Friday, August 25, 2006

Meaningful gathering....

Teacher Anne and me.

I was hugged by teacher Anne after 2 years when we met yesterday... Felt very warm as i was a student of hers for 7 years...She played a big role in shaping me for who I am today..... she taught me creative thinking,the courage to speak up in front of people and to be different from everyone else.

At the gathering, I met my old tuition mates and we chatted about fun stuff we did together in English class.It felt as though I was projected back in time sitting in a classroom having classes with teacher Anne. All of my tuition mates share the same respect and gratitude towards teacher Anne as all of us has morphed into unique individuals because of her...

Yesterday,only 4 girls from my class came...One is doing Actuary Science,the other is doing Medical soon and one is doing Advertising and Marketing right now. All of us are doing okay, striving for the future. Teacher Anne also talked about her future plans for her tuition centre, as she was planning to open up classes for school subjects according to international school syllabus. I really admire her zest to work for passion but not money alone as she loves to teach. Although she is in her 40's , but she is doing her best everday....

Well, my friends complimented me for my new hairstyle...hehe...
have to thank the hairstylist ler...and to them, I didn't change a bit. I am still me from the way I speak...I don't know about that until yesterday...hehe

I had a meaningful evening, a skip from my choir practice was worth it though.

Taiwan Trip- The 7th Taipei Choral Festival

27th of July

The day appeared to be gloomy with rain drizzling softly. Reached KLIA by 12.30pm and boarded the airplane by 2.40pm.Well, it was my first experience to board the China Airlines. The air stewardesses were quite pretty too. I did felt butterflies in my stomach when the airplane started to mount. However, it was quite smooth with some shakes in the mid-journey. Just hope that I would not get a headache later. I didn’t really know what is expected of me at the choral festival, but it would sure be a worthwhile experience.

Reached Taipei at 7.05 pm. The day was dark, with orange lights illuminating the city. It was humid and steamy as Taiwan was in the season of summer which made no difference compared to Malaysia. By the way, the airport was much ‘classic’ compared to KLIA. After that, we boarded the bus till we reached the Taipei Teacher’s Hostel. There was a string of question marks hanging over my head when I saw the building covered with green nets. Out of my expectation, it was our logging venue. HAHA, MY GOD! It was still under renovation. The hotel room was no better than the appearance itself. The ceiling was peeling with clefts everywhere. Just wondered what would have happened if it rained…touchwood. Luckily, the shower was still okay with the air conditioner working too well that I had to wear a sweater and socks to bed every night. At least, it was quite cheap compared to other loggings in Taiwan.

After checking-in, my choir teacher brought us to nearby stalls to try out some local food. We tasted pig skin, seaweed (very thick one), noodle soup, some pork and vegetable. I liked the seaweed very much though and it was Taiwanese’s favourite dish. After that, we went back to the hostel to rest. That’s for the day.

28th of July

Woke up early today at 7.05 am. It seems that my biological clock was set. But, I
couldn’t sleep well the other night, kept turning left and right with my nose blocked. At 9.30 am, we were ready to have a stroll around the city of Taipei. We went to the Mainland Music Bookstore to purchase some choral pieces. You can find all sorts of music scores ranging from Chinese and English oldies, pop songs, musicals and other classical European choir scores. The price was quite reasonable too which couldn’t be found in Malaysia. I did bought some though, only with the ones that I know like Abba songs. Unlike Mr Chung Han, who couldn’t help keeping his hands off the scores… he did flattened his wallet a bit…hehe..

Our next stop was the CD store, again there were a variety of reasonably priced CD’s which couldn’t be found in Malaysia. I did buy some… Then, we went to Golden Stone Bookstore to have a look. Of course, I wouldn’t leave without buying something. So, I purchased a book by Paul Coelho: The Pilgrimage. It cost around NT 280, which was much cheaper compared to Malaysia. Of course, it was followed by visits to other book stores and music stores as well. The highlight of my trip was that I experienced earthquake for the first time when I was in the Youth Bookstore. At first, I thought I was having a headache from my flight yesterday until I was told by my teacher that it was an earthquake. It was as if you were swayed by the ocean waves on a ship. Anyway, it lasted only about 10 minutes which I would never forget.

