A Fuegokoori Evening

It had been quite a while back since I attended a musical event in Kuching. The last one I attended was organized by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra during one of their concert tours in Kuching last year. So when I heard about a classical trio making a tour in East Malaysia which would see them perform in Kuching, I immediately pounced at the opportunity without hesitation. I suppose Kuching isn’t exactly at the top of the ‘must-go-to-perform’ lists of most musicians, which is a pity really, but at least I can see that is changing in recent times.

It was a classical and mesmerizing evening as we were treated to a performance by the Fuegokoori trio, who performed a selection of masterpieces composed by the famed virtuoso Nicolo Paganini to the versatile Joe Hisashi whose work I got to know about through the Japanese animation ‘Spirited Away’. The Fuegokoori trio is comprised of Malaysian violinist Yap Ling, American cellist Robert Sang-Ung Choi and Singaporean guitarist Dominic Wan. To say that they performed admirably well would probably be an understatement, considering – myself as a member of the Sarawak Symphony Orchestra who finds some pieces so frustratingly-difficult to play – that they made playing the said pieces look like trying to cut a block of butter with a hot knife.

As I recounted the moment the trio played Hisashi’s ‘Memory’, I recalled how Robert’s fingers ‘danced’ up and down the cello’s fingerboard. Equally enchanting was how Dominic Wan expressed himself with, as with the other pieces, playing Sevilla by Isaac Albeniz. I was particularly hypnotized by Astor Piazzolla’s ‘Oblivion’ too. The trio just made it look so effortless, like a duck jumping into water.

Left to right: Robert Sang-Ung Choi (cello), Dominic Wan (guitar), Yap Ling (violin)

My hope for the future is that there will be more musical tours to Kuching, as indeed while the number of individuals who appreciate classical music is still small, the numbers are certainly growing.

More Information About The Fuegokoori Trio

Fuego means “fire” in Spanish, whereas koori means “ice” in Japanese. Fire and ice represent extremes as well as the fiery energy that comes out when they are put together. Since the first concert of cello and guitar in 2003, Fuegokoori has produced two “live” CDs and plans to record its latest with the newly established Fuegokoori Trio, featuring violin, cello and guitar.

Now an internationally-acclaimed ensemble, Fuegokoori explores crossovers of extreme emotions and soul-searching themes, featuring obscure works of more celebrated composers like Paganini, Sarasate, Piazzolla and de Falla, directly contrasted with works by leading Japanese and Chinese composers like Mayuzumi Toshiro, Zhou Long and Joe Hisashi. Experience the refreshing juxtaposition of Asian calm and tranquility with flamenco’s exuberance and fire.

More information can be found at www.fuegokoori.com.

Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/FuegokooriTrio

Additional Note: Many thanks to Mr. Yap Ling for allowing me to take the photos.

More photos can be downloaded here.

Concert Photography – My First Attempt

Concert photography is not something everyone will enjoy, but for those who wish to take a first step in this direction, having the right preparation is necessary. My first attempt at concert photography was a little while ago, when I was shooting under Wedding Celebrations Studio for Sungha Jung’s concert at the Kuching International Airport. Sungha Jung was brought in to perform by Borneo To The World, a soap maker and newly-opened retailer at the airport. I would personally think their marketing strategy proved extremely successful, at least judging by the size of the crowd and the attention they were getting.

I only had two hours to prepare. A quick poking-around the web returned some interesting results on what gear to bring and what to expect during the event.

Listed below were the items I brought along. Because I anticipated I might be moving around quite a bit, I decided to pack light.

  1. Camera: Nikon D7000
  2. Nikkor 35mm f1.8 DX.
  3. Nikkor 18-105mm f3.5 – 5.6 DX

I presume that the above setup would be largely dependent upon the type of concert photography you decide to get into, but having a fast prime would be mostly adequate as most concerts are set in venues with low ambient lighting. Having a camera body which can shoot at ‘stupid high’ ISOs (as Ken Rockwell put it) would certainly be an advantage. You may have also noticed that I did not include a flash. This is because flash photography is often not allowed, or even if allowed, it may be restricted to certain settings and under specific circumstances.

The truth is, you don’t really need to have cutting-edge gear. Having a eye for good composition and some luck should suffice for most people. Below are some photos taken during the event. Click on the pictures to view the EXIF data.

If there was something important I learned about concert photography, it is about photographing minute and often-overlooked details. It is these things that help convey and express the persona of the subjects being photographed.

If it was hard working when the ambient lighting was too low, then it was even more challenging when you have distracting elements constantly creeping into the frame. A quick fix would be to get closer to your subject and have it fill the frame, thus pushing out all the distracting elements. Converting your photos to monochrome helps too.

Shown below is another version of the above photo, but in full color. At this point, you may notice that when the photo is rendered in black and white, we tend to focus on the texture and outlines of the subject.

Having your gaze fixated solely on to the performer(s) will tell little about the surrounding. I decided to include a bit of the audience in the above frame to give the picture a bit more impact. Shown below are a few more examples. This is a good way to ‘throw’ the viewer right into the heat of the action.