the musical progresses into the second act. We learn that her mother was a victim of an abusive marriage, and Tony, the man whom Stephanie had loved dearly, reminded her of her own father. Determined to never repeat the mistake her mother made, she insists on a life of singlehood but this is thwarted by Sandra’s faked chronic illness, where she makes Stephanie promise to get married in her “dying wish”. Whether she goes on with her promise or not, that you would have to discover for yourself.

Marrying Me is certainly the musical to watch. Its upbeat, snazzy music peppered with doses of comedy and hilarity is brought to life by a spectacular lead actress and a solid cast. I loved the music and the way the lyrics were written, plus the scenes where comic relief was prevalent to break up the sombre mood reflective of Stephanie’s dilemma.

You don’t have to love singlehood to appreciate this musical; I’m sure you can draw some parallels with your experiences about marriage from it. And if you’re single, you may walk away feeling better about staying that way. But no matter who you are, I think that you will enjoy watching Marrying Me as much as I did. What’s not to love about good music, great fun and endearing characters?

*A neophyte to theatre, Khoo Wei Cyn has just survived a thespian’s adventure at Short+Sweet Theatre Malaysia 2013 in Penang. She enjoys writing, reading and appreciating art in all forms.

RTL Diaries

By Jackie Ashkin

We’re at that stage. Not a literal stage with lights and such. But a stage in preparation. The stage where nobody feels ready and lines are dropped and fits of giggle appear at random.

We’re about a week away from the show. So it’s normal. A worn out director, Mr. Mark Sasse, sits in front of us, looking stressed as can be. He’s rubbing his hands across his face, his notebook strewn across the floor. It’s that stage for him, too. The one where he’s probably very tempted to yell at anyone who asks for a water break.

Our choreographer, Mrs. Rachel Chand, just sits and watches us, an unreadable expression on her face. She’s probably hoping we’ll start straightening our arms some time soon.

We’ve been a group for a while now; we know each other’s tendencies. Two of my friends stand toward the back, practicing the “awkward flamingo” – a one-legged stance declaring a lack of confidence in what exactly they are supposed to be doing.

I stand by the side and try to practice my solo. I keep forgetting to breathe, which can prove itself a problem three-fourths of the way through a note. As I look around me, I can only think of how much I am going to miss these people who I have learnt to love. It’s my last “season” with RLT – I’m bittersweet.

I have seen the group I envisioned so long ago, discussing silly things with Ciera Nash and Mr. Sasse, grow into something truly beautiful. Evolving from a one-night show into a fully fledged, long-term ensemble; it’s about to see its third time through. For a high school group, RLT is pretty amazing.

This time, we will bring the audience an eclectic choice of dramatic sketches, ranging in subject from giant squids to annoying children. Granted, the giant squid does not eat the annoying child. But it’s still worth watching.

Come see Season Three of the RLT players at penangpac’s Stage 2 on November 22 at 5pm and 8pm or November 23 at 3pm and 8pm. Or come to all four shows! You never know what could happen.

Jackie Ashkin has been on the stage since she was a wee lass. Most recently, she has been really involved with Dalat Original Drama and the Short+Sweet Festival in Penang as an actor, director, and playwright. As well as winning Best Supporting Actress at this year’s Festival, she directed the winner of Best Script, No In Spite of Itself, which will be included in the upcoming RLT show.

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Tickets for Captured In Time & Space can be purchased at TicketPro or the penangpac Box Office. For reservations or more information, call penangpac at 04-8991722 / 2722.