Monday, 20 July 2015

Ooi Eow Jin, post-concert

I'm quite happy to note that the charity concert in Petaling Jaya yesterday (19 July 2015) to benefit Penang's forgotten music maestro Ooi Eow Jin got off to a wonderful start.

Although it was a concert by budding young local musicians playing classical pieces, it was standing room all round at the MK Joyworks recital hall. Originally meant for only a maximum of 250 seated people, more than 400 jammed into the hall subsequently. I'm sure the young performers were rather overwhelmed by the occasion, not expecting or prepared to play before such a large capacity crowd.

But the people had not come simply to listen to just the classical music. They were there to show their support for Ooi Eow Jin after his plight was highlighted earlier this month in my blog story. Uncle Ooi himself attended the concert together with his wife and he was introduced to the audience.

Sportingly, he even sat down at the piano to entertain the people with a medley of songs from his vast repertoire. “It was a privilege entertaining the masses for all these years. I used to play a lot of classical music, but now I prefer to play jazz,” he said. The picture here was taken from The Malaysian Insider which had covered this concert event for the online news portal.

Before the concert began, it was announced that RM42,700 had been collected for Ooi Eow Jin but there were still a bit more that had not been added into this figure. I was told that at first, the announcement did not register with him, presumably because of the noise in the hall and he also being a bit deaf, but later in a quieter moment when he learnt of the amount collected, his face turned incredulous.
UPDATE (24 July 2015): I've just been informed that post-concert, the total collected for Ooi Eow Jin's benefit has tallied up to RM74,000. Much of the cash donations were received from fellow Old Frees as well as members of the public. Unfortunately, the host and organizer of the concert in Petaling Jaya, Lai Mei Kuen, had herself suffered a mild stroke three days earlier and this caused quite some confusion to the arrangements at Eow Jin's event. According to Jimmy Yeoh, some guests who had bought tickets earlier but had come late found last-minute walk-in people having taken away their seats. Another problem was that some people were upset that they did not receive any acknowledgement for their contributions. Jimmy said that he would work with Ms Lai to help clear up this mess as soon as possible. 
If things go according to plan, we shall see two more concerts for Ooi Eow Jin later this year in August or September. One will be in Kuala Lumpur while the other will be in his hometown, Penang, but both will feature only his music. Perhaps some performers who have sung to his songs before will agree to appear for him. There is an indication that Datuk Johari Salleh, who used to lead the Radio Television Malaysia Orchestra, may be persuaded to take part too.

On my part, I've written to the Penang Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng, to ask whether the state government can contribute the use of the Dewan Sri Pinang as the venue of the Penang concert, no less because the Chief Minister also happens to be the chairman of the Penang Free School Board of Trustees and we know that Uncle Ooi happened to be an Old Boy of the school. However, I have yet to receive a reply from anyone in the state government. Whether or not they can accede to my request is immaterial though. It is more important that they reply so that the organisers of the Penang concert can proceed with whatever alternate plans.

But first, OEJ and his wife will be in Penang later this week - a home-coming trip - for some personal matters, one of which I understand will be a visit to his elder son's grave. Their schedule is bound to be busy but I hope for an opportunity to meet up with this old couple and learn first-hand of their plight. I have played my part to make the public more aware of this forgotten music maestro in our midst and I hope other people can continue to help them more tangibly by contributing to the proper Ooi Eow Jin Trust Fund when it is set up later.

In the meantime, contributions can still be made to the unofficial OEJ Fund as displayed below. This account is for real but I would like to remind people that once you transfer any money to this account, please take a screenshot of the transaction, or print the details, and email the image to Jimmy Yeoh to inform him. This is IMPORTANT for matching purposes, while we await the setting up of the proper OEJ Trust Fund.

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