Classical Re-Imagined by the Anirudh Varma Collective

Episode 10 of India By The Bay features The Anirudh Varma Collective- a contemporary Indian classical ensemble from New Delhi, India, comprising over 150 musicians & artists from across India, America, and Canada. The collective aims to discover, re-discover, and present the traditions & diversity of Indian music in a contemporary yet rooted manner in order to reach and connect with the masses. To make the finale episode of the virtual edition of India By The Bay a remarkable success, the ensemble will release two spectacular songs from their production ‘Classical Re-Imagined: Indian Classical Music For Everyone’ on 30th December 2022, stay tuned!

The views and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and participants and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, do not reflect the opinion, position or official policy of Asia Society Hong Kong, its members, or its committees. Asia Society Hong Kong does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for the content of the information presented.

‘That time of year’: Christmas concerts, musicals to add to the festive mood

The pandemic might have been the Grinch that “stole” the past two Christmas and year-end holiday seasons in Malaysia, but this year, it looks like the masses will be up and about, dining, partying and being jolly.

If you’re looking to add festive concerts and theatre shows into your social calendar, then you’re in luck.

From a morning trek and community choir carol session at the leafy Taman Tugu in KL to an epic cast on stage at KLPac’s family-friendly Christmas show, you can enjoy the music fun outdoors and indoors.

Here is a list of arts events in the Klang Valley that will guarantee you stay in high spirits this festive season.


Venue: Nero Event Space PJPAC, 1 Utama Shopping Centre

Dates: Dec 8-11

Just in time for the holiday season, theatrethreesixty is rolling out composer Nick Choo’s stage production Follow The Light at this intimate manger-like space at PJPAC. The 12th anniversary production of this musical will be directed by Christopher Ling.

“A young woman is unexpectedly told she is about to have a baby … An earnest but confused carpenter frets over the prospect of fatherhood … Some dysfunctional shepherd siblings watch their flocks by night … And a trio of men, wise or otherwise, salivate at the prospect of glory they believe they deserve …” reads the show’s synopsis.

Follow The Light is ultimately a show for the season – a cultural, musical and historical interpretation of this timeless tale (accuracy debatable) – told primarily through song and filled with lots of warmth and laughs” says Choo of the production.

“It should be enjoyed by one and all regardless of background or belief, and I hope everyone will partake of the festive season through this unique musical experience.”

More info here.

KLPac in a Christmas mood: a rehearsal session featuring the KLPac String Orchestra – under the baton of Andrea Sim and the Young Choral Academy Chorus – led by chorus master Mak Chi Hoe. Photo: KLPac


Venue: Pentas 1, KLPac

Date: Dec 8-11

It looks like the entire KLPac family has come together to light up and celebrate the year-end holidays.

This massive spectacular (75-minutes of Christmas “feels”) will feature over 150 performers from across the KLPac ranks, with a generous spread of brassy sounds, swirly strings and heavenly voices.

Who will be on stage? That would be the KLPac Orchestra (conducted by Lee Kok Leong), KLPac Symphonic Band (conducted by Cheryl Mah), KLPac String Orchestra (conducted by Andrea Sim), and the Young Choral Academy Chorus (chorus master Mak Chi Hoe) … all coming under the direction of music man Ian Chow, with co-direction and narration by Datuk Faridah Merican.

It’s a family-friendly concert, where theatregoers look set to experience the magic of the season with traditional Christmas carols as well as some contemporary numbers. Think Joy To The World, Deck The Halls, Silent Night, Jingle Bell Rock, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town and many more.

Bring your own mistletoe if you are planning a big date night.

More info here.

The ‘Christmas With MPO’ concert will be conducted by MPO’s resident conductor Gerard Salonga, who will probably bring his Santa hat on stage. Photo: MPO


Venue: Dewan Filharmonik Petronas, KLCC

Date: Dec 10

Here’s a concert where you can suit up and look your festive and stylish best. Just sit back and enjoy the classical celebrations onstage with the added bonus of guest vocalists KL’s Dithyrambic Singers, all set to deliver a merry setlist of popular carols.

The MPO will run through a set, including festive classical favourites from Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Gustav Holst, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, right to Nigel Hess, John Williams and a rollicking side of Jingle Bell Rock.

The concert – spanning Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Selections to Williams’ Home Alone film music – will be conducted by MPO’s resident conductor Gerard Salonga.

More info here.

Performing arts veteran Mervyn Peters leading a rehearsal session with The Choir of The Philharmonic Society of Selangor, fondly known as The Phil. Photo: The Star/Samuel Ong


Venue: The Nursery, Taman Tugu, Kuala Lumpur

Date: Dec 11

The Philharmonic Society of Selangor (or just The Phil) is on a roll after its sold out Songs For The Season shows at DPAC last month. Just like a gift that keeps on giving, The Phil will be presenting an hour-long (10am onwards) morning concert session at Taman Tugu this Sunday.

Share this season of joy and harmony with this community choir in a Songs For The Season Sing-Along at Taman Tugu, the urban forest park in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. There might not be any reindeer sightings but you’ll be joined by the sounds of Mother Nature. Also, rumour has it Santa and his elves will be making an appearance.

This is a community singalong, no experience necessary, just turn up, scan the QR code at the venue for song sheet. Free admission.

More info here.

An Early Music festive showcase, presented by VerSes, will see the music of Bach and Charpentier played by a small ensemble at the Church Of The Holy Rosary in KL on Dec 16. Photo: The Star/Filepic  


Venue: Church Of The Holy Rosary, Jalan Tun Sambanthan, KL

Date: Dec 16

Here’s another great edition in the “Renaissance & Baroque Gems” series, focused on Bach and Charpentier this time. The venue – Church of Holy Rosary – adds to the upcoming evening concert’s warm ambience.

In Malaysia, Early Music performances, especially those utilising period instruments, are still uncommon. This performance will feature pieces by J.S. Bach and M.A. Charpentier in an effort to introduce and promote Early Music.

Although both legendary composers are from the Baroque-era, their styles are very different, giving the music of the era a broad viewpoint. The concert, presented by VerSes, will feature an instrumental ensemble featuring two Baroque recorders, a viola da gamba, a cello, guitar and an organ. For this Christmas-inspired show, the Baroque Ensemble players will perform alongside the KL Madrigal Singers.

More info here.


Venue: Stage 1, PJPAC, 1 Utama Shopping Centre

Date: Dec 23-25

Land of Sweets? Sugar Plum Fairy? And the Mouse King? It’s not Christmas without a Nutcracker ballet.

This beloved classic, all set to turn PJPAC’s main stage into fantasy land, invites you to experience Clara’s dream that tells the story of the Nutcracker from a cinematic perspective, with dramatic acting and ballet dancing, provided by an international cast of dancers.

The show, directed by Lu Wit Chin, promises a series of elaborate big stage effects that will remind theatregoers of the opulent interior of Mr Staulbahm’s house and extravagant Baroque-style party dresses, right to curtains that never close and a winter wonderland of visual delight.

More info here.

Bill Bailey on classical music and the arts: ‘In Italy, opera is like the football!’

5 December 2022, 17:43

‘In Italy, opera is like the football’ – Bill Bailey on classical music and the arts.


Bill Bailey joined Moira Stuart on Classic FM to speak about his music and comedy influences, his earliest memories of opera and the future of the arts – while choosing some of his favourite classical music along the way.

Music comedy legend Bill Bailey has spoken out about the hotly debated plans for the English National Opera to move to Manchester, driven by a redistribution Arts Council England funding and labelled last month as “absurd” by the ENO’s chief exec.

In an exclusive interview on Moira Stuart Meets… on Classic FM, the celebrated musician and comedian said he thought the potential relocation was “a shame”.

“You go to the great cities of Europe, and they’ve all got two or three opera houses,” Bailey told Stuart. “And this would leave us with only one, the Royal Opera House. I think a lot of people, rightly or wrongly, sort of associate opera as being quite elitist or sort of highbrow entertainment.”

Bailey went on to stress the importance in the arts of “getting people through the door”.

“We have to be more innovative more and agile about how to get more people to engage with the arts in the way that they do in Europe,” he said. “I mean I’ve been to see opera in Italy, and it’s like the football. People just buy a ticket to go and see the opera like… it’s not seen as any kind of hybrid entertainment, it’s the entertainment of everyone, for everyone.”

Read more: Leading UK opera companies have funding slashed in Arts Council announcement

Bailey reminisced about his first memory of opera: seeing Verdi’s Aida at the Arena di Verona in Italy. “I remember it so vividly,” he said. “I must have been seven or eight years old. We had to rent cushions to sit on the stone steps and you bought a candle and lit the candle and so the whole arena was full of 20,000 people holding a candle.

“It was most extraordinary experience… you know, your first exposure to opera stays with you for the rest of your life.”

In the interview (catch up on Global Player here), Bailey told Stuart about his earliest influences in comedy, crediting the legendary Danish comedian Victor Borge, whose unique marriage of humour and virtuoso pianism delighted generations.

“I would sit around with the family, and we would watch Morecambe and Wise… and Victor Borge was a big favourite. There was something about the way he used music and comedy which made a deep impression on me.”

Bailey also shared his love for Mozart’s Coronation Piano Concerto No.26 – the piece he played in his first public concert “at the encouragement of my music teacher… without whom I would never have had the confidence to do this” – as well as Bach’s seminal Prelude and Fugue No.21.

“What I loved about the 48 Preludes and Fugues was that this was an instruction manual for playing the piano, and yet it’s this beautiful selection… if you can work your way through these, you will understand all manner of performance, about syncopation, about technical ability.

“I love the fact that something so beautiful, something so extraordinarily written and so intuitive and so challenging… was written just to teach people the piano.”

Finally, Bailey touched on a campaign he is fronting this Christmas for the Kennel Club Charitable Trust which aims to feed at least 4,000 rescue dogs, with all donations doubled until midday on Tuesday 6 December, and every £10 donation ensuring they can feed one dog for two weeks.

“Being responsible for an animal is a good thing. They teach you a lot about yourself. They can enrich our lives in many ways,” Bailey said.

Catch up on the episode on Global Player.

What’s making us happy: A guide to your weekend listening, viewing and reading

This week: How to kick our holiday parties up a notch, when to put up your Christmas lights, and recipes for sweet treats.

Here’s what the NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour crew was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.

Midwest Modern Twitter account

I spent the first 22 years of my life in the Midwest, in the Chicago area, and then in Michigan for college. So, I have a lot of pride in the region. Architecture is my first art love. And one thing that keeps both those appreciations alive is a Twitter account called Midwest Modern. It’s run by Josh Lipnik, @joshlipnik on Twitter. He mostly posts photos of buildings, but he will also post designs of things from all around the Midwest, both in big cities and small towns, of buildings from over the past century and even earlier. I think he has a really great eye, he sees value in just about everything. The account brings the beauty of the Midwest to the Internet. – Danny Hensel

Unclear and Present Danger

I recommend the podcast Unclear and Present Danger. It is hosted by Jamelle Bouie and John Ganz. The initial mission is to talk about ’90s, post-Cold War thrillers. However, they are expanding it in certain ways, including through their Patreon. I find it to be a really nice balance between fun, but also serious and analytical politics. It’s a really smart way to take popular culture and engage with its very specific moment. They also talk about The Firm and The Fugitive. They talk about a lot of films with political content that is a little different from straightforward post-Cold War films like The Hunt for Red October. – Linda Holmes

Recipes from my mom

I don’t know if it’s just because we’ve been talking about The Fabelmans which is in the context of my childhood or if it’s just the season. But I have been thinking about a couple of my mom’s holiday recipes. I am not a baker. I don’t really know how to do it, but I used to love when she would start making things. She would allow me to stick my hands into it and squish the dough together. They were just amazing. There were two things she always made. One of them was bourbon balls, and the other one was shortbread. The shortbread only had three ingredients. It had four cups of flour, a cup and a third of sugar and a pound of salted butter. Obviously good for you.

Mondello’s Mom’s Shortbread
4 cups flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 lb (four sticks) butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut butter into flour and sugar with knife. Crumble mixture with fingers, and pat mixture into Pyrex dish. Bake for 45 minutes (10 mins into baking, poke some holes with fork). Cut shortbread into squares immediately after removing from oven (DO NOT WAIT FOR COOLING) but leave in the Pyrex dish. Remove to platter only when completely cool.

… And then, of course, you pop them in your mouth and they’re so good. The shortbread is really simple. I’ve been finding recipes online that have everything from baking soda to vanilla to salt and all kinds of other things. This recipe has just three ingredients, which I thought was fantastic. – Bob Mondello

Gemini Rights

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I recently discovered Steve Lacy’s album, Gemini Rights and I have been listening to it for the last few weeks. It is for me, a no skips album. I love the song “Bad Habit.” It doesn’t sound like anything else on the radio right now, which I think is partially why it’s been so successful and, for me, such a revelation.

“Bad Habit” is a song about having a crush on someone and thinking that they weren’t into you, but then realizing maybe too late that they actually were. And questioning why you didn’t pursue it. The whole album is great. One of my other favorite songs is “Helmet,” which is kind of like Stevie Wonder meets Sly and the Family Stone in the best way possible. Steve Lacy was a guitarist and producer with The Internet and in his solo career he’s making some really interesting, fun, groovy music. – Aisha Harris

More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter

by Aisha Harris

Last week, our friends on the Book Desk launched their annual “Books We Love” guide – a cornucopia of recommendations for the year’s 400-plus(!) best reads. (Which includes our very own Linda Holmes!)

I rarely watch movie trailers, unless I’m already in a theater and forced to sit through previews, or it’s for a franchise where there’s little room for surprise or novelty to begin with. Which is why I’m fully on board with Vox critic Alissa Wilkinson’s argument against viewing trailers as a general rule, because most of them are really bad at conveying what a movie is actually about. Go in cold! You might like some films better if you did.

If you love Christmas music but can’t stand the new stuff or are a little over the old standbys, then check out the days-long Spotify playlist “FaLaLaLaLa Sentimental Christmas Shuffle-List.” It’s mostly songs of the easy listening/jazz variety circa the mid-20th Century, and features lesser played versions of familiar songs (Jackie Gleason – yes, from The Honeymooners – singing “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm”) as well as novelty songs you’ve likely never even heard of (“When Santa Claus Gets Your Letter” by … Captain Kangaroo?).

NPR’s Pilar Galvan adapted the Pop Culture Happy Hour segment “What’s Making Us Happy” into a digital page. If you like these suggestions, consider signing up for our newsletter to get recommendations every week. And listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Sydney piano competition winner Alexander Gadjiev wows Government House Ballroom for Music on the Terrace

Alexander Gadjiev showed why he won 2021 Sydney International Piano Competition when he played fantasies on the Government House Fazioli grand piano on Sunday.

His technique was beyond reproach and his expression powerful and varied as he demonstrated how he took multiple categories of last year’s delayed, online contest, including programming skills and audience communication.

A dark rumbling in bass established a strangely familiar progression in the world premiere of Colin Spiers’ Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, a febrile left-hand motif leaping to the upper register.

An elaborate soundscape used the full range of pitch, tone and dynamics in a smorgasbord of piano mastery, settling at the last to somnolence in the first movement, Hallway.

For the second stanza, Duality, a bright attack in crushed chords led in fragmented melody as if switching from darkened interior to outdoor light; virtuosic bounds, runs and glissando creating a multifaceted ambience, glittering in sharp relief.

Jagged figures wrung the maximum impact from the Fazioli without overloading the room; dismounting in conclusion with gymnastic agility.

Camera IconAlexander Gadjiev introduces the program at Government House Ballroom for Music on the Terrace. Credit: Nik Babic @ Artshoot Media

Two late Chopin works followed, deepening the context of the Spiers.

A simple descending movement into the Prelude in C-sharp minor Op. 45 summoned denser resonance with almost pastoral highlights, warming in ebbs and flows, exploratory and reflective; restive and restless qualities resolving at the last to a slow fade.

Polonaise fantasie in A-flat major Op. 61 opened dramatically, the Polish master reflecting his avant-garde Parisian ambience yet still clinging to the nationalist spirit that marked him as revolutionary.

Again, Gadjiev left nothing to doubt, coaxing every ounce of expression out of the work in a live-wire rendition with a relaxed intensity and laser-like focus.

In the more Romantic episodes he caressed the keys, swelling the theme with fluid phrasing to smooth the percussive effect of the instrument, blending its parts into one voice; all coming together in a reprise of the Polonaise theme, joyously grandiose in the cadence.

After the interval, Schumann’s Fantasie Op.17 sounded one plangent note then a flurry in bass to support a haunting melody, rising in intensity then subsiding to a sigh; the scurrying left hand relenting in a lilting pattern and fading to simple reflection.

Camera IconAlexander Gadjiev plays at Government House Ballroom for Music on the Terrace. Credit: Nik Babic @ Artshoot Media

A quirky quotation from Beethoven teased expectation then reignited with full Romantic elan; feverish mood swings a hallmark of Schumann, soave and grandiloquent in conclusion.

Pealing bells introduced a march for the second stanza, as frankly joyful as the opening was complex and compelling; channelling the bells once more for an anthemic celebration, breaking to a thrilling cadenza then a romp and flourish to finish.

It seemed unlikely Gadjiev could top that, but the spirit of Beethoven crept in again with grace and feeling for the finale.

A duet of left and right hand — bass and soprano, Robert and Clara Schumann — evoked the passionate couple with operatic fervour; cooling to elegiac calm then returning to heriocs, mix and repeat, before waning like a sunset in the cadence.

In encore, Gadjiev first calmed the farm with Chopin’s E-minor Prelude, then left a blistering memory of the afternoon’s high drama in the D-minor Prelude: a glow to counter clouds on the western horizon.

Music on the Terrace concludes 2022 with Jazz on the Lawn, with the WA Jazz Project on Sunday, December 4, 4pm in Government House Gardens.

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Ann and Gordon Getty’s Collection of 1,500 Items Achieved $150 Million Across 10 Auctions

Ann and Gordon Getty’s collection achieved more than US$150 million across four live and six online auctions at Christie’s.

Courtesy of Christie’s

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Ann and
Gordon Getty’s
collection achieved more than US$150 million across four live and six online auctions at Christie’s that concluded Tuesday, making it one of the top three collections of both decorative and fine arts ever sold at Christie’s.

Each of the 10 auctions met or exceeded their presale estimates, each with a 100% sell-through rate, the auction house said. 

Proceeds will benefit the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation for the Arts, which supports a range of California-based arts and science charities. 

The nearly 1,500 works in the collection were drawn from Getty’s townhouse in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood. Gordon Getty, 88, a son of oil tycoon
J. Paul Getty,
led the sale of his family’s oil business to Texaco for US$10.1 billion in 1984. Since then, he has focused on his interests in classical music composing, and philanthropy. His wife, Ann, died in 2020 at the age of 81.

At the evening auction on Thursday at Christie’s New York saleroom, 60 lots fetched a combined US$79.4 million, which didn’t include the expected sale of Venice, the Grand Canal looking East with Santa Maria della Salute by Italian Venetian-school painter
Giovanni Antonio Canal,
commonly known as Canaletto. The painting sold privately hours before the live auction to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco through a donation by
Diane B. Wilsey,
a former chair of the museum, according to Christie’s. The painting was valued between US$6 million and US$10 million. 

Mary Cassatt’s
Young Lady in a Loge Gazing to Right became the top lot, selling for US$7.5 million, setting a record at auction for the 82-year-old American painter and printmaker. The work, with a presale estimate between US$3 million and US$5 million, was acquired by the Pola Museum of Art in Hakone in Japan.

An early George III walnut and parcel-gilt side chair

Courtesy of Christie’s

“As the momentum built over 10 auctions, Christie’s was thrilled to see the funding of the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation for the Arts increasing sale by sale,”
Marc Porter,
chairman of Christie’s Americas, said in a news release. “It is also important to note that museums purchased the two highest value paintings for public display.”

The other three live auctions took place from Friday to Sunday, featuring paintings, English and European furniture and silverware, as well as Chinese works of art. In total, the four live auctions achieved nearly US$140 million, against a presale estimate of US$125 million.

In addition to Cassatt, three other artists saw their auction records reset, according to Christie’s.
Jacques-Émile Blanche’s
Vaslav Nijinsky in “Danse Siamoise” sold for US$2.7 million;
Jules Bastien-Lepage’s
Portrait de Sarah Bernhardt achieved US$2.28 million, and
Jean-Antoine Watteau’s
Three Head Studies Of A Girl Wearing A Hat, fetched US$3.42 million.

The Getty Collection became the third most valuable collection of both decorative and fine arts sold at Christie’s, following the collection of Yves Saint Laurent and
Pierre Bergé
in 2009 for €373.9 million (US$483.8 million), and the collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller for US$832.6 million in 2018.

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Women in classical music struggle to balance career and family, study shows

It is not uncommon for parents to have difficulty balancing career and family.

This is especially true for those working in classical music. A new British report reveals that 40% of them are considering a career change due to the difficulties they face in managing their professional and family lives.

Parents and Carers in Performing Arts (PiPA) and London’s Birkbeck University conducted in-depth interviews with 410 professionals in the industry to get an overview of their current state of mind. Based on the results of the survey, it seems clear that parents and carers are struggling to balance the demands of their musical career and family life.

Nearly a third of respondents (30%) say that their family obligations interfere with their professional opportunities, especially when they are self-employed.

“There are not enough hours in the day! Working as a self-employed musician with two children under five and a husband working a full time job is exhausting and very difficult to juggle,” said one survey respondent.

Other factors, such as the logistical and financial demands of touring and working away from home, as well as the lack of affordable childcare options, also contribute to the struggles of parents working in classical music. The result: 93% of those surveyed have turned down work due to caring responsibilities.

Women bearing the burden of parenthood

Unsurprisingly, women in classical music careers find it particularly difficult to balance these two aspects of their lives. This situation is reflected in the figures: self-employed women with children or relatives to support earn, on average, £12,000 a year (about RM65,000), compared to £20,000 (RM108,000) for their male counterparts.

The authors of the research also found that the arrival of a child sometimes represents a real obstacle to the career progression of professionals in the sector.

“My other half is a successful opera singer who has travelled frequently throughout our marriage. My own career has always taken second place, and throughout my working life, decisions surrounding my work have been influenced by their needs, or the needs of my children. I have never been able to immerse myself fully in furthering my career,” explains one respondent.

Given the scale of the issue, the study authors call on leaders in the sector to innovate so that parents and carers are no longer neglected. They put forward a number of ideas, such as the introduction of more flexible working hours to accommodate those with family responsibilities.

“To become truly inclusive, classical music requires a culture shift to address persistent inequalities (in the sector),” the researchers conclude. – AFP

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