Then, we went for a stroll in the University of Taiwan with rows of palm trees aligned both sides of the pavement. It has a symbolic meaning which describes the success of a university graduates walking through the pavement to be out of the gates of the university. Meaningful eh? Of course, we had a photo snapping session.

After some rest, we continued our journey to the Taiwan’s famous nightmarket. It was like Petaling Street in Malaysia and a sweet haven for females. Handbags, fancy shoes and clothes, plus branded imitations. You name it, they have it. I also had my stomach stuffed with Taiwan’s knick knacks. What a day! Just hope that I would not gain weight though. After that, I did my statistic quiz with Mr Chung Han sitting beside me in internet café. Guess what? The operator wanted to view my IC for registration. He thought that I was under 18!! I felt so much alive with vigour and youthfulness in me… hahaha…although I am 20…which mean that I am still a TEENager…haha… around 11.30pm we went back and had our beauty sleep.

29th July 2006.

Couldn’t sleep last night, so I woke up feeling lethargic. After breakfast, we proceeded to the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. The sun was shining brighter than ever. I was astonished to find out that many participants were youths like me when we were lining up for registration. It seems that the culture of choir singing is much appreciated by teenagers in Taiwan compared to Malaysia. Then, there was a brief introduction about this choir camp on who would be involved in teaching us and some rules to be obeyed.

After that, it started with a quick run through the piece by Mozart <>. It is a famous choral piece about Christianity which consisted of 12 songs. In a short time, we managed to learn 3 songs without the lyrics. For the moment, it was Mr Wu who would be conducting this song by teaching us for three days. After that, it would be continued by Mr Gabór Hollerung , who is a famous conductor from Hungary. But, I need to practice more as others were quite familiar with it.

At 5 pm, our classes finished. I was feeling a bit dizzy, ready to fall any time. However, a visit to Soka Gakkai International –Taiwan changed my day. Finally, I realized the meaning of ‘laughter is the best medicine’. Chung Han and I were greeted with a SGI flag when our fellow members picked us up. After reaching the cultural centre, I heard people singing vividly while we were in the elevator. As it opened, there were youths aligned in two rows, greeted us with their claps and sonorous voices. Treated like celebrities, we were dumbfounded with joy. This was followed by Chung Han’s excellent speech about SGM Renaissance Choir (both KL and Selangor) as a cultural exchange with the Pacific Ocean Choir of SGI- Taiwan. Well, I was quite surprised that Chung Han could speak very well in front of people. He had me duped from his serious looks previously. Taiwan members also gave us presents and some souvenirs to be given out to the members of Renaissance Choir. Then, we were treated with a feastful dinner at a cozy restaurant. The conductor of Pacific Ocean Choir, Mr Hatori, along with a few SGI Taiwan members also joined us for dinner. We were late for the night concert today. But, we didn’t mind because we were very touched by the SGI Taiwan member’s sincerity and hospitality. We felt joy welling from our hearts thinking of giving our warmest welcome if they ever visit Malaysia. However, we did manage to watch the 2nd half of the performance by choirs from Croatia and Norway.

30th July 2006

The practice started with a vibrant session in the morning as Professor Yu-Wen Pan, taught us some singing skills. For example, method of utilizing breathing skills to sing, some counting exercise, voice harmonizing exercise and some body movement with steps and etcetra. It was something new and I enjoyed it very much.

After that, we continued with the practice of the song, Requiem. It was terrible as we barely know the progression of the notes. The conductor even had us going through all the songs. I am quite worried that I couldn’t sing this piece well. In the evening, we attended a talk by Cantus, a choir from Norway which consists of 30 females. It started with their beautiful voices before the talk begins. It was an eye opener as they introduced the culture of choir singing in Norway, the style of their choral pieces along with some famous composers and insight towards their songs which they were going to perform that night. The talk was very interesting though.

At 5 pm, we rushed to Taiwan’s SGI cultural centre to visit Pacific Ocean Choir. Our choir teacher was also with us that day to exchange some ideas with Mr Hatori. It was a pleasant evening to hear the voices of the Pacific Ocean Choir. They are the same age as RC2, but they are progressing rapidly and even won a gold medal in Golden Voice Competition in Taiwan last year. This made me realized that we need to strive for further improvement. Like yesterday, we were touched by their sincerity and were late for the first half of the concert. Still, we managed to enjoy a spectacular performance by choir from Croatia. They sang some European folk tunes and madrigals which we didn’t understand. But their angelic voices would move you if were there. It was great to watch how professional choir sing, they voices were neat and clean with accurate pitch. Well, it is something to work on with RC2 when I am back in Malaysia.

