Sun, 11 May 2003

Twilite gives modern touch to local songs

Hera Diani, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

If only this country had a nice venue with great acoustics like, say, Singapore's Esplanade Theatres on the Bay, then groups like the Twilite Orchestra would not have to perform in community halls.

Most of which are actually inappropriate for music performances, especially an orchestra, as it reduces the quality of the sound.

If we had a nice venue, it would not be necessary for the organizer to ask the audience to turn off their cell phones.

Because, like the Esplanade for instance, the walls are so thick that no phone signal can reach inside the theater.

A wish remains a wish.

So, there the Twilite Orchestra was, holding a concert on Thursday night at the Jakarta Convention Center in Central Jakarta, the best building the city can offer.

Fortunately, even without a really suitable facility, the Orchestra -- led by conductor and co-founder Addie MS -- could still come up with a good, entertaining performance.

Established in 1991, the noted Orchestra has gained more recognition, collaborating with artists, theater and international artists like singer Natalie Cole and pianist Richard Clayderman.

From only 20 musicians, it has stretched to 70 musicians and a choir of 63 members, with repertoire ranges from classical to contemporary.

Aside from commercial purposes, it also aimed at educating the public and also students. Student groups are often able to see the concerts at their schools.

At Thursday's concert entitled "Dji Sam Soe Konser Indonesiaku" (Dji Sam Soe My Indonesia Concert), the Orchestra laid down a set of Indonesian folk and pop songs, instead of its usual mix of Indonesian and classical music.

"We deliberately chose all Indonesian songs. It was aimed at trying to appreciate the music in our country," Addie said on stage before moving into the second song.

Earlier at the media conference last week, Addie admitted that adapting Indonesian music into orchestral ensembles was not easy. Because, unlike many Western musical traditions, local music was never especially made for orchestras.

"Almost all Indonesian music is created from whistling or guitar playing, then adapted into various simpler arrangements such as keroncong (traditional Indonesian music with Portuguese influence), so it is extremely difficult to adapt for an orchestra," he said.

The effort was quite successful, although not exactly spectacular, as the neat music arrangement gave a more modern touch to traditional music.

The two-hour concert was kicked off by Varia Ibukota, a medley of Betawi (native Jakartan) songs which were re-arranged in an expressive and dramatic way. Very catchy.

Tenor Christopher Abimanyu and soprano Linda Sitinjak came next, singing Indonesia Pusaka (Indonesia Heirloom) and Tanah Airku (My Fatherland) respectively.

Despite the great voices and musical arrangement, the supposedly gripping songs were not, well, gripping. Linda even slipped one or two notes.

The performance of Vina Panduwinata was more passionate, however, although the noted songstress seldom sings in public.

The concert was a reunion party for Addie and Vina as both collaborated on her albums Citra Ceria (Cheerful Image) and Cinta (Love) back in the 1980s, before Addie gave up pop music entirely.

Vina performed beautifully on four of her old hits: September Ceria (Joyful September), Dia (Him), Aku Cinta Kepadamu (I Love You) and Aku Makin Cinta (I Love You More).

Aside from the solo singers, the Twilite Chorus was definitely one of the highlights, standing in front of the sparkling paper and temple relief as the stage backdrops.

The Chorus harmoniously sang a series of traditional songs, from the upbeat Batak (native North Sumatran) song Sik Sik Batumanikam to Aceh's Bungong Jeumpa and Papua's Yamko Rambe Yamko.

In some numbers, the Chorus also played angklung bamboo instruments while singing. Other numbers were highlighted by Balinese gamelan (a set of traditional instrument), which resulted in a good mixture with the usual orchestra instruments.

Addie also inserted one song from his recent work, the score from the movie Biola Tak Berdawai (The Stringless Violin). Performed by tenor Ray Jeffryn, the theme song with the same title came off as gripping as in the film.

The concert was wrapped up nicely with Bagimu Perdamaian (For the Peace), a theme song for Teater Koma's play Opera Hanoman, to a standing ovation.

The concert will also take place in Medan tonight and in Surabaya next Wednesday, with the same repertoire.