Friday, 20 May 2011 21:13


KTJ International Youth Guitar Festival 2011

& Malaysia Classical Guitar Orchestra

Mantin, Negeri Sembilan (6 - 8 May 2011)

write up and photos by

Simon Cheong



The festival was conceived by the Festival Director Encik Sazali Abdul Majid as a celebration in conjunction with Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar’s 20th anniversary.

I met Sazali in November 2010 at the Thailand International Guitar Festival 2010 in Bangkok where I was performing with Kuala Lumpur Guitar Ensemble II. He approached me and asked if I remember him. He was a UiTM student but never studied the guitar so, I did not really recognise him but it was great to meet him. He then mentioned his intention to organise a youth festival and would like to invite me to it and to invite Nutavut - the reason for his presence.

When I heard ‘youth festival’, my mind raced on and I told Sazali of my intentions of forming a youth ensemble – Malaysia Youth Guitar Ensemble (MYGE). He was game and told me he would get in touch with me once everything was confirmed. I told him that I would give him my full support.

On 20th February 2011, I met Sazali for lunch in Sunway Pyramid. He confirmed that the festival was on and showed me the programme. In the programme was a spot for a Youth Guitar Ensemble - my reaction was shock! Wow, how was I to form a youth ensemble in the short span of about 2 month plus! Very quickly, I told Sazali that it was impossible but would think how to overcome the problem. As we were talking through lunch, I decided to get rid of the youth ensemble and told Sazali that instead of a youth ensemble, why not a guitar orchestra with no age limit. I could then involve the Classical Guitar Society (WP/Sel) members. With the strength of the Society’s members, as professionals, to be a part of the orchestra, they could easily help the youth in the orchestra and learn up the three pieces I had in mind. So, the Malaysia Classical Guitar Orchestra was conceived.

I had the Malaysia Classical Guitar Orchestra in mind for a long time but had not got it going until now. Sazali was the catalyst. I still had my reservations about calling the ensemble an orchestra as it really was only an ensemble. I mentioned this to Sazali but he insisted that it should be called an orchestra. The reason was that it would expand into a real guitar orchestra in the future. With that positive note, we settled on forming the country’s first ever Malaysia Classical Guitar Orchestra.

Getting members into the orchestra was a task that I had. I had to take many things into consideration, and finally getting the consent and willingness of those chosen, as time was not on our side, we started practice. We could only have four practices and yet learn up three pieces. The pieces chosen were my arrangements originally for KLGE II – Mak Inang, Putra Putri and Tanah Pusaka.

The choice of these pieces is necessary for most Malaysian guitarists who may want to show to the world a representation of Malaysia.  Mak Inang is as traditional a Malay tune as it can be, while Putra Putri is a song about our royalties. And Malaysia is the only country in the world that is made up of many states with their own Sultans who in rotation would be the Agong of Malaysia. Finally, Tanah Pusaka is a patriotic song.

The twenty MCGO members I had chosen kept changing with each practice as one had a hurt hand and were advised to lay off playing the guitar, to another having received a scholarship to study in Singapore and yet another for one reason or another opted out.  Finally, the list was made up of Chee Mee Chooi, Christopher Cheong, Chuah Yeong Chin, Ginny Leow Qian Ying, Hwang Jing, Jeremy Cheong, Jesslyn Chan Si Lyn, Johnrail Jamil @ Jaudi, Jovy Fong, Lee Ji Xuan, Lee Yuen Shuan, Leong Yee Hoo, Low Kean Soon, Low Yang Li, Murielle Probst, Pim Sri Wahok, Richard Kok Chee Kit, Saufi Mohd Athir, Tang Chee Chuan and Tang Shaun Wei.

As the festival grew nearer, I was informed during our last practice that there would be an appearance on ntv7 for The Breakfast Show on the morning of 6 May 2011. MCGO was to give a performance on air but the producer said the stage could not hold all twenty members. So, only a representative few could go on air. Immediately, I had to make a decision and my decision would have to take into account the quality of performance, as well as keeping in mind that this was a KTJ event, so KTJ students were needed in the count. In addition, this was also a youth festival, hence I would need young performers too.  As the pieces were quartets, it would have to be a minimum of four otherwise eight players. For quality of performance, the leaders of the four different parts would have to be chosen. So Chuah Yeong Chin, Low Kean Soon, Lee Ji Xuan and Leong Yee Hoo were chosen. Then, came Jeremy Cheong, Pim Sri Wahok, Tang Shaun Wei and Christopher Cheong. Tang Shaun Wei opted out because of his studies and I had wanted another girl in the fold but Ginny declined immediately and so Tang Chee Chuan was asked from his third guitar part and he agreed.

