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.”

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)

The Eurasian Story

What better way to hear stories, discover or rediscover one’s roots and look to ways of preserving a once-glorious past, than through a celebration of culture, music and food?

The rich history of the Penang Eurasians and their significant contributions to the nation will be showcased this weekend through dialogues, the unveiling of a photo gallery, mouth-watering Eurasian cuisine and music.

The Eurasian Heritage Fiesta 2017 will begin on Saturday with a talk at 2pm on “Discover your roots to preserve Eurasian heritage” followed by the unveiling of a photo gallery at 4.30pm at the Penang Eurasian Association (PEA) House, 107-A, Solok Serani (off Jalan Kelawai), Penang.

Although the Eurasians and original residents of Kampung Serani no longer reside as a close-knit and vibrantly-rich Catholic community next door to the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Pulau Tikus today, the spirit of their music and parties continue to live on in the PEA House.

The fiesta this year is a collaboration between the PEA and organisers of the Eurasian Fiesta and is part of the 8th edition of the George Town Festival.

The Eurasian community is inviting the public to experience its unique ‘Serani’ cuisine and rich musical talents.

“The new photo gallery,” says the event’s organising chairman and former PEA president Datuk Aloysius Gasper, “will be a proud display of our Eurasian presence nationally and not just remain brief references in the history of Penang and the country.”

On Saturday, food lovingly prepared from recipe books of Penang’s Eurasian families and live music will be available from 7pm to midnight, while on Sunday the event is open from 5pm till midnight.

See you for a bite of sugee cake and pineapple tarts or a spread of devil curries and more this weekend at Kampung Serani in Pulau Tikus!

Here’s a take-away of recipes shared by the generous hearts of several Penang Eurasians …

(Images courtesy of Datuk Aloysius Gasper)

GT80

This posting speaks for itself via the beautifully-crafted illustrations of a very talented young lady, Vanessa Ho.

The watercolour illustrator was commissioned by George Town Festival (GTF) director Joe Sidek to produce this darling little travel journal called GT80.

It lists the top 80 favourites of GTF, in terms of places to go, things to do, people to see and dishes to eat in George Town.

If there is one souvenir you should buy (RM30 each), during this edition of the GTF, it’s this lil brown book which makes an invaluable guide for anyone pounding the streets of George Town or those overseas who pine for their beloved Penang.

Here’s why ….

You get to rediscover childhood favourites, be they people, food or places or discover new ones and grow to love them.


Copies of the GT80 illustrated travel journal are available at the GTF office (86, Lebuh Armenian, George Town) during office hours.

(All images – but one – are courtesy of George Town Festival)

Eight years and growing from strength to strength #gtf2017

The 8th edition of the George Town Festival (GTF ) opened last night at Dewan Sri Pinang with an upbeat convergence of artistes from near and far around the region of Southeast Asia at SVARA ASEAN. This musical showcase was a celebration of the artistic pride in the region, and a tribute to the sounds of Southeast Asia,  featuring six of the region's acclaimed singers and musicians, filled with mesmerising melodies and a wide repertoire of music genres. Local artistes – including Adibah Noor and Sean Ghazi  who were proud flag bearers of the Jalur Gemilang – presented classic hits and collaborated on some medleys with award- winning Phillipine Madrigal Singers, Penang Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) and PPO’s Jazz Band.

Also featured were Indonesian flautist Gus Teja and soulful Anchee from Thailand who paid tribute to her late king in song.


The opening weekend of GTF continues today, with generous ASEAN flavours, arts, designs, tastes and sounds. ASEAN Design Forum to be held on July 29, brings together Southeast Asia’s leading luminaries in design – Eric Bunnag Booth, Rachaporn Choochuey, Kenneth Cobonpue, Priscilla Shunmugam and Sali Sasaki.

This informative and illuminating nexus of ideas is said to delve into the status quo and future of design, space making, and the creative industries in Southeast Asia.

A market of ASEAN assortments at the Penang State Museum awaits everyone today and tomorrow in the grounds of the Penang State Museum.

'Macam- macam ASEAN' , is a craft and creative market, a tattoo studio, barber shop, live musical performances, wayang kulit and more. This free two-day fun event is an all-ages showcase in line with thisyear’s festival’s Southeast Asian focus.

At this craft market, go spoil yourself with ethically-made tea towels, shoes, tote bags, scarves, jewellery, pouches, tattoos, pillows, bowls, notebooks, and postcards featuring colourful, authentic motifs by collectives from Laos, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam and our very own charming Kuching (from where Jit and friends have flown over some exquisite kebaya pieces and also fine beadwork).

A standout event at Macam-macam ASEAN is being touted to be Laksa of the Region (LOTR), which is a convergence of culinary delights and will see 24 laksa makers gather under one roof to cook up distinctive aromatic flavours representing countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Malaysia’s very own Penang assam laksa, Johor and Sarawak laksa, Nyonya laksa and laksam. 

For the ongoing weeks, other highlights of GTF 2017 include The Manganiyar Classroom by Roysten Abel, CELL, the gravity-defying acrobatic act of A Simple Space, Jérôme Bel’s GALA, The Human Voice, Hakanai –an animated choregraphy by Adrien Mondot and Claire Bardainne of France and lots more. Month-long exhibitions include Noted, Jimmy Nelson’s Before They Pass Away, Yangon Echoes, Portraits of George Town and the mysterious Secret Gardens “Revisited”.

GTF this year is partnering M-ND Media Distribution SEA and FaveKad Sdn Bhd. M-ND is a technology company that revolutionises the way brands and consumers connect with each other through multi-sensory experiences, FaveKad (a start-up technology company owned by George Lee), which aims to give everyone a reason to connect by sending electronic greeting cards with an Asian flair.