31th July 2006

It was really scorching hot in Taiwan and we need to walk to the Chiang Kai Shek memorial hall everyday. The air was dry and my skin felt it even more. The day started with a lecture by Pei-Chi Chen. She once won a gold medal as the best soprano in Taiwan. She was a carefree woman with frizzy hair, wearing a dark blue T-shirt, a jeans and a pair of black leathered shoes. She’s quite plump with her plastic rimmed spectacles on embedded a flare of casualness in her, I like it. Later on, she taught us how to sing with proper support of diaphragm, and some tips to take care of our voice which was quite useful.

Later on, we continued with our practice of the song Requiem. Finally, I had a sense of direction of where I am heading with the lyrics. Although the pronunciations of Latin words were difficult, still I managed to sing the whole song with a sense of accomplishment. As Mr Gabór was coming tomorrow, the practice was some sort of rush today. Mr Wu, the conductor, was pushing us by correcting and reminding us about our mistakes. It seemed that there was a lot of polishing to be done before our actual performance.

This was followed by a talk given by the Ensemble Pleiade, Japan. Ko Matsushita, is not only the conductor of the ensemble but also a composer of choral pieces and lecturer in Kunitachi College of music. He is very famous in Japan with the bonus of being handsome as well. Haha…. but I didn’t think so. At the talk, he introduced some unique methods of warming up the voice with the Pleiade Boys choir demonstrating them. He also taught us the usage of different exercise to improve certain singing skills such as running notes, staccatos and other ways to train choir members to feel the beat and rhythm such as Jazz music. Well, I did jot down some exercise for RC2 to practice in the future.

After that, we met up with a member of SGI-Taiwan, Chung Sun. He took us to do some shopping and had dinner as well. We had a good time chatting and talking about the conditions of SGI –Taiwan and about their choir group as well. We really appreciated him for willing to be our temporary tourist guide.

At night, we enjoyed another concert in the National Musical Hall by Cantus from Norway. They wore Norway traditional costume which looked like European dresses back in the old days, which were very fancy. It was a great performance, especially Wedding March. I love that song so much! Just wondering that it would be cool if there would be a choir singing this song on my wedding day? Oops, I was dreaming again…

1st of August

The morning started with our usual walk to the memorial Hall. It was windy and the sun was smiling as always.Our practice session began with Mr Gabór. Finally, we met him. He is a beefy guy with a pot-belly, roughly in his fifties. He knew this piece so well for he had conducted this for more than 100 times! He was also very funny and gave clear explanations on what he expected from the piece. Furthermore, he pointed out our mistakes and corrected us there and then. One thing I remembered was ‘Intonation was very im-por-tant’. He was also very particular with the consonants because without exact pronunciation, it was impossible to express this song properly. And of course, Mr. Wu was his translator. Later on, Mr wu ran through this song again with more precision. He demanded more from us this time but we did improve a lot.

Later, we had a class with this pretty young lady, Shih-Fen Wei. She introduced us Jazz music, famous musicals along with other artists like Edith Piaff, Riza Minnelli, Ute Lemper who were well-known in singing Jazz music. She also taught us singing skills using the microphone via demonstration by two professional singers. It was really an eye opener to other kinds of music rather than pop music. It was great to be able to gain knowledge in appreciating this genre of music.

At night, we enjoyed the performance by the Ensemble Pleiade, Japan.Their voices were beautiful by singing mostly Japanese folk tunes and songs composed by Ko Matsushita. By the way, there is only one member in the group who is pursuing music. The rest had no musical background and had their own profession such as accountant, fish monger and etcetra. It was amazing to see them being invited to sing in an international event. One unforgettable sight was when they sang the ‘Cockroach Song’. Very funny though….

2nd of August

Today the practice went on as usual. Mr Gabór stressed more on the consonants of the lyrics, and he asked us to repeat again and again when our voices were flat. If we breathed at the wrong time, he would say: “It’s better to die than to breath at the wrong part!” I was getting familiarized with the piece by now, feeling fulfilled.

