On Friday, September 15 till Sunday, September 17, Ipoh witnessed its first Ipoh Music Festival. It was organised by Joyous Music Center Sdn Bhd and was held at Syeun Hotel, Ipoh. The 3-day event consisted of competitions, workshops, concerts and a chance to experience Ipoh.
The opening gala concert took place on Friday night at Syeun’s grand ballroom. More than 500 guests filled the ballroom. There were a total of nine performances by groups and individuals from all over the world, namely Rena Cheung (Hong Kong) on piano, piano duets couple Dennis Lee and Toh Chee Hung (Singapore), Toko Inomoto (Japan) on viola, Dr Karen Lonsdale (Australia) on flute, Leslie Tan (Singapore) on cello, Loo Bang Hean (Malaysia) on piano, Brian Larson (Canada) on violin and Dr Andrew Filmer (Malaysia) on viola.
Classical tunes like the Three Slavonic Dances by Antonín Dvorák, The All-American Hometown Band by Noona, Carmen Fantasy by Georges Bizet and more were played sophisticatedly. Such breathtaking performances left everyone in awe and speechless.
“Earlier this year, I was discussing with Veronica Leong and Joseph Tan (chairman and vice chairman of the festival cum owners of Joyous Music) about holding a music competition. We wanted to create an international event in Ipoh and make classical music accessible to everyone. We’re proud to have organised this festival from scratch and seeing so many people coming to Ipoh for the first time,” said Executive Director, Eugene Pook.
Ipoh Music Festival received over 200 applicants for the competition. It was divided into five categories namely, Solo Open (age 18 and above), Solo Junior (age 17 and below), Piano (age 14-25), Chamber Music and Choir.
Two workshops were held on Saturday morning till noon. The first titled, “Purposeful Practice: Strategies and Approaches” was helmed by one of the adjudicators, Dr Andrew Filmer while the second, “Fund-Seeking and the Entrepreneurial Mindset” was presented by Eugene. The entrance fee for each workshop was RM10.
The closing gala concert was held on Saturday night and featured performances from the first prize winner of each category. Soh Wei Qi from Singapore, who played the piano passionately from memory, won the Piano Category and was awarded RM5000. A marvellous performance by 13-year-old Low Zi Yang from Kuala Lumpur who played the violin also from memory, won the Solo Junior Category. He received RM5000. His performance was accompanied by Mireia Frutos Fernandez on piano.
Jirajet Thawornsiri from Thailand, on tenor trombone, won the Solo Open Category and received RM8, 000. Taking first spot for chamber music was Treblemakers; Keng Xin Tian (violin), Stephen Tseu Tze Jie (cello) and Wong Hui Yun (piano). The group won RM6000. UiTM Chamber Choir from Shah Alam stole the hearts of the judges with their immaculate vocals and movements. The team won RM8000.
“When I was small, my grandfather said he saw a brochure on a music competition at a music store nearby. He told me to give it a go. I did but I didn’t win the competition. I still remember the girl who won it played a piece from Carmen Fantasy. I had that exact piece in my head for years and was struggling with the slow lyrical melodies,” Dr Karen Lonsdale recalled.
“And then I had to play that same piece at an audition. I managed to execute it perfectly. As musicians, we need to appreciate efforts made by creators of opportunities for musicians. On behalf of the adjudicators, I’d like to thank Ipoh Music Festival for the opportunity they have given to all these young, aspiring musicians. Let’s get out there and play,” she remarked.