Saturday, May 2, 2015

Singing with the Young KL Singers (YKLS)!

The sound of the audience chattering as they settle down into their seats filter back to the crossover, where you and your fellow performers await for the performance to start. Tonight it's going to be a full house and the audience seats are slowly being filled to the brim. One of your friend looks at you and gives a thumbs up, "Break a Leg", she whispers and the gesture and that often cited word of encouragement echo down among your other members. The lights dim, the chattering subsides and then the standard pre-recorded announcement begins, "Ladies and Gentlemen..." before ending with "and now, sit back, relax... and enjoy the performance..." followed by a GONG to signify the start of the traditional 'buka panggung' performance. Some of your friends move out through the wings, sitting under the spotlight to do the dance, then as soon as it begins, it was over and those friends that were on stage stand together in a circle motionless as they wait the next queue. A loud thump of the drum, and its time for me to step in... "Wuuuuuu-uh!" I sung as a hundred pair of eyes tracked us as we file into formation... 
The Circle of Light
And thus begins my first ever stage performance with the Young KL Singers (YKLS) that was titled Incantations, held at Damansara Performing Arts Center (DPAC) back in October 2014. Nearly 10 months of rehearsals have led to this climax.
Musings in full tribal 'war paint'... ;)
How did I find myself on stage with this wacky, fun and interesting people? Well, it all started off with a performance by the YKLS in the preceding year at KUASH Theatre in TTDI. That performance was given the (rather odd) titled 'Period'. Hehehe... (The conductor later explained that 'Period' was chosen for the type of songs sung which were mainly from the Classical and Baroque eras of music).

A friend of mine was already with the choir and invited me and a group of friends to watch. I have to say that I was really impressed by the choreography, especially when you have to move around, settle in formations, all the while making sure you are hitting the correct notes! The lighting and costumes really do make it look like its a quality performance, very professional. :) While watching, I had thought well, 'I have always been watching a performance from the audience seat all this while and loved musicals... I wonder how it would be like to be on the other side?' ;) I asked one of my friend who watched with me whether he would be interested to join the choir together with me but he declined. That put the plan on the backburner a bit. At the same time, the YKLS went into a hiatus as the year ended as it prepares for next year's performance. I did manage to bump into them again at Publika singing Christmas Carols, again very nicely done.

It was not until Chinese New Year came back in 2014 when my friend who was a choir member asked whether anyone in my group of friends would be interested to audition for the next intake. Throwing caution into the wind, I decided to go and in the middle of February 2014, I was singing my first scale to the 'boss' of Young Choral Academy (YCA) and what I later found out to be a very notable figure in the choir/singing world as well, Ms. Susanna Saw. ;) Judged to be a Baritone, I then took my position in the choir singing the Bass 1 parts.
Rehearsal at YCA. Spot the Maestro... ;)
From then on, there was no looking back as we rehearsed firstly once a week, then twice and by August three times a week, conducted (most of the time) by our most gifted Conductor, the famous Mak Chi Hoe. ;) ;)  In August, we are introduced to our production manager, Ian Chow and choreographer Cikgu Lex. Both work with KLPac and are highly skilled and motivated. ;) The introduction of Cikgu Lex was quite interesting as a week before I had watched a performance of a show called a 'Street Car Named Desire' at KLPac, entirely done without any script with only music and dance to tell the story. Choreography for that show was by Cikgu Lex and boy was I excited to find out that *he* will be teaching us some 'moves' as well for Incantations! :) For Stage Props and Costumes, we have Adrien, a former YKLS member himself providing us with innovative ways to spruce up the stage with visually stunning and yet cost effective options.
If you haven't figured it out, it's toilet paper hung from the ceiling. ;) 
What went on after that was a grueling fast paced series of vocal rehearsals complete with choreography that let to our final 'graduation' performance in October. There was sweat and no small amount of tears shed as well as we rushed to perfect our presentation but in the end the performance was met with three nights of sold out crowds! :)
Jubiaba with our high priestess at the centerstage.
But it was the journey to this final goal that I truly enjoyed. Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to be a full time musician or performer to be in the choir. While some members are indeed performers and music teachers, the majority of the group come from a wide variety of professions, from stiff, conservative Engineers (like me ;)), to stiff, conservative bankers, interior designers, business owners, auditors, students, nurses, aesthetic consultants and house wives. ;) Each bring with them a cornucopia of flavors to the group, making it a vibrant and sometimes explosive mix to the scene... ;) I have made a lot of friends and outside of rehearsals, we go for coffee breaks, play boardgames and go on road trips. :) I've heard, quite a number of members found their 'one-true-love' in the choir as well.
Playing Boardgame... you may occasionally catch me and some of my mates at the All Aboard Gaming Community Center at Damansara Jaya on Friday evenings. 
Now the qualification to join... nothing, save you are not tone deaf. ;) hehehehe...

