Category Archives: Music

All glory, laud and honour

“The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul”
(Johann Sebastian Bach)

Southeast Asia’s oldest Anglican church – St George’s Church in Penang – has received a bicentennial blessing this year in the form of a pipe organ, the most majestic of all instruments.

The 1,050-pipe Mander organ joins the ranks of its “neighbour” – the Church of Assumption along George Town’s Lebuh Farquhar, in hosting its very own pipe organ.

With the consecration of the beautiful new instrument at St George’s this morning by the Anglican Bishop of West Malaysia and Archbishop of the Anglican Church of the Province of South East Asia, the Most Reverand Datuk Ng Moon Hing, Penang island now has the distinction of being home to two glorious pipe organs found in two heritage churches on the same street in the Unesco heritage core zone!

“The character of Anglican worship revolves around congregational singing of hymns,” said St George’s Church’s Bishop Charles Samuel, “and an organ is the basic necessity for nearly all of this music. There is no other instrument that matches its ability to lead the singing of a several hundred-strong congregation.”

Bishop Samuel has stressed that the new pipe organ is “dedicated to the glory of God” and will also serve the good of the community through special organ recitals and other associated events which will be open to the public.

An inaugural public recital is scheduled to be held in the church on Aug 19 at 4pm and should lend an acoustically-rich addition to George Town Festival 2017, which will be underway by then.

The new pipe organ at St George’s took a year to build in England and has been gifted to the parish by the family of the late Datuk Tan Kim Yeow.

The organ has 17 stops (19 ranks) comprising the 1,050 metal pipes (containing tin and lead) in total. There are no electrical components in the organ other than the fan blower and tremulant.

It also boasts pipe shades which carry carvings of foliage and the distinct ‘Pinang’ tree in its design.

St. George’s church had a few organs over the centuries, including a two-manual 16-stop (17-rank) pipe organ built in 1899 by Forster & Andrews in memory of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

Mander Organs Limited is a pipe organ maker and refurbisher based in London. The company has built and installed numerous celebrated organs such as the 68-stop four manual and pedal organ found in the Church of St Ignatius Loyola, New York. It has also rebuilt the Willis organ at St Paul’s Cathedral in London and refurbished the Royal Albert Hall’s grand organ.

Present in Penang to ensure that the organ is handed over to the church and left in very in good hands is Dr William McVicker, an organ auditor for the organ maker.

Dr McVicker is also organ curator at London’s Royal Festival Hall, director of music at St Barnabas Church Dulwich and a visiting professor at the Royal Academy of Music.

An experienced musician with a keen ear for organ tone, he is said to offer advice on matters technical and musical, specialising in acoustics, liturgy and architecture, among others.

And who could be more thrilled to welcome the new organ to Penang, than the neighbouring Church of Assumption’s resident organist, Leonard Gurunathan.

Leonard is currently lending a hand in training a group of young musicians at St George’s Church to master pipe organ playing and lead the congregation in Sunday worship.

It was so gratifying to be surrounded by a group of enthusiastic youths including the musically-inclined Matthew, Miriam, Audrey and Jason last week. They took turns in pulling out all the stops and putting their best feet forward on the new organ as they learn to produce the best sacred music possible.

Oh, and did you know that there are specially-made shoes which organists (especially those handling pipe organs) should wear?

Dr McVicker brought out his pair of organ shoes which looked like they were crafted from the softest of leather and looked narrower than normal dress shoes.

I would imagine that the leather ensured minimal friction between shoe and pedal and enabled the organist to glide their feet across the shiny pedals and actually feel them through the thin sole.

Thank you Chu Hor, Leonard and Dr McVicker for a lovely afternoon of music in the midst of the organ pipes, which have added a measure of beauty to a sacred space, in the manner which stained-glass windows often do.

Thank you Leonard, for generously sharing these shots

To God be the Glory

My blog post on the arrival of the majestic Mander pipe organ at St George’s Church in Penang has miraculously surfaced! Thank you VAL for the gentle nudge.

