Before the concert started, I could tell a lot of heart had gone into this event. Maktab Nasional personalities Datin Yee and Alex Funk were among the first I saw, talking to guests. Then I caught Yap Kv peeking out from back stage. The atmosphere was hushed and excited, as if the auditorium itself was containing it within its carpeted cocoon.
Near the stage, Rizal from the sound systems specialists Mega Boogie was at the ready; we were in for a big show!
This concert was a fund raiser for a new learning centre at Maktab, which aims to help children with learning difficulties to cope within a standard school environment. Roger Wang’s Facebook status said earlier that tickets were sold out for this night’s performance, which was excellent news.
NASIER LEE was taking photos for me, so that I could write notes. “I’ve always wanted to photograph Roger,” he said. He left his bag with me in the front row, then he was gone! Click, click, click… awesome, as you can see from his excellent work here.
Cindy Chan was in the organising committee, and ushering people through the door. In the lobby, Frank Lau was thanking people for their support.
It was time! Roger stood on stage basked in light! Behind him was the Maktab National Choir, supported by brothers Simon and Peter Lau. The choir raised their faces to the audience, and the hall was filled with their lovely rendition of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘Edelweiss’, from ‘The Sound Of Music’.
After that, Peter Lau struck up a funky rhythm on one of his famous self-made cocktail drum kits, together with bass-playing Simon, while saxophonist Teddy Chin Jnr and fingerstyle guitarist Daniel Mojina eased onto the stage. Teddy blew some effortless riffs into the auditorium to warm up.
They played ‘Smiles And Smiles To Go’ and it was smooth, tight and very funky. Even the lights were grooving to the music, and at one point everything went black! Silent! Then, without missing a beat, we were back and on track! The crowd cheered, and the band was clearly enjoying the tricks in the show!
Roger cued up ‘the hottest cellist in town’. Annabel Tiu, recent graduate from UMS and RTM Kombo’s cellist, was elegant this night. Peter Lau set the pace with a patter of his congos, Annabel closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and caressed those cello strings with her bow. Those rich cello tones became part of the night’s gift to the learning centre, in the band’s arrangement of ‘Living Out a Dream’.
After that, Roger called Eloise Lau on to the stage. I remembered how impressed I was the first time I saw her, a few years ago at Montfort Youth Training Center. Tonight, she sang ‘Angel’, and her voice was so naturally clear, and lyrical when she chooses to ‘crack’ it in an Irish folk-song way. Sometimes she takes me far away, like I’m standing on a windy cliff, overlooking a wide, foaming ocean…
That’s the effect of Eloise Lau, and I expect to be enjoying her multi-faceted creativity for many years to come. She sang ‘Burn’, next; a country rock composition full of the fury of a person wronged! Whoa, don’t mess with this chick, eh?
Roger introduced Hezekiah Asim, of the Sabah Theological Seminary, who specialises in ethnic instruments which he uses in Christian music. His debut album will be hymns played in this unique style. Hezekiah played ‘Jesus Lamb of God’ and ‘This is my Father’s world’ with Roger, Daniel and the Lau brothers. He had two instruments, a Sape (beautiful stringed instrument) and a Fu Lu Seh (like a bamboo recorder with a gourd shape attached at the neck). In this case, a picture speaks a thousand words, so feast your eyes on the pics! We really were graced by Sabah that night, as there are not many places in the world where you could hear such a unique performance.
Roger told us the story of trying to arrange a wedding dance song for his sister and brother-in-law. His sister’s music taste is sentimental romantic, while her husband-to-be is a metal fan. So how? An ingenious medley of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ interspersed with every heavy metal riff under the sun, plus some ‘Waltzing Matilda’ thrown in since the couple would live in Australia. And yes, the music did end happily ever after. Like I said, ingenious.
Those lovely Jade Sisters were next, to perform their single ‘Janji’. “We are only three tonight, instead of four, because our youngest one – Erika – is quarantined for exam week”, they said. Joan clicked her fingers and the audience clapped in unison, as Jade began their pretty harmonies to Janji. The girls from Tamparuli thanked Roger for the invite and Chris Pereira for producing their CD.
It was a solo performance by Roger next, or was it? Roger sat on a chair, tenderly picking out the sad tale of the dancer ‘Mr. Bo Jangles’, when the silhouette of a man wearing a gold vest and dark shirt and jeans, clicked his heels and tapped his way across the stage. Christopher Liew was from Synergy Dance Theatre, based in KK, and wow! He was magic! Roger’s pretty but melancholy tune carried out into the silent auditorium, as everyone held their breath and listened to our Sabah-based Bo Jangles tap-dance delicately, the excellent mics catching his every ‘click’, and clever lights illuminating his graceful, carefree shape. We were mesmerised.
It was one stunning act after another – so what was next? Here’s was something to blow you away…Roger sang his own composition which was recently recorded by Cantopop legend Jacky Cheung, called ‘Love Scale’. Yeah, really! And you know what? He sounded so GOOD! Roger credited Stephen Lim, fellow Sabahan and personal sound engineer for Jacky, for making Roger sound Jacky-esque. Whatever works, man! It was great!
Question: who is so warm and so cool at the same time? Jonathan Tse, of course; the coolest pastor in Sabah. Up on stage with Roger, he walked around with his guitar, engaging the audience immediately to join him in singing two songs: ‘Somebody’s Watching Over Me’, and ‘I’m Alive’. Jon’s sheer enthusiasm bubbled over, and as he belted out, “If I’m still breathin’, I gotta keep living this life!” whorls of light added to a happy psychedelic feeling, with Roger throwing in some wild blues licks into the mix. Giddy, happy music!
A quiet solo from Roger with the Lau brothers next. ‘Tenderly’ was welcomed with claps of recognition, and those claps turned into whoops and whistles when Daniel Mojina joined Roger to play ‘It’s Only A Paper Moon’. The former Student and the Sifu clearly enjoyed playing together. Roger described Daniel as a wonderful teacher and performer, and the younger finger-style guitarist grinned from ear to ear.
Singer Angelina Perete was last on the night’s role call, joined by saxman Teddy. They broke into that famous Brazilian number ‘Mas Que Nada’, performing their own arrangement of the song, and taking the evening to a party atmosphere. All the artists came back on stage to perform Angelina’s own composition ‘Rain’, which was filled with humanity and very fitting for the generous spirit of the event.
The Maktab National Choir returned, and the Lau brothers struck up an unmistakable signature intro – Steve Wonder’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely”. It made for a superb finish to the night.
Roger thanked his crew, including sound engineers Stephen Lim and Chris Pereira, and sound and lighting company Mega Boogie, the Organising Chairperson Datin Yee, the Principal, Headmistress and staff of Maktab National.
There was no better Finale than the happiness radiating from the faces of those children in the choir. It was a triumphant night for all.
SabahSongs especially thanks Nasier Lee for his wonderful pictures. Please contact him facebook.com/nasier.lee if you wish to use his photos.