The best news came. Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) reopened its doors on March 2021 after over a year being closed due to the pandemic. I actually missed part 1 of Let’s Tour the World back in Feb 2020. I was more than curious to know how to tour the world with music. Since we are deprived from travelling now, how interesting it would be to let music and visual arts carry me to different parts of the world.
As It was Family Fun Day, I brought along my young 9 year old date. It was comforting to note the strict SOP employed in the hall, where social distancing was in place. The usual row of 6 seaters now only allow 1 or 2 persons per row. All the more reasons for us to book the shows in advance.
MPO’s Resident Conductor since 2019 Gerard Salonga helmed the tour. Not only leading the orchestra, he also introduced each piece in detail. We learned a little about the countries where the music came from. We were treated to visuals of each country’s famous icons and sceneries on the large screen.
The journey started from non other than Malaysia, with a piece titled Mercu Kegemilangan by Vivian Chua. This piece was commissioned by the MPO to celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2017. This was a really beautiful piece for me, as it somehow stirred emotions of patriotism for my country, Malaysia. There were themes that incorporated the multi cultural aspects of Malaysia. The instruments and sounds were celebrative and solemn in certain parts. Indeed, it certainly made me miss the major celebrations we used to have. Do you remember our Merdeka parades, opening ceremonies of sporting events, cultural performances and more?
Our second destination was all the way to Denmark, a 20 hours flight away! We were whisked to the Nordic country with the music of their most famous composer Carl Nielsen, Maskarade Overture. Salonga explained how he picked this piece which is not widely known outside of Denmark. It was great as an introduction to the young audience. The music which incorporates many of wind instruments certainly kept us tapping our feet. We swayed to the punchy short notes of excitement. It felt like travelling in a hot air balloon across the brightly coloured 17th and early 18th century buildings of the Nyhavn. It certainly was a trip through a history lesson of Denmark all spoken through music.
Next up, we travelled a huge distance all the way to Australia with Paul Stanhope’s Jet-Stream. Jet-stream is all about fast movement, high energy and swirling air played by the brass instruments. I was loving all the song choices so far thanks to Salonga. The tempo was kept high most of the time and ended with a sudden bang as the climax.
We moved on to the next Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe with Music for Bali. This piece has a dramatic string ensemble backed by the percussions of the Balinese gamelan, a traditional Indonesian orchestra. The solemn music bring us to the memories of 2002 Bali bombings as images of the memorials fill the screen. Sculthorpe actually extracted elements from Tabuh-tabuhan, another piece from 1968. It surely stirred out hearts for Bali, the land everyone loves. Even Salonga claimed he wished he can go there again.
Moving on the the friendly neighbouring country of New Zealand was Peter Hamilton’s Elysian Fields. Another anniversary piece, this was commissioned by the Auckland Youth Orchestra for its 50th anniversary in 1998. This is also a piece that starts off really grand, creating a beautiful entrance into the plains of Auckland. I could imagine flying in and slowly landing in an area near Hobbit on. There’s quite many turns in this piece, much like a movie soundtrack.
HAMILTON Jalan Pekeliling
Finally, our trip ended back in Malaysia with a piece by Peter Hamilton once again aprtly named Jalan Pekeliling. Yes, Jalan Pekeliling does exist in KL, very nearby to KLCC. Hamilton was inspired when he passed by the road sign and decided to name the piece after this very busy area of KL. For my 9 year old, this was his favourite piece. It was a jazzy energetic encounter that even involved a ‘fight’ between the bass and the tuba. Truly, it seemed to represent swirling atmosphere in Jalan Pekeliling during peak hours.
Let’s Tour the World: II was creatively put together to give audiences young and old a really enjoyable tour. It truly immersed us in music that transported us to different parts of the world. Do note that all MPO showcases will now be shortened to an hour as part of the SOP to ensure the safety of all attendees. There are more amazing concerts coming up in May, do check them out.