Two days after our last practice, Sazali called me saying that he received an email from TV3 MHI producer and we were to go on air in the morning of 2nd May on Malaysia Hari Ini. Well, Sazali was to leave for Perth, Australia on 28 April and would be back on May 3. Pim Sri Wahok was not available too!  Our festival director, Sazali, asked me to cover for him and would also have a representative of KTJ (Puan Zuraidah) with me. As for Pim, I had to get a replacement and with that, Jesslyn Chan Si Lyn came onboard.

The morning of May 2 was a very early one for us. We were at TV3 by 6.30 am Yawn...! Well, we did not know that we were scheduled to appear at the end of the show – at 8.30 to 9.00 am! We waited for two hours. Of interest, a VIP guest was on this same show - Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, daughter of our former Prime Minister.

The interview went well with my sons and wife laughing at my attempt to speak Bahasa Malaysia on TV! My poor command of the language was because of the fact that I had an English medium education!

The eight representatives of MCGO had the time of their lives! This was their very first appearance on TV and they were really excited. They had problems cueing themselves on, when to play and were further confused by the TV3 producer trying to cue them in!  They made mistakes and had problems playing together. If we had weaker players, it could have been worse! Chalk this up to experience and a learning adventure. They spoke to me, and I told them that a TV show must have everything timed properly so that there were no breaks in between as this was a live show.

The run up to 6 May for The Breakfast show had me cracking my head as to the MCGO representatives. Sazali told me he had spoken with the producer and the producer maintained a maximum of only 6 players may appear on stage. As I mentioned earlier, the pieces were quartets and so it is either 4 or 8 players. The TV3 host had mentioned that she noticed that there was only one female in the group and I wanted to include another. If I could put all eight up, I could only do away with Tang Chee Chuan, I made the request and he was great and obliged to give up his place for Low Yang Li who had to learn the 3rd guitar part within a week. She was playing second guitar originally.

On the morning May 6, once again we arrived early. At 7 am everyone was there and we found that the TV station had the red carpet rolled out with many police and security people around. Nope... the red carpet was definitely not for us....fat hopes! Well, our Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was to be on air this same morning.

It was good to have everyone around especially the new representative, Low Yang Li. I got down to having the four youth practising. Jeremy Cheong on first guitar, Jesslyn Chan on second guitar, Low Yang Li on third guitar and Christopher Cheong on fourth guitar. By 8 am I had decided to have these four on air and not have the others. Thankfully, the other four were very understanding and were not angry with me for wasting their time! Making them wake up so early, having to practice their parts through the week, believing they would be on TV and probably having told their friends about it. My apologies to them and am really happy to have the camaraderie found among them. They even lent their professional guitars to the girls and were helping out by carrying stuff and taking pictures.

Sazali and Nutavut arrived a little later with Murielle and Pim, bringing the banquet chairs from KTJ for the show as the TV station did not have the proper chairs for guitarists to sit on to play. The KTJ headmaster and music department head were supposed to arrive later as they were to be interviewed along with Sazali. Nutavut had to perform as well.

By 9.15 am, we had to be ready to go on air but KTJ’s headmaster and music department head had not arrived yet owing to traffic problems. Sazali asked me to be on standby to go on air with him. I was not prepared for this, especially since the festival is KTJ’s and not the Society’s festival! I declined but he insisted.  I will state that the Classical Guitar Society (WP/Sel) Malaysia is there to support KTJ IYGF 2011 only and my appearance is to show how strongly we support KTJ and this festival.

Once again, the interview went on smoothly. Nutavut played the last movement of Domeniconi’s Koyunbaba. BUT... the four young ones had a bad recording! Why? Only, guitar 1 and 4 had microphones attached to the guitars. Guitar 2 had a last minute microphone attached which seemed to be more a come and go with the sound and no microphone attached to Guitar 3! Imagine the music made...!?  It is sad to find ntv7 not equipped with microphones suitable for such a recording, unlike TV3, and we had to bring our own chairs as well. I finally understood why the producer said he could only have 6 players as the maximum on stage – the recording studio was really small!