After the performance at DPAC, the troupe went on to perform a repeat in Penang's PenangPAC before going on a hiatus until early this year. For Christmas, we did a gig for 1Utama, singing Christmas Carols at the Old Wing and New Wing.
Check our choir member's Zhen's Vlog documenting our crazy adventure in Penang for our performance! :) (Incidentally, he is also the brader of famous local celebrity, guess who? ;))
Backstage craziness at PenangPac... :p ;)
Singing in a Christmas Wonderland... YKLS at 1Utama 2014! :D
In March this year, we were given the opportunity to sing together with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) for Danny Elfman's Music from Tim Burton's Movies. It was a truly great experience as I was literally standing on the stage along with my fellow performing friends in the presence of the MPO! Marvelous! :)
I am the MPO! Heheh can you spot me? :) Yes, I am the greenish 'Hulk' with the number 3 on my er... arm. ;) 
Coming this year is our next performance at KLPac, titled Illuminations. In contrast to last year's 'tribal' theme in Incantations with rich colors, traditional dance and native looking costume, this year's performance will be held almost entirely in the dark, with only the sounds of vocals and music and the occasional 'illuminating' lights to dazzle the audience. It's going to be an almost magical experience as the audience feels like they are lying down on a countryside grassy hill overlooking a moon lit river in the middle of the night, staring at the Milky Way as the hymm of the universe is brought forth by the winds into the ears, recalling past life melodies. ;)

Well, catch our performance in August or perhaps even join us as part of our troupe. We are always in need of Basses, Tenors and Altos... ;)
Bass 1s... Baritones... we rock! :D
One last thing to take note though, for those intending to join, this is a 'community' choir and like our very much famous cousin in the United States, the Mormon Tabernacle... we literally pay to sing. ;) The payment is actually tuition fees to YCA in exchange for the top notch guidance from our conductors. So if you intend to 'cari makan' singing, you can learn at YCA to 'cari makan' at other gigs. ;) For most of us, the joy of singing in harmony is what brings us back for every rehearsal, performance after performance. In fact to me, the experience is also very therapeutic, considering the stress we get at work. And no, unlike the general conception on choirs, we don't sing religious songs (although I am not counting our Christmas gigs ;), participation for that is optional for members). We sing choir songs composed by talented composers from all cultures.
Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do!
So, once again, if you have some spare time (and a little bit of money ;)), come join us, sing with us and make new friends while getting the experience to be literally in the limelight. :) Otherwise, come watch our performance in August 2015 at KLPac.

OUR website:-

To join, come to:-

Young Choral Academy (TTDI)
114A, Jalan Burhanuddin Helmi,
Taman Tun Dr Ismail, 60000 Kuala Lumpur. +6014-624 2733
+603-7733 4691 (TTDI)

Auditions are usually at the beginning of January to about end of March every year.

To watch and buy tickets:-

Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Center (KLPac)
Tel: 4047 9000

TicketPro Online Ticketing

At the time of writing this blog (2nd May 2015) tickets for Illuminations (the vocal one) have not yet been opened for sale. Check KLPac site again maybe back in late June or July. ;)

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