Reported by Fajar binti Benjamin
Edited by Supriya Sivabalan
Triplet 2.0: Untold Stories Unforgettable Warfare was an orchestra concert organized and made up of musicians from Sunway, Monash and Taylor’s University all working together to make up a fully-fledged 140 piece orchestra. Alone, each orchestra would not be able to complete the roster needed to play the complex and mesmerizing pieces we were serenaded with over the weekend of May 10th and 11th, but together, they had enough members to pull off a truly professional and impressive concert, which was well worth the RM38 ticket price.
Before the show started on Sunday, we sat down with Mr Chan Chun Yeen, one of the co-chairpersons of Triplet, an alumni of both Sunway and Monash, to ask him a couple of questions regarding the structure and inspiration behind Triplet this year. To start off, he revealed that the previous Triplet was held in 2017 with 2018 being skipped due to Sunway Ensemble and Taylors Orchestra both having their 10-year anniversary concert to prepare for. As for having two shows over the weekend; the first show was sold out. It simply made sense to meet the demand that music lovers were showing to raise more funds for each club to give master classes, training, and subsidize concert gear.
“Obviously it’s very tiring to play two shows, but the musicians are very motivated, they’re doing this for the community and for the music at the same time. I’d say 90% of them are not music students so this is their opportunity to do what they love”.
One thing special about this year’s Triplet is that they had a featured choir as well, also comprising of three different groups (“it’s like a Triplet of its own!”), Malaysian Institute of Arts (MIA), Universiti Malaya (UM) as well as Peace Choir Malaysia (a church choir) forming altogether around 170 singers.
The origin of Triplet is an interesting story. Since each individual orchestra only had around 30-40 players, there’d often be some swapping or borrowing of players to complete the various ensembles. The co-founders, Sunny Chew and Chan Chun Yeen would often play their instruments to each other, hanging out before one day they asked, ‘why don’t we just do one (a concert) together? Instead of just helping each other, we form all 3 together and call it Triplet:. However, they are also open to allow more music players into the concert as the performance is really just a platform to provide an opportunity for the music lovers.
When asked how they chose which pieces to play, Chun Yeen responded that “this is actually quite distinctive, the first half is usually classical pieces; Tchaikovsky, Gustav and all this. The reason is, we know (that) the Malaysian audience doesn’t really know classical music that well, so we must pick the pieces that the audience will find most interesting. But mostly, we want our musicians to experience learning the classical pieces as they are more complex, with many layers to make the whole symphony work, as compared to a movie soundtrack- It’s not that they (the movie soundtracks) are easy, it’s just (that) they’re usually more straightforward”
So the first half was more catered to the musicians, and the second half was to excite and appease the audience with pieces from popular culture that they recognised in order to sell tickets. The committee brainstormed on the pieces, choosing ones that closely represented not just the exciting parts of war, in-line with their theme this year, but the emotional ones too. They even brought in game and anime soundtracks. “Basically we try to find a win-win, we play pieces that can teach the musicians but that the audience also wants to hear.”
As for the inspiration behind the war theme, the answer was quite simple. The pop-culture climate calls for it with Avengers Endgame and the final season of Game Of Thrones airing around this time. The biggest challenge in organizing the event was finding the perfect date where a maximum number of people would be available. The other challenge was having to pass on trust to everyone. “We can’t micromanage everyone, as much as we’d like to” Chun Yeen joked.
A message he had for his players, simply put, was “enjoy the show!”
The first piece was the perfect opener, The Planets: Mars, Bringer of War, a heady war piece designed to incite fear and excitement in listeners with its uncanny irregular beat and deafening clashes. The music is both loud and frightening in the clarity of the image that it brings up. You can easily picture it being played over a scene of a battlefield, with the audience witnessing the class between two mighty sides as the music plays on, at moments creating a feeling of tension, then heroic courage, and the sounds of victory and defeat. A perfect debut to a night on the theme of war.
The next piece, Peer Gynt Suite No.1, Op.46 (Movements I and IV) stood in direct contrast as a very romantic piece, with the main melody from the woodwind section floating above the audience with a quivering pattern in Morning Mood, the first movement. Then, following it was the fourth movement, Hall of the Mountain King, often known for its build up to a frenetic speed and intense tempo that had everyone breathless in the face of the music and was truly something to behold.
