Conductor finds Sabah magical

KOTA KINABALU:  Vienna Boys Choir conductor Kerem Sezen said he was “totally happy” to have come to Sabah.

Music buffs packed the 5,000-strong University Malaysia Sabah Chancellor’s Hall on Saturday night, followed by another robust turnout Sunday night.

They included enthusiasts from Tawau, Sandakan, Interior Tenom, Keningau, Labuan and as far as Kuching and Brunei!

One mother used the word “magical” to describe their vocal quality, another said it was like listening to “a recording”.

The packed crowd erupted with thunderous approval when the Choir lent their magic voice to a local Kadazan hit “Sayang Kinabalu” as the final piece of their three encores on Sunday.

Fans milled around to take photos with the boys and conductor after the shows. “The response from the crowd was fantastic, especially the second night. I am glad,” said District Governor, Edward Sung Bungoroh. “Sales were good and very encouraging,” said organising chairman Jeyan Murimuttu.

We not only covered our cost but raised enough money to fund our community projects, the main one being our international Polio-plus and gravity water project,” Jeyan said. “Their visit also elevated the cultural importance of Kota Kinabalu,” noted Dr Ravi Mandalam, a key member of the organising team.

Dr. Ravi said a big majority of the ticket sales picked up after Daily Express ran a front-page report on the Choir just two days before the show. “The Vienna Boys Choir had brought a lot of excitement to Kota Kinabalu over the last few days,” said Lawrence Thien, President of the Kota Kinabalu Rotary Club, which spent the last two years arranging their visit. “People need to see to believe, I think children here who saw the Vienna standard can now appreciate they too can reach out to such standard,” Thein added.

Zaine Abdul Aucasa, a former club treasure, said the “the local community had benefited from the excellent, high standard performance” and praised the club for bringing the Choir back a second time. Kerem said he appreciated the positive verdict of the local audience. “We did difficult European music but understood it or not, they sang, cheered, clapped and danced with us, I think they enjoyed it and definitely we had fun singing,” said Kerem, who believed he had just scratched the surface of complex Sabah. “People keep smiling at me, is it a happy crowd or me, I don’t know, but it’s such a big melting pot of a big diversity: I met people from Thailand, the Philippines, China, India, Europe, America and everybody gains,” he noted. But some sharply contrasting facets baffles a first timer like him, he said. “A beautiful hotel where we stayed but going a mile away, a mosque, interesting to see the rich and poor, the whole diversity of this country, with the religion, and a slump � but people in the slump are somehow smiling and happy.

I don’t know how they do it but the spirit is really good,” Kerem sized up his first impressions after four days in Sabah. In an interview immediately after the show, Kerem confided the Chancellor’s Hall was “a little tricky” to render the best of a Vienna Boys Choir. “The difference to a normal concert hall is we need microphones. Otherwise we can’t feel the big hall with the way we are singing, neither an orchestra because anything bigger than 2,000 (capacity) needs amplification.”

The audience heard every voice and sound from the piano but Kerem said the sound “was still different from natural sound.” A concert hall with a lot of wood, for instance, reflects a lot of sound and “this loses a bit from the way we sing,” Kerem said. But still, I think it was a good performance because they had sound engineers putting all the microphones, including the piano.” Meanwhile, Rotarian Christopher Liew, who emceed the two charity shows, paid raving tributes to the workshop Kerem conducted for the local choir and schools. “I received fantastic feedback from people who said they both enjoyed and learnt a heap how voice can be brought out, not just through the diaphragm but also via a relaxed skull and bones,” Liew said. The choir left for Kuala Lumpur Monday morning.

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