Malaysian classical group and global friends record uplifting Bach hymn on handphones

After the movement control order (MCO) was announced last week, Bachfest Malaysia founder David Chin was worried about rehearsals with his fellow musicians. They had concerts coming up as well as a tour in Germany. How were they going to rehearse and make music together while staying home?

“The news was quite sad. There was also a lot of negativity on Facebook at the time, people complaining about a lot of things. I thought to myself, what can we as musicians do?” said Chin, 35.

Soon, he had an idea of a global collaboration. First, Chin filmed himself conducting the music of a chorale piece St Matthew Passion, an oratorio by composer Johann Sebastian Bach in 1727. He sent the video to the Bachfest Malaysia members as well as friends of the society whom they had previously collaborated with.

Between March 17 and 18, the Bachfest Malaysia members sent videos of themselves performing the uplifting piece, or playing their respective instruments. Chin, with the help of an intern, organised the digital files and put them all together into one video.

The result? Through Music We Are Connected video was released on March 19. It has been well-received, with almost 100,000 views on Facebook and Youtube since it was published online.

“We will continue to make music despite the challenges ahead of us. We may be apart from each other, but we are connected through music, ” read the video’s description.

"The sounds of the video are completely original, all recorded with each member's cell phone. The video was done in less than 48 hours, from compiling to the final product," the message continued.

Through Music We Are Connected is a collective multilingual performance of Bach’s chorale St Matthew Passion, done in German, English and Mandarin. The video features 25 vocalists and 19 instrumentalists, performing on the flute, cello, piano, violins and more. Its performers come from all over Malaysia (Petaling Jaya to Bintulu) and from seven countries, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany, Sweden and the United States.

“I was very touched that they responded like this. No one complained. Everyone gave their best. They were experienced performers, used to playing in full auditoriums. Here, they were playing for free, in front of no one. And they still performed with full dedication, ” said Chin, who is also Bachfest Malaysia’s artistic director.

“I was surprised at the response. We had made videos before, but this is the first video which went viral like this."

Established in 2015, Bachfest Malaysia aims to promote the music of J.S. Bach in Malaysia and beyond. The group has a current line-up of between 40 and 50 members.

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