GOOD CAUSE:The Yin Ngai Musical Arts Association is staging opera performances this weekend to raise funds for charity
IN a room tucked away behind the high walls of an unassuming house in Jalan Gasing, a group of 12 amateur Cantonese opera performers and musicians have been carrying out their practice sessions for almost two years.
The Yin Ngai Musical Arts Association members spend four hours on Saturdays and Sundays to perfect their vocals, acting skills and music.
This Saturday and Sunday, they will take centre stage at the PJ Civic Centre Auditorium in Jalan Yong Shook Lin.
The "Yin Ngai Heart2Heart Charity Night 2012" is the association's eighth charity show.
Since its inception in 1994, the association has raised more than RM600,000 for charity.
The association's treasurer Anne Wong said the proceeds from this weekend's performances will go to SRJK (C) Kota Emerald Rawang, Hospis Malaysia, Buddhist Tzu-Chi Merit Society Malaysia Kidney Dialysis Centre and Ti-Ratana Welfare Society.
"We will not take a single sen from the proceeds.
"Some of us buy our own costumes, others rent them. Money for everything, from hair decorations to make-up, come from the pockets of our performers."
There will three-hour performances on each night which start at 7.30pm.
"We will perform eight Cantonese opera excerpts," said Wong.
The titles featured are White Dragon Pass, Rendezvous At The Pavilion, Love At A Posthouse, Farewell At A Riverside Pavilion, Tik Ching Battles Three Passes In The Night, Taming of a Princess, Story Written In Blood and Star-crossed Lovers. There will be English subtitles.
"Besides doing charity and entertaining the audience, we hope the show will bring out the traditional art form, capture a new audience and ignite the interest of the younger generation," said Wong.
She said English-educated people showed more interest in Cantonese opera than those who were Chinese-educated.
"I can't read Chinese. In fact, half of our association members do not read Chinese. But over the years, we learnt to recognise the characters.
"I rely on my friends to teach me the right way to pronounce the Chinese characters, sing, project feelings and act," said Wong.
The performers are accompanied by musicians on bowed and plucked strings, percussion instruments and flute led by musical director Yong Wee Hong.
The performances are under the direction of well-known director Liang Congfeng from China. The artistic adviser is Cantonese opera diva Dr Hong Xiannu.
"Our objective is to promote the Chinese operatic arts, stimulate interest and awareness and raise funds for charity," said association president Gan Yap Siow Chan, 79.
"We are privileged to have Dr Hong and Liang to mentor and guide us."
She said she caught the Cantonese opera bug when she was a schoolgirl but her parents wanted her to concentrate on her studies.
In the 1990s, she learnt to sing Cantonese opera at Chin Woo Association, which led to the setting up of the association.
"My son said: 'Why don't you stage a performance since you like it so much?'
"So, I thought, instead of just performing, I might as well do it for charity as well.
"We are glad that we have been able to raise a lot of money for charity. We do everything ourselves, from promoting the shows to selling the tickets.
"It is our love and respect for Cantonese opera that drives us. We still come together and sing on the weekends when we do not have to perform charity shows."
Her daughter, Gan Wah Ee, has inherited her passion for Cantonese opera and plays male roles.
Tickets are by donations of RM200, RM150, RM80 and RM30. VIP seats, starting from RM2,000, RM1,000 and RM500 are also available.
For details, call Wong at 019- 230 3382, Felicia Yap at 017-252 2618/03-2148 3573 or Lim at 012-313 0107/03-2163 1668.