Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Singing their way to the world conference

Matheos Viktor Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Mon, 05/11/2009 10:44 AM | Features

Singing for nature: The Al-Izhar Community Choir and Orchestra will perform at the 1st World Ocean Conference and the Coral Triangle Summit in Manado, North Sulawesi.  JP/Matheos Viktor MessakhSinging for nature: The Al-Izhar Community Choir and Orchestra will perform at the 1st World Ocean Conference and the Coral Triangle Summit in Manado, North Sulawesi. JP/Matheos Viktor Messakh

Singing in a choir or being part of an orchestra can be fun, especially when you share the stage with your nearest and dearest.

That was how Anti Dwicahyono felt when she first joined the Islamic Al-Izhar Community Choir, given that her 15-year-old daughter Nadya Rifani plays guitar in the choir’s instrumental counterpart, the Al-Izhar Community Orchestra.

“At first, I only accompanied my daughter to the choir and orchestra rehearsals, but then I thought, why not join the choir rather than simply waiting for my daughter? It’s fun and it makes me proud that my daughter is also there,” Anti said.

The Al-Izhar Community Choir and Orchestra will perform for the representatives of the 121 countries taking part in the May 11–15 World Ocean Conference (WOC) and the Coral Triangle Initiatives (CTI) summit in Manado, North Sulawesi.

Forty members of the choir and orchestra will join forces with 20 members of the awarding-winning Manado State University (Unima) choir to perform in front of at least eight heads of state and no less than 120 ministers from participating countries.

The Unima Choir won the gold prize in the Gospel and Spiritual Vocal Ensemble category at the Fifth World Choir Games in Graz, Austria, in July last year; in the same competition, the choir also won bronze in the Musica Sacra and Popular Choir Music categories.

The performance, titled “Symphony under the Sea”, will feature 12 arrangements including the traditional South Sulawesi tune “O Ina Ni Keke”, Alan Menken’s Academy Award-winning song from the Disney animation The Little Mermaid “Under the Sea”, ABBA’s “Mama Mia medley”, Carole King’s Grammy Award-winning song “You’ve Got a Friend”, Nickolas Ashford
and Valerie Simpson’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and a Latin medley.

The opportunity to perform at the conference didn’t come easily for the choir and orchestra, which were both founded in November 2006 by students, teachers, parents and alumni of Al-Izhar in an effort to create a community to play music together.

“We started to shortlist potential members — we have 300 students and alumni members and 200 of them are pianists,” head of the choir and orchestra Indira Hadi told The Jakarta Post during rehearsals for the WOC performance. “We just carried on with practice and after a while only about 40 people stayed in the orchestra and more than 100 people on the choir.”
As a community choir and orchestra, the groups had to cope with its members having various levels of musical skills.

“We only perform songs that all members can play and sing,” said Indira.

But it’s not just about talent, she said: Discipline has always been the main concern of the orchestra and choir, and they are strict about commitment.

“We practice once a week and if someone misses rehearsals three times, they are expelled,” said Indira.

The choir, which has performed for officials several times, not least at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta and Cipanas Palace in West Java, also holds an annual Grand Concert every March. For their first two years, they were helped by renowned composer and conductor Addie MS.

“We want to build a musical community where everyone can contribute, no matter how small that is,” said Indira, whose two daughters are members of the choir and orchestra.

As well as performing at the WOC on May 12, the choir and orchestra will visit several communities, schools and churches in North Sulawesi to share their musical skills and experience through joint performances and workshops.

“We just want to tell people that music unites people regardless of your background,” said Indira.

For Al-Izhar junior high school principal Yuli Suprianto, who is also a member of the choir, the most important thing is that the Islamic school has such solid community support in helping to enhance its members’ talents and even to perform at an international event.

“Basically, I like to sing but what makes me proud is that we have a solid community that encourages its members to improve their talents,” said Yuli, who will sing and dance with four other teachers and their students at the conference.

Director of the Al-Izhar Islamic School, Yuliantoronto, said he was proud to be able to perform at the conference.

“It’s a big honor for us. We are proud not only because we have been given a chance to perform at such a prestigious conference but also because we will be able to show the world that an Islamic school is not a closed-minded school,” he said.

“An Islamic school usually has gambus [a six-stringed Arab musical instrument resembling a lute] orchestra… but here, we have everything. We can play Latin music as well as classical.”

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