I heart New Tune !

Another programme I was involved in was:

NEW TUNE LIVE PERFORMANCE XIII: Sparks of Melody

which was held on the 10th of March 2010 (exactly a week after Choir Concert), Wednesday, DECTAR main hall, at 7.30pm.

This was an even crazier programme. My first solo live performance. (My solo debut was for Mewah Idol in F5 – but this was a live performance, with live music !)

The backdrop for NTLP XIII: Sparks of Melody

It all began when I first saw New Tune when they held an introductory performance for the benefit of the first-years in Keris Mas (KKM) last semester. The performance was actually to entice the first-years to join New Tune  – a Chinese society under Persatuan Mahasiswa UKM – but instead….I was hooked.

New Tune is an association of students whereby it acts as a platform for students to showcase their talent in every area – composing songs, writing lyrics, arranging music, singing, playing the keyboard, electric guitar, bass guitar, drums, percussion, background singing, dancing etc.

The best part about New Tune is that, every single song we perform is 100% original – composed, written and sung by our very own. You will never hear any of these songs elsewhere – unless some producer picks it up and decides to make it famous ! 😛

But yes, that was what drew me to New Tune. A talented bunch of students who also share a love for music.

I auditioned to be a vocalist last semester, interested in being a part of this talented group of people, if just for the experience. 🙂

And I made it through after several rounds of auditions. First round was a face-to-face audition where you had to sing any song you liked for them. I sang Crazier by Taylor Swift 🙂 After getting through that, what they did was give you a demo of a person singing the song, and you were supposed to sing and record your version of the song and send it back to them. Passing that, you would officially be one of the vocalists for the performance ! 😛

However, the song that I was to sing at the performance was not up to me. They would choose the song for me. Unfortunately, the song they gave me was a song that I did not personally like. The beat and the melody was strange, and the lyrics made no sense to me.

Yes, it was a Chinese song. Which is ironic, because I am not Chinese-educated, and cannot speak Mandarin. >.< To sing in Mandarin would require me to seek the help of my room mate in translating the lyrics, and then memorizing the lyrics from its romanized version. Which is more difficult, in the sense that you do not understand what you are singing and memorizing. But it was part of the challenge, one that I had expected (New Tune being a Chinese association and all) and am willing to rise to the challenge ! 🙂

Me and Fish

Practice sessions were heavy. At the beginning, there was not much for me to do. My arranger, Yun Xin (whom we affectionately call Fish) had yet to arrange the music for the song. You see, the demo of the song came with nothing but the melody. There was no music – no keyboard, no drums, no guitar. Everything had to be done from scratch – which is the job of the Arranger. She would have to listen and try to get the “feel” of the song, and come up with the music – what the keyboards will play and when, what should the guitar play, what kind of beat the drums should play, how the background singers should sing.

In other words, everything else besides the singing (which is where I come in).

I basically got to know my musicians: Kai Yuan, Shereen, Arif (an Indonesian who knew even less Mandarin than me !), Witter, Vincent, Hooi Ling and Joanne, during the first few practices when I was pretty much relaxed.

Then full rehearsals started. That was the first time I was meeting all the rest of the vocalists and musicians for the other songs for the performance. And boy, did they mean serious business. >.<

There were seniors there who took charge of the entire rehearsal and they were extremely strict. They took the rehearsals very seriously, asking us to treat them like they were the actual event itself. And this was several weeks before the actual event (Choir Concert in comparison to New Tune, was waaayyyy more relaxed !) !

I was feeling really nervous. It was scary, singing a song you were not really sure of, that you did not really like, in front of people who looked like they would yell at you should you make a mistake, and people you do not really know. Terrifying. >.<

But with every practice, with every rehearsal, I gained more confidence, and the song I was singing began to take shape. It began to have its own unique sound and quality, had its own “feel” and mood, and an attitude to go with it.

Me in my Alice in Wonderland dress looking wistful~ 😛

When deciding on my costume, my arranger turned to me and said,

“Lisa, do you have anything that looks like Alice in Wonderland?”

HUH? Alice in Wonderland? Where on earth was I going to find something like that?

After being clueless for a couple of weeks, I finally managed to find something absolutely perfect ! My cousin sister had done a can-can dance performance a few years back and still had her costume with her. It was bright red with frills underneath the skirt to make the dress “poofy” and it was such a thrill to twirl around in ! It was very princess-y and cute-sy which was exactly what they song needed 😛

Practice sessions continued to be grueling. Every week, we met at least 3 times outside of UKM in our little band room that had no air-conditioning, not even a ceiling fan. We sweat bullets every time we go there, almost died of the heat. Yet, all of us (there were almost 60 of us including dancers) all cramped in that little room upstairs and we went through the whole programme from beginning to end. During weekday practices we each worked on our individual songs as vocalists. The most tense were the musicians, some of whom had to play for 7 different songs !!

