MPO evokes nostalgia with golden oldies in Malaysia Day concert

(From left) Liza Hanim, Ahmad Muriz Che Rose, Aishah and Rachel Guerzo will grace the DFP stage on Malaysia Day weekend with classic hits. — Pictures by Ham Abu Bakar
(From left) Liza Hanim, Ahmad Muriz Che Rose, Aishah and Rachel Guerzo will grace the DFP stage on Malaysia Day weekend with classic hits. — Pictures by Ham Abu Bakar

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 6 ― How well do you know the songs from Malaysia’s past?

In conjunction with Malaysia Day, the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) will take audiences on a trip down memory lane with cherished classics for its Semalam Di Malaya concert.

The MPO along with four vocalists ― Aishah, Rachel Guerzo, Liza Hanim and Musly Ramlee ― will serenade music lovers with a nostalgic two-hour concert that will include favourites such as Jauh-Jauh, Gadis Idamanku, Sayang di Sayang and many more.

“We’re amplifying the songs of yesteryears, the songs chosen were the pop hits of its time and it was so loved by Malaysians,” said MPO conductor Ahmad Muriz Che Rose.

The songs have been given new arrangements which will set this special showcase apart from the philharmonic’s previous Malaysia-themed concerts Irama Warisan Kita (2009), Keroncong Merdeka (2012) and Malaysia Tanah Airku (2014) which were a hit with audiences.

“The experience of hearing the orchestra in a real acoustic setting with fresh new arrangements, not what you’d get on YouTube, are the strengths of this concert.

“I took cues from Henry Purcell and Tchaikovsky to make things different and fresh but not to the extent of abomination ― it’s about finding that balance,” said Muriz.

He and orchestra also hope to debunk the misconception that old songs are just P. Ramlee songs.

“Not many people know that Ibu is not a P. Ramlee composition, it was composed by Ahmad Jaafar, the man who gave Selamat Hari Raya ― these are the unsung heroes we want to highlight,” said Muriz.

Aishah, who last performed with the MPO in 2009, said it was a rare opportunity for singers in Malaysia to perform with an orchestra.

The veteran songstress said the biggest challenge is memorising the arrangements.

“Those who have music knowledge will have an advantage but for someone like me, I have to listen and memorise,” she said.

(From left) Liza, Aishah and Rachel will be singing songs from yesteryear while MPO’s Ahmad Muriz will conduct the ‘Semalam Di Malaya’ concert.
(From left) Liza, Aishah and Rachel will be singing songs from yesteryear while MPO’s Ahmad Muriz will conduct the ‘Semalam Di Malaya’ concert.

Back after a decade-long hiatus, Liza said she has always loved classic Malaysian songs and spoke about the importance of honouring the country’s past.

“I’d like to reach out to the younger generation to listen to our national treasure.

“We must always celebrate the music industry as a whole, not just contemporary hits but we must know the history of music of the past in order to know the evolution of Malaysia’s music scene,” she said.

As for the generation who grew up listening to compositions of Jimmy Boyle and Ahmad Merican, Muriz said they would be curious to see how different the rearrangements are compared to the original version.

Jazz pianist and singer Guerzo, who performed in a sell-out concert at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas in 2010, is the granddaughter of the late Alfonso Soliano who founded the country’s first orchestra, Orkes Radio Malaya (now the RTM Orchestra).

“What we’re doing is very important ― it’s not just playing music from yesteryear, we are preserving and appreciating what we are left with.

“You’re listening to music that was made the time-honour way with no electronic elements, no special props or dancing, just plain old beautiful music,” Guerzo said.

Catch Semalam Di Malaya on September 15 (8.30pm) and September 16 (3pm) at the DFP, Petronas Twin Towers. Tickets are priced at RM141, RM198, RM254, and RM358, available for purchase at mpo.com.my or call 03-2331 7007.

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