Michael Jackson's timeless hits take centre stage in orchestral tribute concert

A celebration of the King of Pop's music - done the orchestral way - marks the return of the KLPac Symphonic Band, which is raring to present its first showcase of the year.

The This Is It: Tribute To Michael Jackson concert series is set to take place at Pentas 2, KLPac from March 15-17.

“A tribute show in honour of Michael Jackson, especially in an orchestral setting, takes a lot of planning work,” says Cheryl Mah, resident conductor and music director of the KLPac Symphonic Band, who adds that the pop masses already know Jackson's songbook well, and a tribute show has to offer something different.

She is looking to the brass and strings, the percussion section and a whole load of fab musicianship to get the job done.

The KLPac Symphonic Band is ready for the task, the conductor says with confidence.

"The wide range of instruments - in a symphonic band - can capture the essence of Jackson's music. Similarities can be seen in the instrument choices of the original arrangements. From the melodies by the high brass to the rhythmic percussion, each instrument adds depth and richness in reinterpreting Jackson’s classics. As you bring together these arrangements, you will be able to find a resemblance that originally could be heard in his music," she adds.

Mah will be leading the 47-member orchestra, playing Jackson's hits from the 1970s and 1980s, including a medley of The Jackson 5 tunes and a stash of favourites from his solo albums Thriller and Bad.

The 60-minute concert will be presented as a full instrumental affair - without any moonwalking or singing.

"There were a lot of ideas popping up at first such, things such as inviting dancers or singers. In the end, we decided to just focus on the instrumental aspect of the concert. We are presenting and conveying it through the melodies themselves - without the singing. It is something that I want to explore and see how much our musicians can speak beyond the words," says Mah, who is also the Head of Diploma Programme at the Institute of Music, UCSI University.

She was also rather amused at the suggestion of KLPac's co-founder Joe Hasham reading out actor Vincent Price's spoken word part in Jackson's Thriller song.

"That's a great idea, I can see him fitting that role perfectly ... but not for this round (of concerts). We are focusing on the instrumental part of the music," says Mah.

The conductor notes that the music scores used for this production were taken from Japanese orchestral arrangers.

“They (the Japanese composers) are known to be very meticulous ... whether its original composition for a symphonic band or rearrangement of existing songs. It enables the ensemble to bring out the most of the original version,” she says.

There has been no shortage of excitement among the KLPac Symphonic Band's young musicians - most were born after Jackson's golden years - with high spirited rehearsals underlining the infectious nature of the pop legend's music.

“Everyone is excited about the show! Even if they were not from the generation where Michael Jackson was at his peak in his professional career, everyone knows of Michael Jackson - if not music, then his dance moves and his iconic personality," says Mah.

"It will be a very appealing programme because of the super catchy tunes. The challenge is to have everyone on the same page at important moments when we are performing the songs," she concludes with a laugh.

For added fun at the This Is It: Tribute To Michael Jackson concert, attendees are also encouraged to dress up and get into the MJ retro look - Thriller zombie or red leather jacket?

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