After every rehearsal, we had a feedback session where we gave comments (positive and negative) for each song, all with the aim of improving each other’s performance. This, was what I feared the most every rehearsal. Because, every time I went up, I received the same comments: “Pronunciation.” “Performance.” These were my two biggest weaknesses.

Pronunciation was expected, since I was not Chinese-educated. They complained that I had an “English” slang when speaking Mandarin. I can hardly be blamed, can I? I did not choose a Chinese song for myself ! >.< But I worked on it anyway, wanting to do the best I could. Performance-wise, I needed more help. I was not used to singing as a solo live performance. In choir, I did not need to perform. All I needed was to stand properly and project my voice from within. In a live performance, I was definitely required to do more than just stand there and sing. The song, being what it is, needed me to be cute-sy and frisky, jumping and dancing around on stage – which I was not used to.

I worked on it every day. When my room mate was not around, I changed into my costume and practiced. I practiced very hard, I knew. I felt this pressure to do well. How could I mess up when the musicians had worked so hard to play well for me? How can I not give my best when my arranger, Fish, has done so much to make the song what it is now? How can I make mistakes when the composer of the song wants it to be the best??

On the night of, my family came to the performance to watch that night, to give me moral support (especially since I was singing in Mandarin – a historical moment !) 😛

All of us in New Tune were actually exhausted from lack of sleep, physical fatigue, mental tiredness. We had been up practicing sometimes even till 1.00 am in the morning for rehearsals. Some of us have even lost our voices due to the strain, myself included. Even up till the night of the event, my voice had not returned to its original state. It was husky and hoarse, which somehow worked well for the song 🙂

My song is the last song of the night. Which is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I have a longer time to lose my nerves before I get out there to sing. A curse because the anticipation of waiting is worse than the actual performance itself ! =.= Plus, more importantly, I am pressured to do even better than everyone else because I will be the lasting impression on the audience before they leave for the night ! >.<

Me with the dancers ! They were reeaaalllyyyy good !!

Finally, after such a long wait, it was my turn. The dancers stood behind me on the stage. The musicians waited in the darkness and the silence.

All my friends were out there, I knew. College mates, course mates, Choir members, PERKEB members. My family members. My hands began to shake. Then I heard:

“Lisa ! Lisa ! LISA !! WE LOVE YOU !!!!”

I laughed out loud with the rest of the crowd. And suddenly, just like that, all nervousness left my body. I felt ready to get out there, do my thing and put on a good show !

And so I did. I sang the best I could (what with my pronunciation problems and all). I danced like I never danced before. I gave the crowd suggestive moves, naughty winks as part of the performance. I twirled around in my bright red dress. I did everything I thought of.

Everyone looks stunning !!! 🙂

And it was a great finale to our months of hard work and practice and losing our voices and dying of exhaustion – that one moment was the end of it all.

Everyone applauded and I never felt so self-conscious in my life, standing up on stage by myself !

Then the rest came on stage and everyone was cheering and clapping and jumping around and smoke from the smoke machine was blowing and enveloping us till it was hard to see but I could see my friends waving at me from the bottom of the stage and they were still shouting “Lisa ! Lisa !” and my family was there too with my friends, my mum and my dad and my two younger brothers who were standing there looking lost and my fellow choir members as they waved and yelled secret jokes that only I could understand and it felt wonderful and great and I felt proud and happy and relieved that it was over and at the same time sad that I would be missing all those fun and stressful times with these new friends of mine.

But, it was finally OVER.

Everyone told me how great I was up there. How they didn’t know I could perform like that. That they had finally seen a side of me they never knew before. 😛 I was so touched for their moral support. I could not have done it without them 🙂

You can definitely see me in that bright red dress ! 😛

It was a great experience. Being part of New Tune has made me realize that there are so many of us who share that love for music. That we all show them in different ways – through dancing, singing, playing musical instruments, composing and writing songs. Music also knows know boundaries, whether it is in English or Chinese or Malay or Tamil, music touches everyone of us. It was such a great feeling to be part of this group, working so very hard together to make NTLP XIII: Sparks of Melody a success. We helped each other, we grew together.

Close-up of me in full make-up and dress - all ready to perform ! 😀

Yes, it was the most tiring and stressful event I have ever joined.

But it was also the most rewarding.

I am so very proud of these people who are all so very talented. They can make a song I dislike into a song that is fun and cute and good.

I enjoyed myself these tiring few months. I made a lot of new friends, got to know talented new people who share that same passion for music. I grew as a person as well, conquered my fear, pushed myself to go beyond what I thought I was capable of.

And I also picked up on some Mandarin 🙂

This is definitely one experience I will never forget !