[FEATURE] Short+Sweet Musical 2013

Short+Sweet is the biggest short play festival in the world. First produced at the Newtown Theatre in Sydney, Australia in 2002. This year’s Short+Sweet Musical was held on the 25th – 26th of September 2013 at KL Performing Arts Center (KLPAC). There were 10 musicals competing in the Short and Sweet Musical Malaysia 2013. All musicals are given only 10 minutes to showcase what they have.

From right: Jon Wong, Leroy Lee, Rachel Ng, Gibien Guan and the casts & director of “Out of the Box”

One of the musicals featured in this years S+S was “Out Of The Box” directed by Tham Hui Ying. Majority of the musicians involved were our students and the music director – who composed all music for this play — was our alum, Rachel Ng Soong Yan.

Rachel Ng

Ng Soong Yan (Rachel)

Rachel was Musical Director and Musician for S+S Musical 2012 for Disorder in the Court. It won the Audience Choice Award that year. She shares with us her experience as an MD for the second time.

” From my past experience being a Musical Director is that knowing how to arrange the music in terms of instrumentation is crucial. The different range of instruments and sounds to complement a certain scene or actor’s emotion is something one needs to know and understand how to do it. One of the challenges I’ve faced were mostly trying to interpret what the director and composer wants exactly, and since they are musically inclined, it was a rather difficult thing to put their words into music. However, we worked it through. We’ve used many, many other musicals, movies and songs to describe the sort of feeling they wanted to portray.

The courses that I enrolled in the contemporary program at the School of Music have helped me in applying the knowledge to these musicals. Classes like Arranging and Music & Film gives a wide scope in instrumentation and arranging. The techniques that I learned from these classes helped me in arranging for these musicals. Modern Band classes have given me the skills to work within a band and understand the interaction between band members during performances.

On the challenges she faced, Rachel added, “Never would I thought that there are so many procedures to go through before everyone reaches and agreement on the final product. For example, to match music to different scenes, I drew inspiration from difference sources and past experiences. Usually, the inspirations depend on the type of musical that we are doing although, most of the main melodies are already composed by the composer. I did most of the musical arrangements on score and of course delivering it through the band. However, I remembered one of the scenes where we rearranged was similar to “I’ll Make a Man out of You” from the cartoon movie, Disney’s Mulan. At the end, it was great to see musical ideas and the play gel together.”

Rachel is an alumni of UCSIU School of Music.


GibienGuan Tzen Jien

Tzen Jien (or Gibien) is a first-year student in our BMus (Hons) Contemporary Music program, majoring in drums. He holds a Grade 8 in drums from Rockschool.

It is inspiring to see Tzen Jien has learned so much in the span of a week performing in a musical; an area that is new to him. He takes with him invaluable experiences from this. “Communicating in the English language and never keep quiet when you don’t understand are vital skills in this field. It saves people the trouble of stopping and starting all over.”

His participation in this musical has helped him learned that “maintaining consistency is important, and easier (said) than done. Performing to different audience groups every night is something that you could never expect. Their reactions differ, but it is our job to put on our best for the show. I also learned that despite being at our peak in a performance, we cannot overdo it. This kills the realism of the performance.”

Tzen Jien manages his studies by taking advantage of the long intervals in-between rehearsals to catch up on his subjects, like history. As a UCSIU student, he shares that “playing with fellow musicians at UCSIU taught me a great deal, especially working with non-musicians in this musical. Also, the knowledge of a variety of styles proved useful when working with my director. She would give an emotion and we would have to match it with music, so knowing various styles has its advantages.”


leroyLee Yan Sian (Leroy)

Leroy is a final-year student in the BMus (Hons) Contemporary Music program majoring in piano. He has performed in Tay Cher Siang’s Piano Masterclass (March 22, 2013) at UCSI University and recently at the KL International Jazz Festival with the UCSI Contemporary Ensemble at University Malaya (September 14th, 2013)

Leroy wears many hats as a final-year student. One of the challenges he faced when he accepted this musical gig was to put some of his other projects on hold to focus. Although he was a replacement for a friend, there is a silver lining to his decision in taking up this gig. He got to experience working with director Nick Choo for this production and learned that in a musical – or any other gigs / performance, it’s a Do or Die situation. “In order to be a good music support to the actors and scenes from a musical, one needs to be extremely well prepared in order to deliver a good performance.

 Also, since the music scene is close-knit, it is an advantage to have a lot of connections to receive invitations to perform.” To this, he credits UCSIU for facilitating the development of the soft skills he learnt from the courses that it offers. He also credits his piano lessons at UCSIU for developing his ability to make musical decisions. This has helped in this performance and he looks forward to applying these skills (and more) for his upcoming graduation recital next year.

