Bites of Delight, a review

A remarkable 2-hour stage performance by 26 talented children, full of song, dance and gamelan.

Bites of Delight is a compilation of 5 short stories, each a unique interpretation of a popular story from the represented culture of a land on the “spice trail” of old. I was fortunate to receive an invitation to the Gala Performance, hosted by the Maybank Foundation and Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir.

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There was a short charity auction, just before the start of the show. Sarimah Ibrahim was the auctioneer and she was a blast. I think she, more than anything else, really pumped up the crowd and warmed it up nicely for the young performers to follow. It takes a certain talent to be able to do that, and she has it in spades. A lovely smile to boot.

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What makes the show as awesome as it is must be the performers. From as young as 5 years old to the early teens, they really do take the cake. Their poise, discipline and ability with song and the various musical instruments. Through the five different short stories, each takes turn to act and play the instruments in support of the action. During each of the transitions between stories, several children perform solo with the instruments. Gamelan is mostly a brass percussion band with some minor strings and drums, and to see a young girl on an instrument twice her size is a sight in itself.

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Besides enjoying the show, i was also on assignment. The regular photographer the Maybank Foundation uses was unavailable for some reason, so i was all they had. Luckily i had the lenses on me to make shooting a stage performance possible: the incredible duo, a Canon 135mm f2.0L and a Carl Zeiss Distagon T ZE 28mm f2.0. However, unlike the regular fellow, i had never seen the show before that night, and i didn’t know what to expect. That plus difficult lighting due to the liberal use of mixed colour spotlights and backgrounds, and i was in for a real challenge. I think i must have watched 30% of the show through my Canon 5D MarkII viewfinder, waiting for a decisive moment, the climax of each stage set piece. After a bit of experimentation, i gave up on the in-camera metering and went full manual; the mixed lighting was just too much. 1/125, wide open mostly, stopping down to around f4.0-f5.6 when i needed just a bit more depth of field. Then machine gunning certain scenes and hoping for the best.

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Even after the end of the show, the crowd lingered to talk to the children. The guests of honour, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah (the wife of ex-Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad) and her daughter, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir were gracious in signing autographs, taking photos with the cast and doing interviews with the Press. Tun Dr Siti Hasmah and her daughter are a real class act; they have a certain way with people, and have an effortless talent to make them feel at ease and comfortable. It was great to see her enjoy herself, to see her laugh and be happy.

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As the night finally came to a close, just shy of midnight, the hall emptied and the lights went out. Yet, i get a feeling that not many wanted to leave. The echoes of the music of the children reverberated on in our hearts.

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