An evening with the stars of tomorrow


HAD I listened to it over the radio or from a taped recording, I would have thought it was the work of the professionals.

BRIGHT FUTURE: Keisha and Antony are already stars today.

I’m talking about the beautiful sounds at a concert that I had the privilege to be invited to, a fortnight ago. The great music was made by a group of students as young as seven. The instruments were a grand piano, a cello and violins of various sizes. It was a great event, in every sense of the word.

Having watched scenes of violence and disasters on TV for the previous few weeks, it was a relief, a welcome respite for me to be among the audience at the Tun Zaidi Auditorium of the Batu Lintang campus of the Teacher Education Institute.

A real treat.

It’s not often that ordinary residents of Kuching get the chance to enjoy ‘live’ classical music — works of famous composers. Some people do not appreciate classics, or they feel intimidated by so much greatness.

Don’t worry – Mozart, Bach and Beethoven are quite harmless!

Nowadays, the concert organisers do cater for everybody’s interest as far as possible; there will be contemporary, modern and traditional or jazzy stuff.

We heard all these that enchanted evening.

For Julia

The concert had been organised in honour of the late Datin Julia Chong, a dear friend of Auntie Di’s. We both remember Datin and the late Professor Dr Datuk Chong Chun Hian with affection – they would have enjoyed this concert immensely!

Sponsored by the Kuching Music Society, the performers were students from a music school in Kuala Lumpur plus local talents, among whom was the Chong’s granddaughter — Julie Chin (violin). Proceeds from the concert went to the Boys’ Home and the Kuching Autistic Society.

The evening started off with a tribute to Julia by one of her students, Lai Mei Kuen, founder and music director of The Talent Makers, who expressed her gratitude to Julia for guidance in piano teaching technique and for making her what she is today, an accomplished musician and teacher of music herself.

Not child’s play!

I was so impressed by the young musicians that I stayed on until 10pm, past my usual bedtime, and I didn’t nod off once! How I wished my parents had sent me to music lessons 60 years ago. At the age of 16, I began with the mouth organ (harmonica) and the ukulele to amuse myself. No other instrument after that. In adulthood, occasionally, I blew my own trumpet on a different score, from a different stage: politics.

The stars

The youngest performer, Chan Shao Yong (seven years), accompanied by Lai on the piano, was fiddling away with relish the ‘Bouree’ by JS Bach, giving the appreciative audience the first taste of fine music of the evening. Last year, he won two silvers in the violin category and two golds for piano at the Kinabalu Youth Music Festival.

BRIGHT FUTURE: Keisha and Antony are already stars today.

Keisha Te Ziyi (nine years) played K Bailey’s ‘Miss Miles’. She started piano lessons at the age of five and is preparing for Grade 3 examination. We wish her success.

Chan Jing Yuan, piano to start with, now three years into violin, won one gold in the Classical and Romantic category at the same Kinabalu festival. She performed F Seitz’s ‘Concert No. 2 in G Major, op 13, 3rd Movement’.

Then came 10-year-old pianist, Yeo Wei Le from Melaka, who played the ‘Blues in G’ by D Urquhart-Jones.

He started music lessons at the age of seven and is preparing for Grade 8 examination after winning the first prize for Modern Pianoforte Grade 4 at the ANZCA Music Festival last year.

Another pianist and violinist, Wong Zhu Shi, also 10 years old, plays both classical and modern pieces. She wants to be a molecular gastronomist when she grows up. For that evening she and her partner Yeoh Wei Le enthralled the crowd with their rendition of ‘Kachaturian Waltz’. Auntie Di and I were swaying away to the amusement of our neighbours who were tapping along. If music be the food of love, carry on …

Hayden Kua Yuhong, barely nine, impressed the audience with his ‘Friday Groove’ by R Keane. At charity functions, he enjoys playing violin and piano. He is on Grade 5 piano and we will be hearing and seeing more of this budding musician who started playing piano at home at the age of five before he went for formal lessons.

Antony Goon Kin Seng (12) is a member of the Permata Seri Muzik Orchestra, and preparing for the Trinity College examination. Two years ago, he was the youngest winner in the violin competition organised by the Malaysian Youth Orchestra Foundation. He has performed in Singapore and has appeared on Astro TV. He played a violin piece by Mozart, with Khoo Ker Shin on the piano.

Those above 10 years old are Lim Jia Ying, Leong Pui Ying, Jonathan  Long Thien Xiang and Shulamite Chin Shi Ling.

I have no credentials to comment on the performance of these musicians — they were impressive like real professionals. They are already stars of today.

Then I had a lump in my throat when the announcer revealed that the piano solo on the piece by Dutilleux – the ‘Arabesque on The Blue Danube Waltz’ (arranged by Schulz-Evler) was to be performed by Wong Shuen Da. The Danube is one of my favourites.

That rendition of W Kroll’s ‘Banjo and Fiddle’ by Lim Jia Ying (violin) and Khoo Ker Sin (piano) is an example of how persons of differing ages can produce great music together – Jia Ying is doing her Diploma and Ker Sin her doctorate. Ker Sin had earlier impressed the audience with Julia’s variations on ‘Rasa Sayang’.

Leong Pui Ying (17) played the ‘Rondo Capricciaso’ by F Mendelssohn, another of my favourite. I wished to thank her after the show but she was on her handphone to boyfriend or mum. Pui Ying is a teacher — of music, of course.

I must mention Jonathan Long Thien Xiang, active participant in anything musical, playing for charity. In Indonesia, he was playing with the Lippo Karawaci Community Orchestra. At so young an age but having deep affinity with the masters like Chopin and Beethoven, Pui Ying was accorded the honour to perform in Melbourne at the recent International Piano Teachers’ Conference.

The career of one of the youngsters to follow is that of Shulamite Chin Shi Ling. Only 18, she has collected a string of diplomas. In 2010, she was awarded bursaries by AICM to study in Sydney followed by a four year scholarship to study at the Birmingham Conservatoire, UK.

Together with the Malaysian pianist Wong Shuen Da, the duet’s treatment of A Bazzini’s ‘Dance of the Goblins’, simply mesmerised the audience.

Shuen Da, with latest accolade, first prize in the Oxford Music Festival 2010, has an impressive repertoire of achievements in his field. Having taken part in concerts in several capital cities of Europe, in China, Japan, Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Singapore and KL, his Kuching debut must have been like a picnic for him.

When the emcee announced that Shuen Da’s parents came from Sarawak, from Sibu to be exact, we all cheered heartily.


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