Dance and Music Tour to Malaysia and Singapore
Report by Mrs Ritchie
Our epic journey to Kuala Lumpur (KL) started in Glasgow at 1pm on Saturday and finished at 8.20am GMT on Sunday. However, with the time difference, we were catapulted forward 8 hours and arrived at 3.20pm in KL. We were greeted by an enthusiastic group of staff from the British International School KL (BISKL), a very welcome sight after such a long journey. We collected our luggage and walked out into the sweltering 32C heat, a big change from the snow flurries we encountered on our journey from Gordonstoun. From the airport we were delivered safely to our hotel by Mr Nadin, our bus driver for the week.
The BISKL Music Department had arranged an excellent buffet that evening of beautiful Malay food. It was great to meet the people with whom we would be rehearsing and performing on Monday. The evening was rounded off with a little retail therapy in the outdoor market next to the hotel.
Monday started with a typical Malay breakfast of everything and anything. It was great to see the students embrace the new cuisine and load their plates with the most unusual choices from a huge and diverse offering. At 8.30am, it was off to BISKL on our coach with a quick lesson from Pam on how to count to 4 in Malay ringing in everyone’s ears. We arrived at the British International School Kuala Lumpur at 8.45am and were met by a group of BISKL students waving the Malaysian and Scottish Flags. It was a lovely and unexpected gesture of welcome.
It was then straight into rehearsal. The musicians had to prepare pieces that were to be performed that evening with the BISKL concert band and then quickly set up for the morning’s school concert. The dancers too took the opportunity to get used to the new stage. It was great to finally perform. Happily, the packed theatre seemed to enjoy our offering and the day got off to an excellent start. It was then straight into a dance work shop where our students, guided by Mrs DaBell, taught a group of 80 Myanmar refugees and BISKL students how to dance a Dashing White Sergent and Gay Gordons. Much hilarity ensued.
After a sandwich lunch in the Music Department both the dance and Music students took part in a Chinese Drumming Workshop. This ended in an impromptu duet between Shaun on Chinese drums and Alice on Pipes.
This was followed by an opportunity to relax in the pool around which the school is built and take the chance to cool down. The school also provided a lovely barbecue for tea and then it was on to the highlight of the day, the joint concert with BISKL. It was billed as Crossing Boundaries, a concert featuring Gordonstoun and BISKL. Seeing the students of both school playing together made all the effort worthwhile. Everyone performed their very best and Jamie found his inner Chinese Drummer and brought the house down! The day ended with all the students enjoying an informal reception back in the hotel. What a first day!
On Tuesday, after a welcome long lie and the bus all packed up, we were free to be tourists for the day.
First stop: China Town and more fake Cath Kidson handbags than you could shake a stick at. Mr Csenki definitely led the way in haggling skills and so far all the purchases have not yet fallen to bits. We returned to the bus and moved onto the centre of Kuala Lumpur and the KLCC. There, everyone had their first multi-sensory experience of a Malayasian Food court. Our trip to the centre of KL finished with a visit to Trader’s Bar for a refreshing mocktail and a 27th Floor view of the area and the iconic Petronas Towers. Then it was back to BISKL to pick up six students and Miss Berque who were joining us on our trip to Johor Bahru and Singapore.
We had an amazing time in KL and at BISKL. Many, many thanks to Kim Kelly and her team who made us so welcome and looked after us so well. We have invited Kim and her students to Gordonstoun and are looking forward to offering our hand of friendship and hospitality to them in the near future.
The four hour journey to Johor Bahru was uneventful and we arrived to an excellent buffet supper in Hotel Jen. Mr Watkins, former Gordonstoun music teacher and now Director of Music at Marlborough College Malaysia (MCM), dropped by to say hello and was very happy to be reunited with many of his ex-students.
On Wednesday, we had an action packed day at Marborough College. It started with a dance work shop for the Y9s and was quickly followed by a joint rehearsal with Mr Watkins' orchestra and choir. He had prepared Caledonia with them and the sound of the combined forces of Gordonstoun, BISKL and MCM musicians was immense. We were treated to a delicious lunch and then played to two packed houses in the afternoon. Special congratulations should be given to our two saxophone players who rehearsed and performed a saxophone ensemble with the BISKL pupils in the short time we had. They played beautifully.
Also, a mention should go to Mr Oliphant who made an impromptu visit to the junior school to give a Bagpipe demonstration. Thanks also to Mr Watkins and Mr Ang (former Musician-in-Residence at Gordonstoun and Head of Music at MCM Prep) who went the extra mile to make our day at Marlborough very special. We finished our time in Malaysia with a typical Malay meal on a stilted restaurant situated in the mud of the straits between Malayisa and Singapore. The students saw many mud fish and monkeys in the wild.
Having crossed the border the previous night, the tour made an early start on thursday morning for a very special event in the tour. It was the day after the 75th anniversary of Singapore falling to the Japanese in Second World War and the anniversary of the death of OG David Low from Lossiemouth, a 22 year Lieutenant of the 2nd Battalion The Manchester Regiment. To mark this occasion and commemorate his life, the student performed a short ceremony at the Singapore Hospital memorial where David’s Name is one of over 400.
Thank you to Victoria, Nanouri, Flora, Mattie, Alice, James, Annabel, Kirsty and Mr Oliphant for their contributions to a beautiful and moving ceremony.
Our final performances of the tour were at Tanglin School Trust. They had more of an informal feel as they were played to younger age groups. The venue was a magnificent, newly built performance area we all found almost too good to believe. Many thanks to Richie Baxter for making it possible.
We were all sad to bid farewell to our new BISKL friends who flew back to KL after these performances. And then…. suddenly, we were on holiday! After a quick change at the Youth Hostel it was back on the bus to head off to the first of our excursions: the famous Singapore Night Zoo.
Friday started with a well- deserved long lie and free time until 1pm. This time was put to good use: some students visited the National Museum of Singapore which is situated right next door to the YMCA; some had some retail therapy and some simply chilled by the pool.
At 1pm the bus arrived with our new Guide, Patrick. He was a semi-retired guide and oracle of all things Singaporean. He spoke 11 languages and appeared to personally know everyone! He took us to the Satay Hawker Centre for lunch. There the competition for the Champion of the Music and Dance Tour Bush Tucker trial continued: strong challengers, Issy with Sea Snails and Jamie with Durian (generally considered to be the world's smelliest fruit!) Ice cream. From there we went by foot to the Gardens of the Bay and then by bus to the Singapore Flyer. And, to finish the day, Mr Oliphant (with Patrick’s contacts) arranged a traditional Steam Boat meal. Those who tried the sea cucumber were also in the running … Back at the YMCA the day ended with a hilarious game of ‘Mafia’. Saturday was spent whirling, birling and being dangled upside down at Universal Studios, a great finish to the tour.
Happily, the long journey back to Gordonstoun was uneventful.Finally, many thanks to the ‘home’ team who helped me. It was very much appreciated.