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Concerts to say thanks

   
YEOH: Thanksgiving to the people and to God for blessing us

New Straits Times, November 30 2005

Musical extravaganza. Fireworks. Theatrical performances. You can expect these and more at YTL Corporation Bhd’s series of thanksgiving concerts to commemorate its 50 years in business. DEBRA CHONG writes.

TAN Sri Francis Yeoh Sock Ping is one of the richest men in Southeast Asia. Just last August, Forbes magazine ranked him at No. 20, a spot he shares with fellow Malaysian, timber tycoon Tiong Hiew King.

The managing director of YTL Corporation Bhd is reputed to be worth US$1.1 billion (RM4.07 billion). Over the past few years, Yeoh has received plentiful accolades from many international business organisations. He has been hailed by Ernst & Young as Entrepreneur of the Year 2002, by BusinessWeek as one of the top 25 Asian stars in 2003, and most recently by CNBC Asia Pacific as the Malaysian CEO of the Year 2005.

The family-run business stretches from the Asia-Pacific to Africa to Europe. Its key businesses include construction, utility, transport, property development and retail, among others. Today, YTL Corp is estimated to be worth US$5 billion.

Yeoh may have been born with a silver spoon — he inherited the construction company from his founder father at the age of 25 — but he knows his fortune is no fluke. He attributes it to God.

"We have been voted the most visionary company by Far Eastern Economic Review seven years through (since 1998).


   
HEAVENLY: Critically-acclaimed British tenor Russell Watson (above) will be performing with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra (below left) under the stars at Sentul Park in KL
"We are stewards of that vision so we can make it come to fruition ... it’s not measured in monetary values. It’s measured by not wanting to block in our human frailty (that which) God wants to bless and multiply. Why would you want to stop it?" he asked in a one-on-one at his exclusive penthouse office overlooking Kuala Lumpur’s premier shopping street.

Which explains why the company has been organising a concert of celebration and thanksgiving almost every year since 1994. The first was held at his luxurious resort development on Pulau Pangkor. The last was in Bath, Britain and featured the amazing Three Tenors: Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti. Yeoh holds some stakes in Wessex Waters, the utility company there.

Next month, to commemorate 50 years of business — YTL was founded by Yeoh’s father in 1955 — the celebrations return to home ground, where the global company is headquartered. Spread over five days (see accompanying story), the extravaganza will showcase artistic performances from Australia, Malaysia and Britain, the three major countries where YTL holds considerable economic interests.

"We’ve got Wessex Waters in England, so we got an English (act), and of course we have Electronet in South Australia — we hold a 200-year concession — so of course we will honour Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, and of course some Malaysians to play with them. Hopefully we are going to have a magnificent fireworks display too," he says.

The highlight will be an outdoor concert on the 14ha Sentul Park in Kuala Lumpur, yet another community land rehabilitation project undertaken by the property arm of YTL. It will star Russell Watson, the 31-year old tenor who rose from obscurity as a construction engineer singing in pubs to become Britain’s most famous opera singer and who has sung for the 3Ps — Prince Charles, President Bush and the Pope (John Paul II).

The Russell Watson concert holds an especial place in Yeoh’s heart. At a recent Press conference to announce the concert, Yeoh was tickled by the remarkable coincidence of having Watson, "a (former) construction man singing for a construction company honouring the great constructor, Jesus the carpenter".

   

"How appropriate. So I know the Lord is happy with this arrangement," Yeoh laughs deeply.

"All these concerts are a thanksgiving to Jesus and also a thanksgiving to the people who have allowed us to do business in Australia, in our own country, in Britain. So, thanksgiving first to the people and most importantly to God for blessing us. That’s why this theme … 50 years running the good race, it means something very humble," says Yeoh in a tribute to the people who have supported the growth of the company over the years.

Though Yeoh is well-known to be an ardent supporter of the arts — he was previously president of the KL Symphony Orchestra and has been the patron of the Penang Arts Festival since 2000 — one might have wondered at his almost obsessive fascination with classical music and particularly opera.

"Classical is good. Has tremendous depth. It is the apogee, to me, of music, of depth, the highest form of creativity, must have been brought forward from the depths by God; must have been inspired by God. How could they have written music like that?"

Perhaps moved by inspiration, he breaks into an impromptu performance: "Above all powers and creative things; Above all wisdom and the ways of man; You were here, before the world began."

The lyrics to Above All, a contemporary Christian pop song written by Michael W. Smith, were a little misplaced, but the sincerity in his rich, deep voice shone clear.

It is evident that despite his wealth and social standing, Yeoh still holds strongly to the basic principles of his Christian faith — that of humility, modesty and a willingness to make things work for the good of all.

It is hardly any wonder then that his daily creed comes from a passage in the Book of Micah, chapter six, verse eight: "He has shown you, O Man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?"

Line-up of events

For its golden anniversary, YTL Corporation Bhd has planned five days of musicl and theatrical performances. Here is the line-up:

DATE

PROGRAMME

Dec 13

Just Comedy!
Let Harith Iskandar and friends tickle your funny bone

Dec 14

'Tis the Season
Get into the spirit of Christmas with the popular all-women a capella group LiT and the Selangor Philharmonic Choir

Dec 15

The Melbourne Grammar School Orchestra
This Australian high school orchestra, which has toured China, Italy and Britain, will be performing for the first time in KL and will feature 16-year-old Malaysian Sylvia Loh, performing Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg's Piano Concerto

Dec 16

Nuit d'Amour (Night of Love)
Enjoy popular arias and ensemble works by some of Malaysia's premier opera singers and guest-starring Taiwan-born Jessica Chen

Dec 17

Russel Watson in Concert
Catch 31-year-old British tenor Russell Watson in an electric mix of pop and opera, accompanied by the world-famous Adelaide Symphony Orchestra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
All the events are free. However, the seating for the Russell Watson concert will be decided by ballots. Forms are available in all major dailies and on the YTL website, www.ytlcommunity.com. The ballot exercise, which started on Nov 21, will end on Dec 5. Successful applicants will receive two tickets each and will be notified via e-mail. All events will start at 8.30pm and will be held at Pentas 1, Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac), except for the Russell Watson concert, which is an open-air concert in Sentul Park.


© Copyright 2004 The New Straits Times Press (M) Berhad. All rights reserved.



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