Saturday, 31 May 2008

The Edge: Auditions

Whew, what a day!! Today I worked on a Powerpoint presentation for the Listen semi-final (i.e. the Buddhist thingo) to be held on June 4, and then headed out to the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre for the very first audition I've been involved in since coming home two years ago!! Whoohooo!! Not only was I there at the audition, but I was also running it, alongside the resident director Chris, to find people to perform in the workshop version of my musical The Edge. Now, for those of you who don't know what a workshop really is, it's basically a scaled down, very minimal presentation of the material, performed in its entirety but with the aim of finding out what works, what doesn't work, what should remain and what should go. So at the end of the four performances we're having at the end of July, we're going to obtain feedback from the audience to see what they think. All terribly exciting, no?? Now if only I have the complete libretto ready. But anyway.

So yes, auditions. We decided to do a closed audition, meaning the only people who were there were those Chris and I invited, based on our kinship with them and familiarity with their performing capability. We invited about 20 people, and got about a dozen, which isn't bad at all, for a show that has only six roles, arf arf. So we tried them out by basically letting them sing whatever they wanted, then teaching them a song from the show to gauge how well they respond to learning by ear, followed by an ensemble piece where we got all dozen of them to sing in parts to a wordy song they'd only just learnt. The song I chose for the ensemble section was The Rhythm of Life from the musical Sweet Charity. It sounded really sweet with all of 'em giving it a go!! They're really good, these folks!! Chris has a recording of their efforts somewhere; I'll post it up here when I get a copy off him. In the meantime, here's a segment from the original song:


So all in all it went really well. Chris was and is really pleased with the turnout and the process, and just before I left earlier today we for the most part decided who'd be playing the six characters in The Edge. Rehearsals start June 5. That's only next week, OMG. Got to get stuff done! Got to get stuff FINISHED!! ARRRRGGH! Okay, I go now. Until next time!! Bye! ~Nicko

Friday, 30 May 2008

Wah Lau Eh

Good lord, folks, doesn't a week fly by incredibly quickly?? Won't take up too much time, but just some recaps: finished, as you probably realised earlier, the music for Captive Carousel in Perth, which opened last weekend and is finishing its run on Saturday, so methinks it's not too late to catch it, folks! ;)

Monday and yesterday I headed into a studio to snazz up the music for Listen to present in the semi-finals on June 4, hopefully heading into the finals on June 7. Wish me luck with that one!! I've got a great singer who's helping me out by representing me onstage (i.e. he's going to sing it)... he's really good, so I'm hoping we knock the socks off the judges, hehe.

Elsewhere, I've been working on a song for a television show soon to be launched on local TV. It's to be a show set in a high school with songs, a la High School Musical, only localised (the songs are mostly in Malay), but what's cool is that there'll be 13 episodes with a few short (e.g. one-minute) tunes per episode; but they'll be launching a CD as well, and the CD will contain full-length versions of these songs. So yay! They liked the first song I wrote so much that they've asked me to write a second one... so that's something I've got to work on over the next couple of days.

If only I didn't have an audition to worry about! Yup, auditions for the workshop of my musical The Edge are taking place today, Friday, and it's scary because the script and music's barely finished (flashback to FTL days!) and it's already been garnering interest from people within the theatre industry and without (i.e. the media). Apparently a musical written by a newbie about a guy who's about to kill himself gets noticed, lol. Anyway, I'll give you more info on the show and how it progresses, but as of this point, I've got 85% of a script, which also means 85% of the songs; I've got zero demos recorded; I've got about 20 people coming to audition for six character roles later tonight; we don't have much of a budget (which is ok since it's only a workshop, i.e. not fully-staged, the bare essentials: six people singing in a room with basic lighting); we've got the support of the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre; and we've got four performances happening, open to the public, end of July.

So, add The Edge to Buddhist songwriting competition and throw in High School Musical incarnate, and you get a rather frazzled Nick. All this in the almost two-months since leaving the mag. How fun!!!

So that's the latest with me. What's up with you? :)

Thursday, 22 May 2008

All Hail The Carnival!

