Piano Songs – Jazz Works@The Movies

The motion pictures are the most widely enjoyed art form of our generation. Audience watch movies at the cinemas, download them from the internet, YouTube and pirated DVDs.

The experience is made more memorable when the movie is accompanied by gentle eloquent harmonies of piano songs. Who could forget Celine Dion’s dazzling vocals singing ‘My Heart Will Go On’ in….what was the name of the movie again?

Music in film has been around since the first talkie was released in 1927, in those days there were no hip-hop, rap or rock and roll, so they had to contend with jazz abetting in the narration of the story. With diligence, jazz has been a loyal and constant companion of the movies ever since.

An opportunity arose over the weekend for music lovers in Penang to be swept by nostalgia as the Northern Jazz Ensemble performed jazz piano songs accompanied by a bass guitar, percussions and brass instruments from movies such as ‘Singin’ In The Rain’, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and ‘Mamma Mia’ at the Jazz Works@The Movies concert.

The concert was held at the Performing Arts Center of Penang located at the Straits Quay – a seaside, posh enclave that is fast becoming the go-to-place for cultural events.

On the same day of the concert, there was another dance event that featured Zumba, belly dancing and hip-hop held in the viccinity of the outdoor stage in the middle of the marina – with the Andaman Sea in the background and surrounded by luxury yachts.

Back in the dimly lit Stage 1 of the PAC, joyful blast of saxophone by Allan Breen moved the audience to sway in their seats as the band played S.O.S by ABBA.

Jerome Quah’s masterful orchestration of the band while also expertly weaving the tunes on the piano as they seamlessly articulated ‘Over The Rainbow’ in a jazzed up remix was a magical 3-minute musical journey. Was this how Dorothy felt when she was transported from Kansas to Oz?

When she appeared on stage my initial thought was “There’s an attractive lady”, then she started to sing. That thought quickly went to “This is an amazing lady”.

Andy Siti was invited to sing solo at the concert, while Jerome accompanied her on the piano as he had been doing all night with the other piano songs. She is a highly sought after singer in Penang performing gigs at various spots popular with the urban and sophisticated young crowd of Penangites.

She chose to sing a song as a tribute to Whitney Houston from the film the “Bodyguard” - “I Will Always Love You”. With its high pitched notes and varying dynamics, it is not an easy song to sing. Yet, there she was, delivering the melody with perfection.

To add some flavour to the concert, the organizers had the Georgetown Singers stop by as guest artists. They are a choral group formed a few years back in 2008, have been active in supporting charity events around the island. When a group of voices sing well together they resonate with added feeling creating music that naturally demands the audience’s attention - those in attendance were hypnotized.

Most of the jazz piano songs performed in the concert were from movies made before I was born, when music was pure, unaltered by digital technology. Listening and watching them performed live gave me a sense how substantial the influence music has had on the movies we watch for more than 80 years.

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