LONDON (Mon): The UiTM Chamber Choir wowed judges and the audience at the Prague International Choir competition last weekend with their rendition of Asian folk songs such as Rasa Sayang and Suriram.
They won three golds and a special award for their feat.
The event, called the Praga Cantat, is now in its 30th year and is hailed the longest choir competition in Prague. Over the years, it had seen participation from choir groups from all over the world.
The UiTM Chamber Choir, marking its first entry in the competition, saw its Women’s Choir winning gold as world champion. They also received another gold award while the mixed group also took a gold. The UiTM Chamber Choir also received a special Bohuslav Martinu Foundation Award for the repertoire "Vzkázáni po holubince" (The Dove's Message) by composer B. Martinu.
The newly-formed choir group from the Faculty of Music was champion at the Bali International Choir Competition last year, the largest choir competition in Asia. The choir singers were chosen from the music composition, music performance and music education programmes.
They consisted of teams of tenor, bass, soprano and alto singers.
With that success, choral conductor Dr Masashi Kishimoto, who recognised the talent in the group and trained them, felt that they were ready to let Europe hear their voices.
“We prepared more than 20 songs for this competition. The songs that won us the gold were based on folk tunes from Malaysia, such as Rasa Sayang and Suriram and also Getaran Jiwa. We also included songs from Japan and the Philippines.
"The women choir also sang songs from Asia and included one number from Spain.
“The audience were very appreciative and they enjoyed the performance.”
Kishimoto said that after the competition, a judge told him that it was a very difficult choice to make, especially with groups from Italy and Finland.
It must have been very rewarding for Kishimoto to see the group charting its success, especially on the international level and competing with the best from every nation.
“When I joined the faculty, I saw that these students had talent but there was no one to train them. I was tasked with forming this choir group,” he in a phone interview from Prague.
This year, a total of 26 countries participated in the four-day festival from October 27 to 30.
Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Music, Dr Ahmad Rithaudin Md Noor, who was in the audience, said the chamber choir, which was formed two years ago, had done UiTM and Malaysia proud as they had succeeded in increasing UiTM's international ranking and gained international recognition.
“I am very proud of them. It is encouraging to know that UiTM is setting the standards.
They are not just practicing what they learnt but they are also practising their soft skills and management skills, interacting with the outside world,” he added.
The UiTM Chamber Choir has since received invitations for collaborations and performances by other participating countries such as Slovenia and Croatia.
The trip and opportunity to participate in the international competition was made possible by the UiTM Excellence Fund, worth RM230,000.
“This is the first time that such a fund was awarded to the Music Faculty and this group. They believed in us and we proved that we could do it. We also received funding of RM50,000 from Tenaga Nasional Bhd,” said Rithaudin.
While in Prague, the choir also performed at the Czech Museum of Music for the Diplomatic Corps and Friends of Malaysia.
Malaysian Ambassador to the Czech Republic Nadzirah Osman was there to witness the performance.
This week, still heady on their success in Prague, the young choir group will chart another historic moment as they perform at a luncheon event at the United Nations in Vienna, organised by the Malaysian Embassy there.