THE CAPTIVE CAROUSEL
Written & Directed by Jenny DeReuck
Presented by the Murdoch Children's Performing Group
Music by Nick Choo ;)

Friday 30 May 2008 , 6.30pm
Saturday 31 May 2008, 2.00pm & 6.30pm

Something is not quite right in Madame Columbina's Funfair. Punch and Judy are afraid to perform these days because things go wrong when they least expect it and Harlequin is troubled by the behaviour of the clowns in Side-Show Alley. Add to this the fact that the Galloping Horses of the Carousel have seen something frightening on the Ghost Train, and it's clear that all is not well. Perhaps only sad little Pierrette can help them because she alone remembers what Madame Sosostris, the Fortune Teller, once told them....

Join the creatures of the Funfair in their attempts to solve the mystery. What is it that has stopped the Ferris Wheel from turning and blocks the entry to the Helter Skelter? Who is it that seeks to steal the laughter? The creatures of the Funfair will need all the help they can get if they're to overcome the evil forces let loose on their world and recover once again the lost laughter of the Carnival!

Tickets: Melanie Farley 9360 2504

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Two-Year Anniversary!

Hey all! I'm back home after the Singypoo trip! Took a different bus service yesterday to come home, but all in all wasn't terribly impressed, so I shall refrain from mentioning the name of this bus service (which kinda makes my mentioning it a little pointless, no?). Heh.

I've been struck down by the post-Singypoo blues, so I'm feeling a little bummed right now. But it'll pass. So... yeah. Y'know how it is.

Meanwhile, as of today, May 21, I've been home in Malaysia for two years, exact. Remember all the packing up and farewell partying and the crying and the airport fiasco?? No? Well, refresh your memory! (Scroll down for the earlier posts, arf!!) I think it says a lot that I'm still keeping track of how long I've been away from Perth, oy vey!! Oh well...

Anyway, that's about it for now... will return to blog more later!! :) Cheerio!

Monday, 19 May 2008

Champion? Oooo!!

It's the following day, and Jo and I are sitting in a TCC in Plaza Singypoo. Typically, we're both on our laptops, conversing via MSN. Oy.

Anyway!!! So last night was pretty interesting!! After the sound check, the show eventually began, and before I knew it, it was time for me to get up there and sing. Good Lord, I never want to sing ever again (despite Judi's encouragement, thaaaaanks Jooooo-di!)!! Unfortunately it wasn't the kind of crowd to appreciate the type of music style that the song was written in; the moment they realised it wasn't a bouncy, jaunty, Asian-sounding, Chinese-wedding-style karaoke-type number, the majority of folks tuned out. Add to that the fact that it's in English - the only English moment in the whole event, save a speech by the guest of honour - and you have a song that, without intending to be callous, went right over most peoples' heads. Oy. Here's the full clip of me performing, albeit from a far distance (so it's not really worth watching the whole thing, ok??) :P Note how nobody's really paying attention. Arf!!!



Anyway Jo showed up just in time to capture the moment of performance. And then there was some hanging around before the prizegiving ceremony, for which I went up onto the stage after the third- and second-prize winners to receive this cute little trophy with a treble clef on it. Heh. Pics below. The second-prizewinner glared at me with what seemed like open disdain when I smiled at her; methinks she thought I was being in-your-facey. Silly woman. Anyway, here's me receiving the prize, courtesy of Jo's mobile! Again, notice how nobody's really paying attention. :P


So that was that; I took the trophy; they played my Myspace friend Jason Stephenson's rendition of Listen in the background as I got onstage; there were photos; they handed me a cheque for... some... prize... money... (grins); and off Jo and I went for dinner, bailing on the rest of the event. Classy as always. Nah, I joke; Jo and I were both exhausted, so we left, since we didn't understand the rest of the ceremony anyway. And it was in Punggol, which was, like, smack in the middle of Buddha-knows-where. It was safer to leave earlier. We ended up at Novena Square, had dinner (steaks! mmmm!) and then walked back to the hotel, where Jo left, and I went to bed, praying the room wasn't haunted, and preparing myself to converse with whatever-it-would-be had it been haunted. Eeeks. That's what happens when you overdose on Ghost Hunters. Oy.

Me and the other prizewinners on stage. See me? On the far left, in the black shirt? :P

Here's a pic of the trophy I won:

It says "champion" right there on the base! Awww!! Sweet!!