The complete festival guide is available at http://www.georgetownfestival.com or simply follow-the-fest on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 

(Some images courtesy of George Town Festival)

George Town Fest rolls on…

It’s back! And for the 8th year running, George Town Festival (GTF) is set to claim its space on the world map of festivals and continue growing into one of Asia’s leading arts festival.

The annual fest will run from 28 July to 3 September this year, together with its satellite event Butterworth Fringe Festival (BFF) on 12 August and 13 August. BFF, which is into its third year, is a two-day street festival comprising local and international acts.


“With this year’s edition primarily oriented towards the youth, community and women, the Festival will host more than 100 shows; out of which 60% focuses on local content. The programmes vary from art, design, photography, film, music, dance to drama. GTF will transform George Town into a universal stage where different arts from traditional to contemporary, local to international converge,” promises Festival Director Joe Sidek.


Award-winning Indian theatre director Roysten Abel is returning with The Manganiyar Classroom since his maiden performance in Penang back in 2012 titled The Manganiyar Seduction and 2014’s The Kitchen.

 The former was a widely acclaimed production at the Perth International Arts Festival and WOMADelaide. The Manganiyar Classroom showcases 35 village children as young as eight on a four-row bench terrace on stage, spontaneously singing and dancing to their schooling days.

A group of handpicked ordinary Penangnites varying from generations and backgrounds will take on the stage in the form of a dance routine. Directed by French choreographer Jérôme Bel, Gala showcases the beauty of diversity, united through the passion of dance. The show has been performed over 55 times worldwide in the past year.


Australian acrobatics ensemble, Gravity & Other Myths presents A Simple Space, where seven acrobats push their physical limits and beyond, leaving the audiences holding their breath.


Beijing-based acclaimed choreographer Tao Ye brings two of his “Straight Line Trilogy” series, 6 and 8 to GTF. The mesmerising dances study the logic of movement and discovers the full potential of human bodies, albeit all kinds of limitations.

Meanwhile, director Naohika Umewaka and choreographer Aida Redza will present a dance-theatre, The Italian Restaurant. The story emerges from a chance meeting of a woman and a man in a restaurant. Destinies are forged and hearts are entwined.

For the first time, Singapore-based the TENG Ensemble will bring their unique brand of music to Penang for TENG @ George Town. Bridging Eastern and Western sounds in a contemporary blend, the band revisits music of the past and reimagines them in the present.

There are several kid-friendly shows, appealing to families alike. They include The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik about deep ocean exploration; Chorus a monumental installation of giant kinetic sculptures and a celestial choir of spinning sound machines; COSMICOMIC Toyscape Workshop consisting of six life-sized toys; and CELL with its Asia premiere in GTF.

Other highlights of GTF 2017 include a talk, exhibition and workshop by Jimmy Nelson, the author of ‘Before They Pass Away’. Macallum Theatre will host special shows including a performance by gamelan ensemble Rhythm in Bronze; In The Amorphous Beings choreographed by Ong Tze Shen and Christy Ma; and The Memories by Orang Orang Drum Theatre.


Programme updates are found at http://www.georgetownfestival.com or on GTF on social media. 
(images courtesy of George Town Festival)

Helloooooo Kuching!

The man who placed George Town on the world festival map is now taking his crazy brand of style and fun to Borneo.

Joe Sidek, the director of the George Town Festival wants Kuching to rock on the fringes of the internationally-acclaimed Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) in July.

He is curating and presenting the Rainforest Fringe Festival (RFF) and promises it to be a 10-day (7-16 July) spectacle of the best which Sarawak has to offer by way of art, food, fashion and music. 

“The festival happens right in the bustling capital town of Kuching in Sarawak and will provide the ultimate lead up to the annual Rainforest World Music Festival. 

“The inaugural Rainforest Fringe Festival will also give prominence to Sarawak’s rich indigenous arts and culture, giving festival goers a true sense of the beauty and energy of the state, its people and rainforest,” says Joe.

Festival-goers will rediscover Sarawak through film screenings, fashion showcases, photography exhibitions, art and craft bazaars and other displays of Sarawak’s highly underrated trove of local talents.

The Old Court House in Kuching will serve as the venue for most events – such as a craft and vintage market, talks, exhibitions and various movie screenings – tied to the fringe festival.
The “Sarawak: Theatre of Clothes” fashion gala will showcase exceptional and multi-talented fashion and accessories’ designers originating from Sarawak.

In upholding their Sarawakian roots, these designers such as Datuk Tom Abang Saudi, Eric Ong, Ramsay Ong, Tanoti and Neng Kho Razali have made their mark on local and international high fashion runaways and will bring to the festival, their show-stopping works.

A special fashion treat awaiting those coming to the fringe festival would be Singapore-based contemporary womenswear label Ong Shunmugam. The label owner is Malaysian-born Priscilla Shunmugam, whose work is designed and made across Asia and offers ready-to-wear ranges and bespoke designs. She is working with `Pua Kumbu’ the traditional patterned multi-coloured ceremonial cloth used by the Ibans and in Sarawak for the fringe festival.

“Music is the way nature speaks to us. It is found in the splash of a waterfall, the rumble of the wind and the flutter of a bird’s wings …These are our music; it means Sada Kamek in the Iban language.”

The Rainforest Fringe Festival will open with an official concert `Sada Kamek’ at the Kuching Amphitheatre, with a line-up of Sarawak-born performers like Dayang Nurfaizah, Noh Salleh, Tony Eusoff, Nading Rhapsody, At Adau, Pete Kallang, Alena Murang and Matthew Ngau.

(Images courtesy of Joe Sidek and the Rainforest Fringe Festival)