Click here to go to 2008 SBP Competition.
April 15th, last Sunday, it was held in the hall of Sekolah Seri Puteri, Cyberjaya.
Congratulations to the host, for they have organized it so smoothly this year, I hardly heard any complaints so far. Regardless that the weather was scorching hot, and nothing can be done about that. Except that, who knows, the city council decided to plant huge gigantic trees everywhere which would have the risk of being uprooted in a thunderstorm.
I believe that everyone was really pleased by the acoustic of the hall this year. I don't know how the organizers did it, but I guess that it's the huge backdrops which have lead to a drastic sound improvement. They act as a sound reflector, and they have consumed some space at the back of the hall, hence the orchestra players would have to sit further in front, therefore, their sound projection is much closer towards the audience, instead of being trapped and circulated inside the stage itself. Kudos to Sekolah Seri Puteri. Quite simple, but brilliant.
My overall preview of this year's competition is that I am really delighted with the improvement shown by all participants. This is one next step towards lifting the quality of the competition; to be at par with the other world class competitions, out there.
SEKOLAH SERI PUTERI (SSP)
This year, their Western choice piece is The Pioneers. At first we predicted that this piece falls in the classical genre, but it sounded far different than their last year's Candid Overture. This piece seemed to be less complex, and the team played it really well.
All the short notes were played clearly, with a very good tuba support. The sound of their muted trumpets were very much to my liking.
When it comes to soli playing, they could deliver a very good punch and the sound is thick and solid.
This year, they are still in pride and optimistic with their favorite commisioned song writer. They played Pesta Menuai, and I started to feel really skeptical about this.
However. To my astoundment, their overall playability has really improved, and they proved that they could perform this Malay piece so as to catch the interest of the audience. This piece, once it has been played to a higher quality of performance, reminds me of the Disney movie soundtrack, Pocahontas. My friend the music expert, said that it reminded him of the good wind orchestras from China.
I am happy that the team host of the competition have improved so much.
SEKOLAH DATO ABD RAZAK (SDAR)
This school, for the recent few years, have been targeted as the newcomer which have put themselves as one of the top best wind orchestra in the SBP league.
This year, they have a theme. Both of their choice pieces are of Phillip Sparke's arrangement.
Starflash is the title of their Western choice piece. Just like what they did with their last year's piece, this year they produced a super clean performance sound. Only that this time the arrangement is far more enticing than the previous one.
Their pitch is so good, and all parts were clear. The articulation and the punchy dynamics were perfectly delivered. This song somewhat reminded us of the Back to the Future movie theme, and there is a strong Phillip Sparke's characteristic in the middle part of the piece; witty and fun.
They managed to fulfil the requirements of this piece. I enjoyed their performance, very much. If I were a SDAR exboy, I would be really, really proud.
Postcards from Singapore, is the original title of their Malay choice piece. Arranged by Phillip Sparke, this piece is a medley of Tanjong Katong and Lenggang Kangkong. To suit the fact that it should be a Malay piece, the school translated the title to Khabar dari Temasek.
I could say that this piece is simple, and it's somewhat tricky to create a wow effect out of this piece to pull and attract the audience's attention.
The school however have played it without any noticeable mistakes throughout the song.
SEKOLAH SULTAN ABDUL HALIM (SEMSAH)
Throughout the workshops where we could have a peek of what the others are playing, this school again gave the initial scary impression that they are playing really tough pieces again.
Their piece is entitled Dans Diabolic, translated to English, as the Devil's Dance.
Explained by my friend the music expert, the devil is intrepreted in this piece through the diabolic or "devilish" chords, throughout the song.
This piece is in the genre of Russian classical dances, which is fast, full of running notes, and definitely a tough piece to be dealt with.
Credits should be given to the school for practicing a very impressive piece, eventhough there are so many improvements that should be done. The performance is not tight enough, and we did not detect the typical strength of a Russian dance piece. There was no noticeable mistakes, but overall dynamics is still poor. So to say, their expression is still not to a satisfactory level.
