Two composers win commisions at the inaugural Free Hand Festival 2019

Free Hand Festival 2019 on Wednesday, 14th August saw music and piano lovers from all walks of live from as far as Penang and Singapore, gather at UCSI Institute of Music Kuala Lumpur to soak themselves in a day of Malaysian art music, from the well-attended seminars in the day where composers took the public through their compositional processes, to fascinating insights into the world of playing new music to new audiences in Mei Yi Foo's talk 'Modern Playground'.

The highlight of the festival was undoubtedly the 2013 BBC Music Magazine 'Best Newcomer' award-winner Foo's concert, where she dove into the variegated world of Malaysian new music, that took the audience through a fascinating journey into the world of contemporary piano sounds. The sonic saga visited some unusual places such as the woodcutter's world of percussive sounds in Choke Yuen Ting's The Woodcutter's Song, and the eerie other(piano)worldly ivory sounds of Chow Jun Yan's experimental piece In the Absence of Silence.

The closing works from Tazul Tajuddin, Kabus Pantun, a musical reimagining of the Malay traditional poem, and festival director Adeline Wong's exhilarating Herringbone were a real treat to watch, especially in the way Foo athletically lept through the latter's hammering notes and took the audience on a breathtaking sprint to the concert's finishing line.

Other works on the programme were ​Raja Mohamad Alif's Dol Said, a sound painting of the Naning Wars in colonial Malacca, Samuel Cho's Vatni, a study on water movements and fluidity, Chow Jun Yi's introspective Deep in the City, Lee Chie Tsang's Sympathetic [re]sonance, inspired by the sonic architecture of a Rajastjani musical instrument, and C H Loh's Morning at Klang Harbour, a reflection of sea burials dedicated to his recently departed mentor Luk Hoi Yui.

Closing the night of new sounds was surely  music to the ears of two of the young composers, Lee Chie Tsang (photo,second from right) and Samuel Cho, whom the judges Seung Jae Chung (Korea (president of ACL-Korea, photo, second from left) and Hoh Chung Shih (president of the Composers Society of Singapore, photo, third from left) awarded as winners of the commission to write test works for UCSI's International Piano Festival & Competition in 2020.

Free Hand 2019 organised by Malaysian Composers Collective (MCC) and sponsored by UCSI
University Institute of Music and Yayasan Sime Darby, with extra assistance from Pejabat Pembangunan Negeri Wilayah Persekutuan.