The visit to Southeast Asia’s oldest Anglican church last night to enjoy some divine sacred music was timely, in re-telling the tale of the “king of instruments” which has made its home in the 200 year old church now for almost two years.

While security in the heritage church has been heightened and visitors are temporarily not allowed into the church when services or special events are not held, the welcome accorded us by the congregation remained as warm as ever.

The videos say it all and here’s to more evenings of melodious music from the beautiful organ in its equally precious “home.”

Stamping its mark

Southeast Asia’s oldest Anglican church – The Church of St George The Martyr – in Penang, is turning 200 years this year!

What better time than now to team up with Pos Malaysia and unveil a limited-edition bicentenary first day cover stamp to mark the consecration anniversary of the colonial house of God.

The church, also known as the St George’s Church, is home to one of two of Penang’s majestic pipe organs (the other pipe organ is found in the neighbouring Roman Catholic Church of the Assumption) on Lebuh Farqhuar in the Unesco heritage zone.

The first day cover comprises a commemorative miniature stamp, stamp sheets, stamps for envelopes, a folder and two envelopes.

The 3,000 limited edition sets are sold at RM75 each.

Philatelists can make a beeline for St George’s Church Heritage Centre and Pos Malaysia offices for their stamp fix.

(Thank you David ST Loh for your generosity of heart in sharing your photos from today’s launch, despite having a not-so-pleasant Saturday!)

9 Years of Arts and Culture Continue …

For the ninth year, the George Town Festival returns and is ready to welcome visitors to the island and continue to give more entertainment, cultural and artsy-fartsy value to Penang residents.

Mark your calendars, book your flight/bus/train tickets, plan your road trips and hotel/home stays, and join us proud Penang Lang in a month (read: August till early September) filled with performing arts shows, from dance to theatre, as well as photography and art exhibitions, workshops, music, creative talks and arts and crafts markets.

On a personal note, a warm welcome back to the anggams-supporters-of-the-fest, Steven, Glen and Meenaka from across the seas and Causeway!

Here are some highlights of the long-awaited list of happenings brought to you and lovingly curated by the tireless festival director Joe Sidek and his equally dedicated and work-around-the-clock team …

• KELANTAN: A Living Heritage (Malaysia)

The show celebrates Kelantan, known as the ‘Cradle of Malay Culture’ and its unique tapestry woven through its traditional and captivating art forms.

• Between Tiny Cities (Cambodia & Australia)

Dancers from Australia and Cambodia use the rituals and movement styles of b-boy dance to reveal the dramatically different worlds that surround them.

• We Cannot Talk About It (Iran)

A dark and gripping performance with intense expressions of suppressed life. From Iranian group The Hole in the Wall from the award-winning creators of Slow Sound of Snow (GTF 2015).

• Yaron Kohlberg feat. Ciaran McAuley & Penang Philharmonic Orchestra

Yaron Kohlberg, the “pianist with the golden hands”, performs a classical music suite with the Penang Philharmonic Orchestra, with esteemed Conductor Ciaran McAuley.

• 2062 (Spain & Germany)

An experimental show about a dystopian world, where the “present” is deemed as the authentic protagonist, highlighting borders, walls, new migrations, current affairs, and economic changes.

• Isle of Dreams (Taiwan)

Making its first premier in Southeast Asia, Isle of Dreams is a mythological musical theatre piece featuring Nanguan and Beiguan music integrating with poetry, puppetry and ritual dance in the performance.

• Second Body (Taiwan)

A dance production generating an out-of-body experience. A dark stage, dancer with abstract light projected on her skin, and the study of movement itself.

• BLIND (Brazil)

A social experiment and an interactive art showcase which has travelled the world, soon will be taking the streets of George Town in Penang for the very first time.

• SeaShorts (Southeast Asian Short Film Festival) (Malaysia)

An annual short film festival with over 200 entries. Attending the festival will be notable film makers such as Rithy Pahn, Mira Lesmana, Liew Seng Tat, Pimpaka Towira and Philip Cheah.