When performing, it’s a DO OR DIE situation, so be well-prepared, or else you will screw up. And you do not want to screw up. – Leroy Lee


Jon WongJonathan Wong Ketshin

Jonathan is a 2nd year student in our BMus (Hons) Contemporary Music program, majoring in guitar. Many times, you can catch him as a percussionist too.  Together with Leroy, he was also part of the UCSI Contemporary Ensemble who played at the KL International Jazz Festival.

After his involvement in this musical, Jonathan has picked up a newfound respect for the arts/theatre scene. “I’ve had a glimpse of how musicians fit into the world of theatre/musicals. It gave me some options to think about, other than playing stage-front performances. I’ve learned how difficult it can be to keep the arts alive, to cultivate appreciation for the arts in the general public. These guys at KLPAC are doing it well.”

When asked about the challenges he faced, he comments, “Time was the enemy. To travel long distances for rehearsals and the actual event meant that I had to sacrifice a week’s worth of personal study/practice times, though my participation in this event was a learning experience in its own. It was tricky but I managed to pull through while improving my time management skills.”

He adds that UCSIU School of Music has made him more stage-ready. “Classes like Modern Band let me ‘dip my toes in the water’ before going out in the real world. The learning environment in the School of Music also helps me to gear up for playing with other musicians of various caliber and status. Professionals and students alike were working together in this event. UCSIU School of Music also gave the platform to meet fellow musicians which opened up many opportunities like this event to work and learn together.”


SimmyLor Phaik Sim

Phaik Sim is currently on internship as a final-year student in our BMus (Hons) Contemporary Music program. This is one of her many ventures in to the performing world of musicals. She was one of the musicians for ‘Kiss of the Spiderwoman’ musical at KLPac in 2012.

She was the 2nd keyboardist with a 4 piece band comprising of Rachel Ng, Jonathan Wong and Gibien Guan. However, due to other commitments, she had to forgo the last night of the musical festival and was replaced by Leroy Lee. But, performing on the first night of the musical festival proved to be exciting as she further developed her skills performing in musicals.

Since dabbling in musical performances as a musician, Phaik Sim has learned the art of recognizing cues from the actors. “It’s like following the conductor’s baton in an orchestra. The precision in timing needs to be spot on for maximum effect.” She also shares that the knowledge of knowing instrument sounds to compliment the mood or an actor’s vocal timbre is essential. “In one of the musicals, I had to accompany the actor with a single melody, so I had to find one that compliments him the best.” One of the things she has also learned is the process of making a musical. “Watching the actors sing and act, watched the choreography being built from scratch has inspired me so much. The hard work and commitment that everyone puts in, and at the end of the day, an art that the audience appreciates makes it so worthwhile.”

Phaik Sim credits UCSIU for her skills that she has gained. “Classes like Modern Band have helped me in stage deportment. Being onstage means you’re up there as a professional musician. You need to carry on even when something goes wrong. Knowing how to handle situations like technical problems is also essential, and most of these skills come from frequently performing and understanding the stage and the art of being a performer.”


Wen Hung (3rd from left) with the casts and director of
Wen Hung (3rd from left) with the casts and director of “Just Another Fairytale”

The youngest out of the lot is Wen Hung. He was also part of the S+S Musical 2013 with a different musical titled “Just Another Fairytale” written by Andrew Tan. 

Wen HungLoong Wen Hung

Wen Hung is a first-year student in our BMus (Hons) Contemporary Music program majoring in composition. He is also a pianist and has performed at the ECA Night 2013 organized by UCSIU Student Affairs Association.

Wen Hung shares with us his experience directing the music to his first musical:

“I was lucky to be given the opportunity to be in the musical ”Just Another Fairy Tale” written by my friend, Andrew Tan. He is the composer and lyricist of this musical while I served as Musical Director and also Musician.

From this experience, I have learned 3 things: the importance of punctuality, lifelong learning and opportunity. Punctuality is very important because it is the first impression you give to people about your commitment and reliability to the tasks that you were assigned or have agreed to take up.

Lifelong learning allows us to make better, informed decisions and assists us in becoming more successful in our careers. It also develops our character and can make us more interesting. Every opportunity presented to us should be seized. We never know that we might learn or experience something new and exciting.

 I believe my experience in UCSIU School of Music has helped me a lot in preparing me for this event. For example, Modern Band Ensemble has taught me how to work with other musicians and also improve my arranging and composition skills.”

Fortunately for Wen Hung, he did not have any difficulties in balancing school work with this event because most of my classes are in the morning and the event itself is at night. He looks forward to more opportunities to come his way whether performing, composing or music directing.

Congratulations to all who participated in the Short+Sweet Musical 2013!

Thank you to KLPAC for organizing this festival for the 6th year in Malaysia!

Stories compiled and edited by Nur Lina bt Anuar

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