Monday, June 11, 2012

Family Fun Day with the MPO

Every two months or so, the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra showcases a weekend of performances called Family Fun Day. There are usually three concerts -- one on Saturday afternoon and two on Sunday afternoon. This one-hour performance is tailored for families, and young children including pre-schoolers can attend. It is a good opportunity to expose children to music as it allows them to experience first-hand the orchestra and classical music.

Yesterday, ACE attended the MPO's latest offering which featured two composers who lived around the same period in the 19th centry, Tchaikovsky, a Russian, and Smetana, a Czechkoslovakian.

The guest conductor was Nicolae Moldoveanu, from Transylvania (the land of vampires, he joked), who had a thick accent which made it a bit difficult for C to catch what he was saying. It was also a bit difficult for us adults to catch his jokes while he interpreted and explained the musical structure of the two compositions the orchestra was performing. Nevertheless, it was an educational experience for me as well, learning the interpretation of the various sections of the pieces, the stories behind the music so to speak. After a short explanation, the conductor would make the orchestra play that particular part he had talked about, and he went on from one part of the piece to another till the end. Then finally, the orchestra played the entire piece for us to enjoy.

The Tchaikovsky piece was the 1812 Overture, while Smetana's was his well-known and popular Vltava.

While Wikipedia may not be the best source at times for information, it is usually a convenient one. You can learn about the 1812 Overture here, the musical structure section is similar to what the conductor described. And here's a sample of the piece I found in YouTube.

Meanwhile, this excerpt from Wikipedia is similar to what the conductor explained about Vltava: The composition describes the course of the Vltava, starting from the two small springs, the Cold and Warm Vltava, to the unification of both streams into a single current, the course of the Vltava through woods and meadows, through landscapes where a farmer's wedding is celebrated, the round dance of the mermaids in the night's moonshine: on the nearby rocks loom proud castles, palaces and ruins aloft. The Vltava swirls into the St John's Rapids; then it widens and flows toward Prague, past the VyŇ°ehrad, and then majestically vanishes into the distance, ending at the Labe (or Elbe, in German).

Listen to the piece and see if you can pick out from the music the various scenes described above.

London - The Summer Musical

This musical is currently showing at the Sunway Lagoon Amphitheatre until 8 July and the good news is if you have a Maybank credit/debit card, you get 50% off all tickets which are priced at RM80, RM100 and RM150, with additional RM3 admin fee per ticket. You can purchase the tickets online via a ticketing website but if you want the discount using your Maybank card, you can only get it at the ticketing booth at Sunway Lagoon theme park.

ACE enjoyed the show. It was C's first experience watching a live musical. We got the tickets earlier in the afternoon from the theme park ticketing booth and proceeded to Sunway Pyramid mall for dinner before the show at 8pm. Entry to the amphitheatre is via the Surf Park entrance. We had to walk a bit and take a few escalators downwards before arriving at the point where they ferry you to the amphitheatre on a tram. The tram ride was also fun for C. It was our first time entering the theme park. The amphitheatre is open-air with high roofs and gigantic fans to circulate the air. Luckily, that evening was not too humid and there was a slight breeze blowing.

The storyline is simple. Three air stewardesses from New York are on a 48-hour stopover in London and they had plans to paint the town red. In the process, they found friendship, rekindled love and reignited their passion for singing. There's enough song and dance to keep you entertained throughout the entire two-hour performance, with a 15-minute interval in between.

According to this review, six of the main actors are from London's West End. The set and lighting are well done for a relatively small stage in my opinion. And the choice of songs quite good, ranging from old and new songs including those of Bruno Mars, One Direction, Lion King, Abba and James Bond 007.

Non-flash photography is allowed but flash photography and videotaping are prohibited.

You are also not allowed to bring outside food and drinks. They check your bags before taking your tickets and we had to finish up a bottle of juice I had in my handbag before being allowed to enter. Luckily C was allowed to bring in her own water bottle. There is a concession stand at the entrance selling some snacks and drinks. There are also sellers carrying trays with food and drinks walking around in the theatre but mind you, one canned drink cost E RM5 (normal price from a shop is RM2) and a small cup of sweet corn for C was RM6 (normal price RM3)! I don't mind paying a little more but double or ridiculously-beyond-reasonable is just too much. I just don't get it with these places and the companies that bring in international entertainment. This always happens, overcharging on food and drinks....and souvenirs too at times.

KL Tower (Menara Kuala Lumpur)

It was a very cloudy day in KL on 7 June 2012

The KL Tower is in actual fact a telecommunication tower. It is the sixth tallest telco tower in the world at a height of 421m. Located at the Bukit Nanas forest reserve in the heart of KL city, it is a tourist attraction since it was built in 1996. I had been there once before, more than 10 years ago with a few friends. Back then, all we could do was visit the tower, go up to the viewing platform and dine at the revolving restaurant.