ConneXion – Passion Made Possible (Singapore)
A collaboration with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), ConneXion- Passion Made Possible will thrill festival goers as part of the GTF closing weekend.  The best of Singapore will be featured through fashion, music, art, dance, theatre, film, talks and food hosted in various venues in George Town. More details to be announced.

• Te.ma.sya BUDAYA KITA (Malaysia)

A National Department for Culture and Arts (JKKN) special showcase of traditional arts and performing arts. More details to be announced.

Most shows hosted at Dewan Sri Pinang and Loft 29 will have its tickets sale via Redtix.

Others are mainly-free-to-attend shows, talks and workshops are available through registration on PopTickets.

This year GTF also focuses on its collaborations with various local creative collectives such as The National Department For Culture And Arts (JKKN), National Academy of Arts Culture and Heritage (ASWARA), SeaShorts, Sisters in Islam, Obscura, Penang House of Music, Penang Philharmonic Orchestra, Penang Foodie and the return of Konsert Kopitiam V.3.

Additionally, there are also alliances through special projects with other countries such as the recently launched “Isle to Isle” project with Taiwan Economic Cultural Office in Malaysia (TECO), “Passion Made Possible” with Singapore Tourism Board (STB) as well as a collaboration with the Arts, Education and Law Group at Griffith University.

GTF also works together in partnership with Penang Global Tourism and hotels such as E&O Hotel, Penaga Hotel along with other hotels, media and venue partners. GTF is currently looking for sponsorship and partnership.

For the newbies, the George Town Festival is an annual, month-long celebration of culture, heritage, art, and community.

Inaugurated in 2010 in honour of George Town’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the festival transforms the city into a global stage, showcasing world-class performances, installations, and collaborations from international and local artists alike.

With over one hundred unique events each year, the festival seeks to create new and vibrant connections between the traditional and the contemporary, the past and the future.

For more information on full list of GTF 2018 programmes and ticketing please visit www.georgetownfestival.com

(images courtesy of Joe Sidek and George Town Festival)

#georgetownfestival #gtf2018 #gtf

It’s baaaaaaaack!!!

The annual George Town Festival (GTF) returns for its 9th consecutive round with an international and local slew of events from 4 Aug till until 2 Sept this year.

“George Town will be a hub of entertainment and excitement with both free and ticketed shows available to audiences,” a press statement issued today said.

As in previous editions of the annual fest, the Penang Government has appointed Joe Sidek Productions Sdn. Bhd. to oversee the curation and management of GTF.

The appointed contractor today also expressed its thanks to the state authorities, Perbadanan Bekalan Air Pulau Pinang, the Penang Development Corporation, Majlis Bandaraya Pulau Pinang, Penang Global Tourism, and George Town World Heritage Incorporated for their continued support.

A ‘Call for Proposals’ for the fest which was initiated last October, has seen some 200 proposals both from Malaysia and abroad come in.

“We expect more will be forthcoming during this last week,” said festival director, Joe Sidek.

“In addition to online submissions, we have also been conducting ‘Proposal Clinics’ to encourage local creative individuals or groups to meet with us to help fine-tune their artistic ideas and to help them submit a proposal for the festival,” he added.

A glorious icon (almost) restored

Let this place resound with Joy – Edmund Khoo, project architect

The Church of the Assumption along Lebuh Farquhar in George Town, is on the last stretch of its restoration project and set to open her doors officially, come 1 January 2018.

Her ancient bells are ringing again to welcome the birth of Christ and a fresh new year!

Resident pipe organist Leonard Selva Gurunathan shares the spirit of the season with the carol ‘A Thousand Candles.’

The pipe organ which was packed away during the restoration works was unveiled yesterday to continue its good work in giving praise to God.

Congratulations Edmund Khoo for making the Catholics proud and for going that extra mile to preserve the heritage integrity of this architectural gem!

(Some Images and video of the bells courtesy of Edmund Khoo and video of Leonard playing courtesy of Michelle Richards)