In the evening, we attended a talk again. When a frail 80 year old man was on stage, I couldn’t believe that he is the famous conductor, Liang Kun-Yan. One of his masterpieces was the ‘Yellow River’ sung by a choir consisted of 400 people. As he spoke in a heavy mandarin accent, I couldn’t catch what he meant most of the time. But, he did a demonstration with a choral piece from the ‘Yellow River’ and it touched me with his hands poised in such a way that he controlled the emotion of the music perfectly well. Who said age matters? I am really inspired to be like him when I am old, pursuing my passion.

The night concert was very special today. It all started with a famous A-Capella ensemble in Taiwan. Then, it was followed by Coco’s Lunch which is a band from Australia. Their music was more towards native music with African style while decorating their voices with peculiar percussions. One unforgettable song would be ‘Thulele Mama Ya”. I just remembered that I clapped and shouted frenzily giving them standing ovation. They were captivating. Then, Chung Han and I went to buy their album immediately after the show. We just couldn’t wait to get their autographs! We did take a few photos with Chung Han being my photographer J

3rd of August

The usual schedule had a little change with Gustaf Sjokvist Chamber Choir from Sweden giving us a talk in the morning. He introduced us folk songs sung in Northern Europe region such as in Sweden, Norway and Finland. This genre music is called yoic and is performed during special occasions such as weddings, birthdays and etcetra. At that time, I came to know that the Wedding March sung by Cantus is also a yoic. Furthermore, he introduced us the style of 20th century choral music and other forms of Swedish music without lyrics comprising only vowels. Mr. Gustaf which is the conductor of the choir told us that they would normally perform a Swedish suite as long as 17 minutes. From my observation, they love to sing choral pieces with clashing harmony of many parts. Hence, they are truly professional for being able to sing them. However, I did not find them fascinating because their voices did not sound clean enough. I had a feeling that they were not giving their best to the audience. Anyway, we gain knowledge today by knowing the Swedish choral style. This was followed a lesson in body language and movement taught Po-Jen Cheng. Well, he has atypical dancing teacher style that fits well in body shirts, if you know what I mean…but I think his class would be more interesting if he did more preparation.

Later, we continued practicing the song with Mr. Gabór. By now, we could sing the whole piece quite smoothly, still with some minor errors here and there. But Mr.Gabór was quite happy with our progress as we successfully get the hang of this choral piece in six days. This proved that my worries were invalid afterall. One thing about Mr.Gabór, he is an excellent communicator in using body language and metaphor to convey his message. Hence, this was also the reason that we got to grasp this complicated piece in a short time. Although he has high expectations, but he complimented us each time when we fulfilled his demands. All the youngsters actually love his style of conducting. Especially the girls, they were very fond of him. Hehe…

At night, we had our first rehearsal on stage in the National Musical Hall of Taiwan. I felt so small engaging myself in such a grand setting with 300 people surrounding me, combined with the Taipei Philharmonic Orchestra. Mr Gabór was quite picky with the orchestra and asked them to repeat when they didn’t get the beat or the feel right. We were quite exhausted and had a little supper before returning to the hostel.

4th of August

I was feeling a little heavy today, thinking that we would be leaving soon. Anyway, this morning we were refreshed with Mr Gabór’s talk on the history of . Mozart, an Austrian composer was a genius as he could imagine 40 minutes music in his mind and putting all the notes down on paper without much correction. But he did not manage to finish his masterpiece and left it to completion by his students accordingly to his style. Other than that, there are many versions around. Today, there are many people who modify this choral piece including Mr Gabór himself. But the version of Requeim that we were going to perform is the most popular among all.

Later, Mr Dirk DuHei who is the artistic director of this camp introduced us to various international choral competitions around the world. There were the Germany Marktoberdorf ( The World Choir Games (, and Japan International Choir Competition. He also explained the different categories and marking scheme in international choral competitions. It was a real eye opener that choir singing was promoted world wide. In Taiwan, it is inbuilt in their culture that all Taiwan university has their own established choir. According to Mr Dirk, he was planning to organize an Inter-University Choir Competition soon.

Then we continued with the practice on stage. This time we were able to sing 12 songs in one shot without much difficulty combining with the four solos as well. We sounded like professional choir heard in the CD, which made us felt proud of our voices. Mr. Gabór was quite happy by now with little reminders on how to express the song.