...And if you're wondering how the complete song sounds like, check out Jason's demo of the song, via the usual embedded player or by downloading from the link below it:


Finally, just hung out with Carol from uni and ate too much as usual; now, as abovementioned, am at TCC. Later, dinner with Jo's folks, then back to the hotel. Leaving for PJ tomorrow, so... yeah. A short trip this has been, but it's been really interesting, no?? :)) Until next time, see ya!!

Of Temples and Karaoke

Live blog post: Punggol, Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple, circa 645pm - Here I am, back in Singypoo. Right now I''m sitting in a Buddhist temple watching a rehearsal of some sort of dramatic performance. It's all in Chinese, so i don't understand a word of it, naturally. All I know is some guy is wailing and breaking down before what looks like his mother, while a couple of singers croon some sort of heartbreaking ballad in da background. The stuff of soap operas, this is.

I'm here for the aforementioned Buddhist songwriting competition presentation, and its kinda disconcerting, in an enriching kinda way, to be in a place of worship of a non-Christian kind. Though it's not exactly how you'd imagine a temple to look like: this place is a modern steel-and-glass building, totally contemporary, with a giant white statue of Buddha dominating the centre "stage". Nary an incense stick in sight. It's actually very much like a church. Just... Without Jesus and with very little English. Oy. I'd take a photo but I'm not sure if it's entirely appropriate. Oh what the hey... here's a pic. :P


Jo's due to meet me here later, though methinks she is a bit irked that I opted to stay in a hotel this time around instead of at her place. But I had my reasons; I was braindead and knackered upon reaching here, having stayed up all night, literally, to finish the music for the kids' play The Captive Carousel. So rather than head to Jo's with all my luggage, I spontaneously decided to check into a hotel in the city so I could take a nap. There's only so much carnivalesque music one can take; I'm all oom-pah-pahed out. I didn't actually end up taking that nap. But I digress....

So here I am, after the fiasco with the Malay singer (sigh), doing what I actually don't particularly enjoy doing: about to sing one of my own songs. Can you spell karaoke?? Heh. There's going to be a prize presentation after; and then there'll be a semi-final in KL before the international grand final if I qualify. The fact that I'm presenting tonight means I'm definitely in the semi-final... But whether or not I make it to the final remains to be seen. At least, that's what I understand of the whole deal. I feel like I'm on Idol. Just... Y'know... Without the English :P

Ok I think my sound check is just about due. Mein gott, me has butterflies a fluttering in my tummy. Might be the vegetarian porridge and laksa they just served up for dinner, oy. Pausing now so I don't look all snobby-yuppylike in this temple, both thumbs twiddling away on this Blackberry-like mobile device. Back later...

712pm. Getting ready for the starting. Sound check went well but the music didn't sound particularly rich. Must learn how to tweak my equipment to achieve as high-quality a sound as possible. There're lotsa people about. Am a tad apprehensive, but hey, that's all part of the fun. Am gonna pause again now. Meanwhile, where on earth is Jo...??

Thursday, 15 May 2008

A Story of Religious Perplexity

So let's do a quick recap, based on this existing post. Recently I "inadvertently" got involved in an international Buddhist songwriting competition, where we had to compose a melody based on existing Dharma texts. I say "inadvertently" because I wrote it for a mate in Sydney who wanted to represent Australia in this competition; then once the song was written, he was told that the song had to be written by an Australian in order to qualify (which makes sense!). Long story short, he submitted his own song, and I was left with a tranquil Buddhist-sounding song that I had no idea what to do with.

So I looked around and discovered that SINGAPORE was running a "semi-final" to find a representative to represent the country, and it had opened its doors to Malaysians too. Since the song was already there, and since the competition was open to "people of all faiths", I decided to submit it. They loved it, and this Sunday they're having a presentation ceremony, where they want my song to be performed. Now, I'm never fond of singing my own songs, and the organisers themselves requested I find a professional singer to sing on my behalf... so the past few days have been a madrush of finding a representative who's willing to travel to Singapore and/or to the finals in Kuala Lumpur this June. (In other words, a singer from KL would have to travel to Singapore; a singer in Singapore would still have to travel to KL).

