What was the process of formulating the project and preparing the application being remote?

The main concept behind this programme is to encourage cultural exchange and understanding through musical collaborations. In an ideal world (without travel restrictions and pandemics), the composers would have started writing the compositions at least 6 months ahead and the musicians would have met each other before as a collective, in order to deliver the compositions to their best. However, in times of pandemic, the teams of The Rondo Production and the Orchestra of the Swan saw this as a challenge and at the same time, an opportunity to bring music education and collaboration beyond the comfort zone. 

To aid with the fact that all workshops and lessons have to be carried out online, we carried out meetings with the team and mentors to set goals and outlines for each workshop and lesson. A lot of preparation work has been properly planned and tested, to ensure that the training sessions run smoothly with maximum productivity.

While we understand that the programme itself has a very short timeline for both the composers and instrumentalists, we suggested that the composition should be a multiple-way conversation, instead of just a one-way conversation from the composers to the instrumentalists. 

Working remotely for this programme has developed both teams, strategically and artistically. We had to clearly understand the stories of each composition and folktale in order to deliver the workshops, lessons and consultations with a defined goal in mind.

Most importantly, the entire programme focused strongly on two words - collaboration and culture. We encourage conversations and discussions among mentors, fellows and the team, to present their works which represent the local culture in a modern contemporary approach.

How was the project overall, how did the collaboration go?

We are delighted to work with the Orchestra of the Swan, our strategic partner for this programme. Over the last four months, the management team and musicians from the Swan have contributed significantly to the professional development of these selected fellows. The marvellous illustrations which you will see in the concert are created by Epikinono Studio, our creative partner. 

The 14 fellow composers and musicians had not met one another in person or as a collective prior to the first rehearsal. On top of that, all the training programmes with the mentors from the Orchestra of the Swan, such as workshops, lessons, and even chamber reading sessions, were conducted through Zoom. However, we were still able to offer high-quality resources and connections to our local talents and communities. This wouldn't be possible without the help of our partner in the United Kingdom - the Orchestra of the Swan. Collectively, we were able to demonstrate the spirit of music enthusiasts, that is to constantly look for ways to improve despite the challenges.

Key messages/ outcomes/ new insights you'd like to share from this project. 

Change can be represented, explored, or even challenged by new works and sounds of living composers. We believe that it is important to appreciate works of the past, such as those by Beethoven, Mozart, Mahler, and others. At the same time, it is also useful for us to provide a platform for new works to emerge and young talents to shine. 

Throughout the programme, all workshops, lessons, discussions and meetings were conducted virtually, which saved the cost and time of travelling across countries. Though nothing can quite replace human interaction in live performance, we believe that by using the right technology and tools, we can create new and transformative musical experiences for audiences like you. 

Most importantly, we put a strong emphasis on collaboration throughout the programme. We collaborated with the Orchestra of the Swan in directing the artistic vision of the programme. The fellows collaborated with each other in producing the compositions, giving them a strong sense of ownership of their crafts.

In order to make our crafts more relevant to our community, the right way is to connect with our very own culture - it is all about connecting the dots. I believe that, with more support from the community, we can bring music to more people! Together, we can bring music to all!

Will the project continue in some way or form? What’s your hope for a continuation?

Definitely! There is no doubt about that! The partnership between The Rondo Production and the Orchestra of the Swan created a wealth of opportunities for Malaysian composers and instrumentalists. This partnership also contributed to the development and strengthening of the country's music education system. The opportunity for Malaysian musicians to work with the Swan and gain feedback from them builds on the strong foundation provided by a substantial and respectable artistic value from both organisations. This unique programme also enriches the educational experience of our student musicians. 

It has evolved into an intimate cultural experience that transcends the musical narrative of the programme. We believe that it is possible to deliver a hybrid model of this programme, which involves a greater amount of physical interaction, once the travel restrictions have been lifted. The partnership between these two organisations will be of great benefit to the Malaysian music community, students, and the whole of Malaysia in general.