Daily Bow: Dreams of Symphonic Empire in Kuala Lumpur

Daily Bow LogoIn Wednesday’s Bow, we checked in with the Kinshasa Symphony, a bright and developing orchestra in a developing nation. The Kinshasa Symphony has attracted huge amounts of international attention for its passionate advocacy of classical music in an unlikely place, for its perseverance in the face of adverse circumstances, and, most of all, for the unique nature of the niche it fills in its society. Africa is not known to be a hotbed of classical music, and the opportunity that the Kinshasa Symphony and other organizations like it throughout the continent have is a huge one: it is the opportunity to be with an art form at the beginning of its relationship with a new culture, to see it grow and change and interface with a unique artistic environment. In some ways it is a bit like being present at the birth of the classical music scene: with no schools and no established infrastructure in place, the direction that classical music takes in an uninitiated society is as yet undetermined. As such, there is a great deal of excitement inherent in the situation.

It is that inherent excitement that has led British cellist and luthier Jonathan Beecher to set up shop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Beecher operates out of his eponymous Beecher Acoustics, Ltd., in Oxford, where he runs a luthier’s shop that is driven by a research-oriented approach to optimizing sound in the violin family. Beecher began his research endeavor in 1972, taking apart instruments and analyzing them before reconstructing them, and the research took him eight years. Beecher also took an active interest in his native country in forming ensembles and orchestras, but his focus now has shifted to Malaysia.

After speaking with friends studying in Malaysia, Beecher became intrigued by the possibility for classical growth and development in the country. The Malaysian Insider writes of the classical music scene in Malaysia, saying that it is “growing in culture with classical music, but it is not as developed as one would like it to be.” In other words–in Beecher’s opinion–the time is ripe to move the classical scene to the next level. Beecher, together with pianist Sarah Porter, decided to go to Malaysia in hopes of jump-starting the classical music community there with a new orchestra. Says Beecher, they wanted to “come somewhere where [classical music] is fresh, young, and interested, and see if they would like to start this orchestra.”

Since alighting on the idea, Beecher has Brian Larson and Toko Inomoto of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra to be the Director and Assistant Director of the Beecher International String Orchestra Kuala Lumpur (BISOKL). He plans to start the orchestra from the ground up: first, a quartet, then a larger ensemble–much like rolling a snowball. Beecher’s vision for the ensemble is actually a larger, more expansive network of symphonic ensembles: he hopes to eventually include a junior orchestra for younger players and to conduct master classes with orchestra members to spur the program on. For now, though, the details of BISOKL are still in the determinative stage. Audition dates have yet to be determined, but Beecher has told the Malaysian press that he hopes to have the orchestra underway by next February. Above all, Beecher’s goal is to introduce a new audience to the wonder of classical music, the kind that “makes your audience laugh and cry because they have understood the story in the music. That’s the ultimate, where the technique and the music become fused together in an expression people love where it feeds into the heart and soul so that will be our joy to achieve that.”


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply