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March Together

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

A concert review by Dato' Danny Goon



Penang Philharmonic Winds (Winds) opened their 2023/24 season with a rousing performance at the Dewan Sri Pinang on Sunday, 7 May 2023.


Winds was established in 2018 as a platform to enable more woodwinds and brass instruments players to gather and perform under the PPO umbrella. It comprises mainly school-going children with a sprinkling of working adults, and made their debut on 15 December 2018, with "The Joy of Christmas". There were 2 more concerts in 2019 before the pandemic mandated a two and a half year hibernation. Their "Memories of Music" on 12 June 2022 in a multi-purpose school auditorium may not have brilliant acoustics, but it was a decent small step towards the new normal.


Winds 2023, is a fully refreshed and spruced-up version of the previous year's school auditorium display. The group took the stage with a 58 strong ensemble under the baton of Conductor Ng Choong Yen.


March Together comprised 15 foot-tapping numbers with an international flavour. It started with a bang as Under The Double Eagle, was unleashed. Few are aware that these eagles have no connotation to the USA. The March is European, composed by Josef Franz Wagner, an Austrian, in the late 19th Century, and the 'double-eagle" refers to the coat-of-arms of then Austria-Hungary Emperor Franz Josef.


Then followed rousing classics from Japan, Germany, USA, Britain, Europe, and the unmistakable lilting melodies of local folk classics. Chan Mali Chan, dwelling on the bond between children and their parents, and Lenggang Kangkong, exaggerating the swinging movements of the arms while strolling along, were inspirational in that they were not often remembered as songs to march to. Winds gave them new life in an up-tempo beat. Classic Sinatra was brought to life with Fly Me To The Moon and the unforgettable My Way, interspersed with a dance mix from Earth, Wind and Fire, that ever popular jazzy R & B group from the 1970's.


Japan was represented by Spirited Away from the animated classic of the same name, and the Spring Breath March and March Sky Blue Dream. It was also reflected in Colonel Boogey, famously remembered as the theme from the 1957 British movie, Bridge Over The River Kwai by David Lean, featuring Alec Guinness, William Holden and Sessue Hayakawa. It won 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor for Alec Guinness and Best Music for the theme song. Winds introduced these Japanese aspects to the March genre as only they could.


The 75 minutes of hand-clapping and foot tapping was brought to a climax by an ethereal version of The Klezmer Karnival, 3 traditional Eastern European tunes from the ghettoes melded together as a suite by Philip Sparke. The audience was ready to lap up more, and Maestro Ng duly obliged with a repeat of the opening number, to thundering applause


Winds have filled a niche in the local music spectrum that was previously left to school bands to improvise and plug away. PPO have not only introduced a higher professionalism but also provided a platform for budding woodwind / brass enthusiasts to gel and play together across local boundaries. We look to further good times, and perhaps, an outdoor concert?

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