When E and I brought C there a few days ago, the KL Tower has improved in terms of things to see and do for visitors. You can take a nature walk at the forest reserve, view animals at the Animal Zone, ride a pony, and drive a Formula 1 car at the F1 Simulator. For Malaysians with myKad (identity card), we pay RM30 for a ticket which allows you entry to the viewing deck at 276m, and a choice of either the Animal Zone, pony ride or F1 Simulator. C wanted to check out the 6-minute fun motion ride at the small XD theatre so we took the Tower + XD Theatre package which cost RM35 for adults and RM25 for kids below 12.

At the foot of the tower, there is a Malaysian Cultural Village display of kampung houses of the various states in Malaysia. When we were there, there was also an exhibition for the state of Perlis -- traditional music, local products, etc.

After the XD Theatre, we took the lift up to the viewing deck. It is a 51-second ride up to the 276m level, and if your ears are sensitive, you might feel the pressure building inside as you ascend. At the viewing deck, you are given a carry-on device which gives audio-video commentary on the various points of interest you may spot on the ground below. There are also large binoculars on platforms for you to get a larger and close-up view of certain areas and buildings around KL if you wish.

The new choking the old

St John's Institution (1904) and  St John's Cathedral (1883)

The Gombak river

The Dayabumi building and the National Mosque

Above the viewing deck, there is a revolving restaurant and another deck above it is a banquet hall where you can hold events like parties and weddings. Down at ground level, there are souvenir shops and a few small eateries.

After our 360 degree view of KL city and surrounding areas and taking some pictures, we returned the AV device, took the lift down and went for lunch. We did not eat at the revolving restaurant or any of the eateries there as we didn't think the food there would be good or worth the price. As locals, we know where to get more authentic local food that we like, so we went to Yut Kee at nearby Jalan Dang Wangi for some Hainanese kopitiam fare of pork chops and fish and chips! Hainanese Western food -- that's another (hi)story!

Back to the routine

The two-week school holiday has ended. C went back to school early this morning. We tried getting back into the rhythm a few days ago by going to bed early and rising early. We failed. We slept late and woke up late. Even last night, C couldn't sleep till past 10pm, but woke briefly at 4am asking me what time it was. I guess she must have been anxious, not wanting to be late for school the first day and maybe looking forward to seeing her friends again.

So what did we do for two weeks? It was pure torture for me not having my usual morning solitude, my own breathing space before I tackle the rest of the day. I think it was also torturous for C when I kept nagging at her to stop vegetating on the sofa in front of the TV! She had ambitious plans at the start of the holidays, and made a rather long list of projects she wanted to do, including building a model house, painting a mural on her bedroom wall, researching more on big cats, bake cupcakes, .....

She attended a one-day workshop on mind mapping for children. Then she applied what she learnt when making plans to build her house. With two shoe boxes, she started measuring and cutting. Her plans were for a double story house with garden and balcony. After two-days of work and with some help from me, she got distracted by other activities, and now the housing project has been abandoned for the time being.... She got as far as the main structure with roof, windows, doors (sliding door upstairs!) and coloured walls (downtairs painted, upstairs stuck with coloured paper)....I hope she will continue this project later when she has the time and interest.

We didn't bake cupcakes as I didn't have the paper moulds. Instead, we made a marble loaf but that didn't turn out too well as halfway through baking, my oven called it quits. The cake didn't manage to rise but with whatever heat left in the oven, I left the cake inside and the batter was cooked through. It turned out spongy and dense....The oven servicing company said they'd call me within 48 hours after I called them for rescue but as usual, I've yet to hear from them. Typical Malaysian customer service!

We also had to stay at home for a couple of days as the dividing wall we share with our next-door nighbour had to be rebuilt. It had cracked due to gradual ground movement and the neighbour wanted her side of the wall to be perfect so we had to share the cost in rebuilding it.

E took two days off work to spend with us so we decided to visit KL Tower. We also caught two performances -- London - The Summer Musical which is currently showing at Sunway Lagoon Amphitheatre, and the MPO's Family Fun Day concert at Dewan Filharmonik Petronas. It was C's first time at KL Tower and watching a live musical on stage but we had been to Family Fun day before. I will write more in detail about these places/events in separate posts.

C spent the rest of the holidays watching tv, catching up with piano practice, a teeny bit of gardening, reading and writing her 'novel'. She also caught Madagascar 3 with E one afternoon, leaving me alone to shop for some much-needed shoes. On the topic of shoes, of women and them in particular, I must admit I love shoes. A woman can never have enough shoes for sure! It's just that with me, shopping for them is such a chore because I am particular about comfort and durability, and of course pricing. There are so many nice ones in terms of design but when you consider them from those criteria, they always don't meet all three. Comfortable and durable may be too expensive, nice and cheap may not be comfortable or durable, so it takes time to find the middle ground, based on my budget.