Fortunately I managed to find a singer based in Singapore who was happy to perform my song (and to be perfectly honest was the only person who was wonderful enough to respond and was willing to do it pretty much pro bono). He's of the Muslim faith, which is fine by me, and he was all too happy to perform a Buddhist song, to be presented in a Buddhist temple no less. So it was all organised, and it looked like things were going to work out.

Unfortunately, just today I received a phone call from the organisers, saying they felt that a Muslim in a Buddhist event might pose a problem to the Islamic councils here in Singapore and Malaysia, and so they've advised me to not let him sing. Which, as you can imagine, is a blow to me and to the singer himself. It flies in the face of the "people of all faiths" condition of the competition, as well as its reported intention to "unify the different religions through music". Of course, there's more reason behind their decision to discourage a Muslim in a Buddhist event - such as the fact that Malaysia is an Islamic country, and that the role and influence of Islam is predominant in both Singapore and Malaysia, where any act that appears to be attempting to convert a Muslim into another faith is highly frowned upon (in Malaysia, forbidden even!)... but this is quite a disappointing development in two nations (one of them first-world) that claim to be "forward-thinking, forward-looking and progressive", where citizens are supposedly free to make their own decisions without fear of being "brainwashed", and where people are meant to be unified and not segregated.

To some minute degree, I empathise with the organiser because they could run into some serious trouble if they didn't try to discourage this. But that does not make it right. But anyway. Bottom line is, I'm now left with the question of whether to withdraw from the competition (and forego the opportunity to see where it leads me, selfish as it sounds); to convince the organisers to let my friend perform regardless of possible consequences (such as warning letters from Islamic councils and scrutiny from the authorities and the public, given that the event will be covered by the media); or just to let it go, convey my apologies to my friend, and perform the song myself this weekend.

Never a dull moment.

So how are you?

Friday, 9 May 2008

Madcap Memoirs of a Maniacal Musicmaker (Is There An Echo In Here?)

Hi everyone! Whoo it's been a while eh?? Just some quick recaps since I'm still busy working on music projects. First off, left Singypoo last Friday (a week ago?! Mein gott!), but not before having a lovely time with Carol from uni (hiiiii Caaaarollll!!). We ate as we caught up... um... because, just like Malaysia, there's not much else to do while catching up in Singypoo. Oh, I'm sure that's not true, but... whatever. :P

Came home and basically I've been working on completing the first draft of my musical The Edge (still 80% done at this point, oy vey!!); composing music for The Captive Carousel, a children's musical in Perth (more details very shortly, so that you Perthlings - you know who you are - can go check it out if you're free and... if... you... want... to...); working on a recording for an artiste in the States who wants to record a demo; and revising the music for this Buddhist songwriting competition that I inadvertently got involved in. I'm currently in the hunt of a singer who won't mind performing this song (given its Buddhist slant) in Singapore in about a couple of weeks, and then there's a semi-final and grand final in KL in the first week of June. Apparently I stand a pretty good chance of winning a prize or two. I find it oddly ironic that a Buddhist-themed song of mine is doing so well, even much better than any of my churchy stuff when it comes to competitions. Then again, I supposed it's also because there're so many composers out there writing Christian music that the competition is bound to be higher. Hmmm. Anyway.

Yesterday was Terry's birthday, so we had our usual celebratory dinner at this weird restaurant in The Gardens, KL, that served Chinese food and tea... together. In other words, stirfried vegetables in tea sauce. Chicken with tea sauce. Rice with tea leaves. Oddity, thy name is this restaurant. But it was all pretty yummy (if not a bit strange), and they use different types of tea in their dishes, so it's not all, like, you know, gastronomically monotonous or anything. Arf.

Anyway that's about it for now - back to musicmaking I go. Incidentally, none of the above is making me any money... yet. But you never know, big things could happen. Heh. I leave you now with a little sampler of the music from The Captive Carousel, once again listenable through the embedded player if you've got a plugin, or downloadable. Until next time... have a good one!

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Dum de Dum

Hey all! Just a very very quick note to say: updates coming soon!!!!! Hehe. I'm back at home (been back since Sunday) and have been busy working on several music projects, all of which I've mentioned before. :P Okay, until later... bye for now!!