At night Chung Han and I were late for the concert because he accompanied me to buy some praying gadgets. The venue was hard to be found, luckily Chung Han knew the way and with the help of a SGI-Taiwan member, we managed to purchase them and rushed back. Tonight was the Gustaf Sjokvist chamber choir’s performance and the hall was filled with audience. By the way, I dozed off after listening to two songs. Oh man, I was too exhausted and I found it quite boring. But I came to know from Chung Sun that those choral pieces need 3 years professional training in order to perform them. So, they were excellent but I just didn’t have the taste to enjoy their music. However, I found that they were singing monotonously without much expression.

When the show ended, we were surprise to meet some members from Pacific Ocean Choir. We snapped some photos, and our previous tourist guide, Chung Sun was also there. He brought us to a famous seaside in Taiwan with breathtaking night scenery. We also enjoyed supper bought from “Ah Kei” restaurant along with a cup of express noodles and a few drinks from 7-eleven. This was the first time I had supper by the seaside, I felt tired that but not now as there’s food with me…haha…But, we just stopped by a short while as we had to catch the last LRT back.

5th of August

My heart thumped with adrenaline, our day has arrived to perform on stage in the National Musical Hall in Taiwan. There were 300 people on stage with limited space, 80 people from the Taipei Philharmonic Orchestra as accompaniment and four solos. We started our final rehearsal on 3pm today, as Mr Gabór insisted that we rest our voice before the actual performance. Although our legs ached, we felt a sense of gratitude as it was an honor to perform on a prestigious stage.

At 8.00pm, we gathered at the basement with Mr Wu giving us instructions on how to go on stage. Our performance started at 8.30 pm. In front of us were 2500 spectators looking at us, waiting to listen to our voices. All ladies were in high heels, we had to keep our body perfectly still holding our music score. We couldn’t flip it until the conductor signaled us so. Undoubtedly, I was struggling with my numb feet by standing like a statue waiting for the conductor to arrive.

Finally, the ‘man of the night’ paced on stage with his tuxedos followed by a generous applause from the crowd. As a first time performer in such a grand finale, I felt overwhelmed with excitement.

Our voices hit the ceiling with the wave of Mr Gabór’s hand, mesmerizing the audience. It was the first time in my life that I poured my voice from my heart. It was such an amazing experience with 300 different individuals singing in unison on stage. That is why I love choir so much with diversity of voices united as one.When our performance of 12 songs ended, the crowd gave us standing ovation expressing their love for our voices. Later on, we had a small party and we took the opportunity to snap photos and get signatures from Mr. Gabór. Tonight was the happiest moment in my life.

At night, we went back to do some packing as we need to board the flight at 9 am tomorrow.

6th of August

Today is the end of my trip and I have to continue with my studies tomorrow. Has lots of catching up to do but I have confidence that I can manage it. Don’t feel like leaving Taiwan as I am just too immersed in the happy moments there…But I will certainly bring the unforgettable memories with me, sealed in time.

One valuable lesson I learned was, despite of important things that needed to be accomplished for example success in studies, it was also crucial to explore oneself in different areas. What I learned was that there are many professionals such as doctors or psychologists who joined choir in Taiwan. Therefore, it is worthwhile to explore one’s passion on other aspect as education does not bound within four walls in life and it is the life experience itself that matters the most. This helps to build a person’s charisma to be a unique individual in the society. So, go for your passion to live life to the fullest!

Photo with Mr. Gabor...

Photo with cantus choir from Norway...

Photo with cute guys from Sweden's choir...i am so short meh?

Taiwan National Musical Hall...

Place where we headed to classes everyday...
Taiwan tomato noodles...


Duck noodels...

Dinner at a restaurant in National Musical Hall....

Photo with Mr Du Hei-Dirk....

The street where our hostel is located.
Taiwan University.....

Cultural exchage with POC.

Our dear friend, Chung Sun-member of POC in SGI-Taiwan.
In Xi Men Ding.
Group photo with POC members.
On the way to 'Dan Shui'-aiya, he was the tourist guide lo...
Eating supper in Dan Shui.
Night scene of Chiang Kai Shek memorial hall.
Photo with this cute guy also from POC.

Group photo with cute guys and gals.

Rehearsal on stage.

Photo with crew members of the camp.

Practice...the one in green is Mr Wu, the one in the middle is Mr Gabor.

Brief ceremony after the performance.