Joget Kenangan Manis, a popular piece sung by the famous late Sudirman.
Their version of this title is in the jazz category, which is the strength of the school.
However, they are still not playing it tight enough, and the solo trumpet was quite a dissapointment.
I was informed that all the players were juniors, and they were still young.
The instructors aim is to have a long term plan, rather than to win the competition.
Their strategy to be in the competition is more of exposure of the orchestra, and to give them experience in competing and observing other schools.
Based on that, I could say that they did their responsiblity really well.
TUNKU KURSHIAH COLLEGE (TKC)
Their Western choice piece reminds me of the composer Ed Huckeby.
Their performance was just okay.
They played Indah Permai for their Malay choice piece, and it was really upsetting.
The dynamics and the layers of the song (what we nicked as the 'triangular' layer where the trumpets would answer each other) were not shown at all. Instead, they controlled their sound, and it was played monotonously without any highlights emphasized in the song. They still have not fulfil the demands of the arrangement.
MALAY COLLEGE KUALA KANGSAR (MCKK)
They decided to play Alvamar Overture, by James Barnes.
The risk is that they will be compared with the best player of Alvamar Overture, SEMSAH.
Shortly said, their sound was muddy, all the running notes were not clear, and it was just played without much atttention to the details of the song.
SEKOLAH TUN ABD RAZAK (STAR)
With the tutoring assistance of the song arranger himself, this team succeed in playing the Malay piece, Tanah Pusaka, really well. The lower brass produced a very thick strong support, and the trumpets were really controlled.
Their Western choice piece, was cute.
SEKOLAH (SULTAN) ALAM SHAH (SAS)
Russian Christmas Music, was referred as a Grade 6 piece by an article in a wind orchestra magazine in The States. The difficulty of the piece is more towards on the interpretation of the song, besides the high endurance required for the brass section, and the technical skills of the woodwinds at various parts in the piece.
Their Western choice piece, was played before by Nanyang Technology University, Singapore, a few military bands from The States, and Tokyo Kosei Winds. This piece was written by Alfred Reed, which tells the story of the celebration of Christmas in old Russia. Christmas was not celebrated with Santa and colorful decorated trees, but it is more like a dark Christmas.
The huge challenge for the band is to achieve the expression of telling a story of an orthodox Christmas celebration.
During the first few months of their practice, the team aimed in the basics; by perfecting the pitch and tune of all the long chords in the piece. As the rehearsal reached to the last few months before the competition, they focused more on the details. For instance, they practiced perfecting the hidden running scale of the woodwinds as the brass give their final long note (along with the gong) before the whole orchestra meet to silence in a particular bar in the piece.
We are content that the present orchestra team have done a very good job, by acquiring the good points from the previous orchestras all over the world which performed this piece before. They certainly played their version of Russian Christmas Music with pride.
Jauh-Jauh, performed a few years before, is one of the best masterpiece written by Suhaimi Yacob.
Through the newer perceptions of both instructors of the present team, this piece was altered by tempo and tone.
The middle part of the trumpet score was played with a slightly bright effect to bring out the jazz effect. The horns after that would bring out the legato swing mood, which reminded me of the romantic atmosphere in Paris.
Certain bars which was previously played in a fast catchy tempo, is slowed down to elongate the part where the flutes, clarinets and oboe reply one after another. This is done to create an effect of emphasizing the existence of their thick solid tone.
The lower brass, the tuba and the timpani would give their forte low punch after each phrase, which is also one speciality of this piece.
I could say that this is one of the best performance of Sekolah Alam Shah for years.
It was a shame that non of us recorded it, and we could not keep it as an audio history profile of the theme.
But of course, there were still minor mistakes and space for improvement for both songs, and they can check those parts, besides dealing with the change of acoustic in the hall of Putrajaya Convention Centre, where they will fight again with the other finalists.
All the best to all finalists this June.