Kampungkayell

Food, life, and fun in my "kampung,"(village), KL (Kuala Lumpur). Did I mention "food?"

A Tale of Two Choirs

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

After wending our way up to that chaotic swamp of humanity otherwise known as Genting Highlands and fighting with daytrippers who were jockeying for the best position to do whatever, we eventually settled into our shiny hard plastic chairs and awaited the opening strains of arguably, the worlds' most famous children's choral group, The Vienna Boy's Choir.

Much to our surprise, the opening act was our very own Operafest Children's Choir. We sat back, looking forward to this very highly acclaimed piece of Malaysiana. We'd been told during the introduction that they were international award winners and choral groups of children are at their very worst, endearing.

The opening chords proved me wrong.

Their diction was garbled, so whatever they were singing was unintelligible. The poor sound system did not help matters. During the Toreador's solo from the opera 'Carmen' the boy who was supposed to be singing was yelling. I'm not certain if he was taught to sing that way, but if he carries on, he will damage his voice well before his 20s. Singing is like playing a piano or learning a musical instrument. If you think of your voice as a musical instrument you can learn to play it and maximise its capabilities. If you don't, you can damage the instrument. Imagine banging on a piano day in and day out for 10 years with no proper care.

And they carried on in that way singing and prancing their way around the stage like little marionettes pulled by a very determined puppet master.

Furthermore, 'Carmen' is a very adult opera with very adult themes. It is a beautiful Bizet opera, grand, fiery, passionate but dealing with themes like sexual love, jealousy, and crimes of passion. It seemed incongruous that a children's group was singing some of the numbers.

At the end, the conductor, one Mrs Kam Sun Yoke, ascended the stage with her shawl flowing behind her like an avenging Valkyrie and exclaimed almost bitterly, "We are of international standard. Please give my children a chance."

We feel that the audience were quite willing to allow the children their moment in the spotlight, but after that the mood turned decidedly uncertain and for some, unforgiving.

Then came The Vienna Boy's Choir. And the almost unbearable stifling warmth. For some reason best known to the organisers, they decided not to switch on the airconditioning. Most of the doors were closed so ventilation was at a minimum. With about 2000 people in the hall, it got stuffy very fast.

The first act was vintage Vienna Boys Choir. Tight harmonies, good rhythm, and fully at ease while performing the song. No nonsense, technically perfect singing. If you closed your eyes, they would sound and feel the same as when you watched them.

The second act was livelier but technically a huge let down. The mikes failed. One of the boys had to have 1 technician run out on stage to fix the problem. He was a little tyke who just stood there with a grin on his face. And he just picked up where he left off. Thoroughly the professional. I think people don't know how tough it is to maintain your focus like that for a stage production. Technical mistakes are awful and can only be laid at the feet of the organisers.

So, let's just sum this up;

Bad parking - DON'T GO TO GENTING
Hordes of ill mannered people - DON'T GO TO GENTING
Awful technicians masquerading as people who know what they're doing - DON'T GO TO GENTING
Bitter local conductors - DON'T GO TO...ooo I guess I can't lay this at Genting's door.
Bad performances by local groups with delusions of grandeur.

The were only one group of stars that afternoon. The children.

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