On Sunday, the main day of the festival, there was the youth concert followed by a masterclass with Nutavut and then lunch. After lunch, was a workshop with Nutavut and then came the guest artiste concert. This concert started with Leong Yee Hoo and then the presentation of MCGO. Nutavut ended the concert and then it was certificate and gift acknowledgment to all concerned. Relief was on Sazali’s face when all was over and the job was done.  Kudos to KTJ and Sazali for hosting the country’s first International Youth Guitar Festival and to the MCGO, well done! More great things are in store for this first ever orchestra with performances overseas in the pipeline!

Here are some photos.

At TV3 on Malaysia Hari Ini at 8.30-9.00am on 2 May 2011. The eight MCGO representatives (left to right) Chuah Yeong Chin, Jeremy Cheong, Jesslyn Chan, Low Kean Soon, Tang Chee Chuan, Lee Ji Xuan, Leong Yee Hoo and Christopher Cheong. Here together, we have the MHI host M. Zulkilfi Abdul Jalil and Habsah Omar with Kolej Tuanku Ja'afar's representative Puan Zuraidah and President of Classical Guitar Society Malaysia, Simon Cheong.

At NTV7on The Breakfast Show at 9.30-10.00am on 6 May 2011. Festival Director, Sazali Abdul Majid with CGS President Simon Cheong at the control room waiting to go on into the recording studio. The interview on NTV7's The Breakfast Show. Anchors Joanne De Rozario and Aishah Sinclair talking to Sazali and Simon A final picture taken before leaving the studio (seated left to right) Nutavut Ratanakarn; The four youths representing MCGO, Jeremy cheong, Jesslyn Chan, Low Yang Li and Christopher Cheong; (standing) Aishah Sinclair and Joanne De Rozario. Unfortunately, Sazali went out of the studio and is missed out in this photo.


May 8, 2011 the final day of the festival... Before I say anything else, I have to tell Sew Hong how much we miss him for this whole event. Well, as you will all notice, the photos taken are really not to well taken...really miss Sew Hong's beautiful photo taking as well as not missing out on anything! The liveTV3 interview did not get any shots taken. and in the Youth Concert Showcase below has one performer missing but he is seen in the group photo. Sorry, Sheikh Hady Basmeih, I am able to include a photo of you performing here. These photos came from 2 different cameras that Ji Xuan used as well as from mobile phone cameras! What a contrast to Sew Hong's very professional Cannon EOS5D.

Youth Concert Showcase - 1st performer Akmal Youth Concert Showcase - 3rd performer Christopher Cheong Youth Concert Showcase - 4th performer Low Yang Li

Youth Concert Showcase - 5th performer Jesslyn Chan Youth Concert Showcase - final performer Jeremy Cheong Youth Concert Showcase - An accolade for them - Jesslyn Chan, Jeremy Cheong, Low Yang Li, Christopher Cheong, Akmal and Sheikh


A masterclass with Nutavut followed for six of the MCGO members.

Richard Kok Tang Chee Chuan Jesslyn Chan

Ginny Leow Johnrail Jamil @ Jaudi Saufi Mohd Athir

A talk with Nutavut ensued...

Sazali asking Mutavut some questions.

Here is Sazali addressing the invited children from a nearby primary school.I had only wished that more schools would have participated in this festival afterall this festival is directed at youths.

A youth festival will be considered successful if we are able to reach out to the youths through the primary and secondary schools as well as the university students,in my opinion. And the best possible way that this can happen is to have the education ministry involved,,,


Finally, the highlight of this festival....Leong Yee Hoo started off the concert.

The launching of the Malaysia Classical Guitar Orchestra by hitting the gong three times and the headmaster, Walter Jones was invited on stage to do this.

Malaysia Classical Guitar Orchestra

The guest artiste from Thailand, Nutavut Ratanakarn.


The festival ended with tokens of appreciation being given out to all concerned.

Nutavut Ratanakarn Leong Yee Hoo

To my surprised, even I was given a token of appreciation for teaching the MCGO.

All the performers on stage with festival director and KTJ's headmaster Walter Jones.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 August 2013 19:54