The next song to be performed was Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, Op.49, a piece often used in pop culture and movies, V for Vendetta being an example where the song was used in tandem with the climactic moments. Listening to this song while sitting in a chair and having a live orchestra play it, was awe inspiring to say the least and magnificent. With that, the first half of the concert was over and we were granted a 15 minute break while the emcee amused us with terrible jokes.
The next set opened with The Legend of Zelda: Main Theme. Hearing a live performance of a musical piece with a full orchestra was something that sparked many an emotion in people all throughout the hall, as you don’t have to consider yourself a hardcore gamer or play the game before to have heard of The Legend of Zelda. It is a song that many consider to be a gamers anthem and the song certainly showed the colours that might have led some to that opinion, with its brass and trumpet sounds creating the feeling of a marching theme. Certainly there were people in the crowd that night that reacted to the music being played with cries of recognition and grins across the faces of everyone. This was also the first non-classical song to be played that night, preluding many more to come!
Next up was a piece from the Final Fantasy series, a long running franchise for years. Fans of the series will be hard pressed to pick one song out of the entire series that is their favourite, but certainly all brought many memories with arguably one of the better pieces of the series being played, Liberi Fatali, with it’s choir accompaniment and sharpness to the piece. It was a short but amazing performance by the orchestra. While perhaps not everyone might be fans of the series, the music stands out on its own as strong and poignant, regardless of whether you are a fan of the games.
Breaking away a little from the intense feelings of the theme of war, as even in war there are moments of peace, a mellow and sweet track from a beloved Ghibli movie, Kiki’s Delivery Service: A Town with an Ocean View. The music was upbeat and pleasant, bringing a feeling of lightheartedness and perhaps an unconscious smile to faces in the hall as we sat and reminisced of times when we were young and innocent like Kiki. Immediately after, another Ghibli classic was played, Spirited Away: Reprise. Perhaps the most iconic and familiar theme from that movie, as the vocalist impressed us all with her (seemingly) flawless Japanese singing, paying wonderful tribute to the movie that so many of us remember fondly.
Next, the orchestra moved on to their movie soundtrack selection, beginning with Schindler’s List, a movie filmed on the topic of the holocaust and a man who saved many Jews out of compassion. This piece is, for lack of a better word, heartbreaking in its sorrow. The string instruments stand out as the stars of this song, and some have described the song as hearing violins crying. Words struggle to describe how powerful this song is, especially for those who watched the movie, released by Steven Spielberg in 1993. This was a song over which tears were almost definitely shed for.
Moving away from the sadness, the next soundtrack performed was an epic playing of the Star Trek: Into Darkness Suite, a dramatic and thoroughly impressive seven minutes of music featuring heavy bass, drums, and trumpets. For old time Trekkies, many would recognise the familiar melodies of the old Star Trek, but given a new breath of life, a new vein of energy that the newer generation would enjoy and bring in a new wave of fans to the series.
Of course, while Star Trek is an older yet well remembered TV and movie series, the orchestra could not avoid the extremely popular and more current showings as well. Thor: Dark World Theme is a dramatic and powerful short piece that brings to mind a grand entrance or a great undertaking and built towards a masterfully done climax with the choir chanting in the background. Fans of the series were delighted to hear this one, as well as the next equally popular series soundtrack: The Game of Thrones Symphonic Suite. Aptly timed just as the television series has come to an end, this song paid homage to the series with a well received performance.
The show was then seemingly over. The 3 conductors from the night were presented with bouquets in appreciation of their stellar performances. Wave after wave of applause sounded through the crowd before inevitable, the cries for an encore came.
The lights turned back down. A hammer was placed on stage as the emcee asked “What do music and lightning have in common?” The answer: They both need a good conductor. In a bout of theatrics, the stage manager was called to try and pick up the hammer, which, as unworthy as he is, he failed to do. The audience was then encouraged to cheer as loudly as possible to summon the God of Thunder himself and sure enough, Mr Sunny Chew emerged, dressed as Thor, casually picked up the hammer and began to conduct a reprise of Thor: The Dark World. The audience loved it.
A final performance was done of the song This Is Me from the movie The Greatest Showman, featuring the lead singer from local band, Wicked Livers. Mr Rockie Siew not only conducted the orchestra and choir, but the audience as well as they sang along to the chorus. It was certainly an amazing night.