George Town Festival 2023 returns with its 14th edition from 15 – 30 July, with over 50 programs for a spectacular celebration of arts, culture, and heritage.
As an influential voice for the arts in the region, the 16-day festival features outstanding works by Malaysian and international artists across different disciplines. With productions ranging from traditional, contemporary, experimental, and multidisciplinary works, the festival’s 14th edition this year has only a few more days before closing for the season. Here are the top highlights.
All performances occur at various venues dotted around Georgetown, Penang Island, Malaysia.
Editor’s Selection of other music-related performances at George Town Festival 2023.
Asia Pacific Youth Choir (APYC), Majestic Theatre and Blue Mansion
APYC conductors Tracy Wong and Chi Hoe Mak appeared at the Georgetown Festival this year with one sole purpose; to change the lives of those who came to the performance through voice.
The choir performed a repertoire rich in European, Canadian and Malaysia choral pieces including Getaran Jiwa, Oleh Oleh Bandung, O Salutaris, Laententur coeli by William Byrd, and Christus factus est by Anton Bruckner.
As the choir roared through their repertoire of classic melodies composed by Malaysians, the audience lay captivated by the unimaginable power of the 31-piece choir coming from the stage. The voices of the Asia Pacific Youth Choir exude such intensity that it gave the Majestic Theatre a great rumble. Nothing short of a great and electrifying performance throughout.
The IFCM Asia Pacific Working Committee was first formed at the IFCM Asia Pacific Choral Summit (Wuxi, China) in 2009 and was re-organised at the Asia Pacific Choral Summit held in Macau, in February 2011.
With committee members – conductors, administrators and other patrons of the choral arts – representing a cross-section of voices of the region, we hope to foster and nurture the development of choirs and choral music in the Asia Pacific region.
APYC was selected as Ambassador for the International Federation for Choral Music (IFCM) for 2013, 2014 and 2015, and has established itself as one of the most remarkable musical and intercultural experiences for promising young musicians in the Asia Pacific region.
MUSIC HIGHLIGHTS at GEORGE TOWN FESTIVAL 2023
Sangpuy Sings Soulful Tunes Native to Taiwan
In an enduring music and dance performance, pulu’em & Luna celebrate Taiwan’s indigenous artistry and vitality with masterful and evocative narratives. Sangpuy Katatepan Mavaliyw, the award-winning indigenous singer from Taitung, Taiwan, brings a mesmerising performance of ancient melodies in the Aboriginal language of the Puyuma tribe. He pays tribute to the cultural, natural and spiritual heritage of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples.
Sangpuy performed in “pulu’em & Luna” together with the Bulareyaung Dance Company on 22 & 23 July 2023 at Dewan Budaya.
The Bulareyaung Dance Company (BDC) was founded in 2015 in Taitung by Bulareyaung Pagarlava, an aboriginal choreographer from Taiwan. Since its founding, the company has presented several productions and has toured globally. Their 2017 production Stay That Way won the Taishin Performing Arts Awards; Luna, commissioned by the National Taichung Theater, further won the coveted Taishin Arts Award Annual Grand Prize in 2018.
Jazz Music Masterclass
The George Town Festival Summer School sees Tay Cher Siang, WinnieHO, Junji Delfino, Adriel Wong and AJ Popshuvit host a 2-day music masterclasses at Hikayat. From jazz improvisation, singing jazz to learning how the drums can provide a rhythmic pulse and basic harmony, there are much to learn about jazz.
Sounds from the East
Sounds from the East hails from the beautiful states of Sabah and Sarawak. Offering a mesmerizing fusion of healing sounds, tranquil melodies and rich cultural heritage, it presents a unique perspective into Bornean indigenous cultural influences. Infusing music with a deep sense of authenticity and history, this one-night showcase (Jul. 7) at the Design Village Outlet Mall is a tribute to the rich musical heritage of East Malaysia.
The show at Design Villge Outlet Mall saw the performance of Sarawak’s independent ethnic fusion band, At Adau. With a deep-rooted inspiration drawn from ethnic sounds, At Adau is characterized by their seamless integration of contemporary music produced with traditional instruments such as the Sape, a traditional lute of the Orang Ulu, as well as the Bedok and Kidibad (traditional drums from the Bidayuh ethnic group).
Sound on Screen
For 7 nights in a row at Hikayat, the Music Film Festival – Sound on Screen – showcased four full-length documentaries covering the life of singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, jazz pianist Oscar Peterson, singer David Bowie and the life and times of jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald.
Other outstanding feature films at Hikayat include the life and music of Whitney Houston, Elvis Presley, and Aretha Franklin.
Broadway Academy Festival Choir of KL
The St. George’s Church Penang hosted the choral concert-themed Sing on Through Tomorrow. Featuring pieces composed by John Rutter, Mark Hayes and more, the program is a mixture of sacred and secular choral pieces including Puccini’s Nessun Dorma directed by Dr Casey Broadway, who specializes in Musical Theater and the Physiology of voice.
The House of Doors: Tan Twan Eng in Conversation with Karina Robles Bahrin
Booker Prize-shortlisted Tan Twan Eng returns home to Penang to discuss his first novel in more than a decade with the award-winning novelist Karina Robles Bahrin. The book draws a range of compelling themes – patriarchy, political turmoil, concealed sexuality, illicit love affairs – The House of Doors is a story of many layers. The event will also feature readings from the novel by Marina Tan, Gareth Richards and Aoife Sacker Ooi.
George Town Festival, Malaysia
GTF 2023 features outstanding works by Malaysian and international artists ranging from traditional, experimental and multidisciplinary productions of varied art forms, including music, dance, theatre and the visual arts.
It all began in 2010 when George Town Festival was founded as an arts-centric project under the George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI). It was mooted to commemorate the inscription of George Town as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a designation honoring the city’s Outstanding Universal Values (OUV) in multiculturalism.
To extend the festival’s commitment to community engagement, George Town Festival has included family-oriented, community-based and children-friendly performances and events in several localities within Penang.
For more information about tickets and program guide of the George Town Festival 2023, visit their official website here.