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Healing sounds from the harp at Parkinson's gathering Ricky Yap (New Straits Times) - 24 August 2011

Healing sounds from the harp at Parkinson's gathering

Tan Keng Hong enthralling the audience at the Malaysian Parkinson's Disease Association office with his harp-playing - Picture by Ricky Yap

KUALA LUMPUR: "If music be the food of love, play on."

This message was espoused by playwright William Shakespeare in one of his plays.

For those suffering from Parkinson's Disease, music can also serve stimulate their senses, fire their imagination, and even inspire them.

This was conveyed during an hour-long harpist's performance to 30-odd patients, care-givers and Management & Science University students at the Malaysian Parkinson's Disease Association (MPDA) office in Happy Garden, off Jalan Kuchai Lama, here recently.

Tan Keng Hong, 36, who is a full-time musician with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO), dazzled the audience with his mastery of the stringed instrument.

(Pics inserted by MPDA)
Tan Keng Hong's music touches the hearts of the audience. Tan Keng Hong presenting a brief history of the musical instrument, its structure and functions.

The musician showed how music could be created on it by other means, such as a screwdriver, paint-brush and strips of paper, instead of using only the hands.

Prior to the performance, Tan - who has been playing the harp for 26 years now - gave a poetry recital and also presented a brief history of the musical instrument, its structure and functions.

He said the performance was part of MPO's corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, which include an outreach programme that sees its musicians staging performances at hospitals and other charitable institutions five or six times a year.

"MPO's Education and Outreach Department contacted MPDA about staging a performance and the latter expressed interest," said Tan, who has been with the MPO since 1998.

MPDA president Sara Lew Lai Heong expressed her appreciation to MPO for the performance.

"Even though the patients might not have been musically-inclined, they still turned up for the performance," said Lew, who added that the MPDA -- with a registered membership of 700 -- served as a support group for patients and care-givers to share their experiences while creating awareness about the disease.

Dr Ng Khuen Yen, one of MPDA's advisors who was also present at the performance, said the performance had a therapeutic effect on the patients.

"Parkinson's Disease affects the patient's mobility functions. The performance stressed more on imagination (with the use of the various 'playing' devices), which would subconsciously stimulate the patients, and calm down their minds while helping them to function better," said Dr Ng, who is a lecturer in neuroscience at Monash University in Sunway.

Leong Chung Thad found the sounds of the harp amazing.

Leong Chung Thad, a Parkinson's Disease sufferer for the past eight years, found the harp music rather "amazing".

"I have never heard such music so up close before. The harpist was very versatile, showing how he could play music using these non-traditional playing devices.

"It was an inspirational performance and something which I never thought nor knew about," said Leong, 60, who was a former marketing manager.

"This was a rare opportunity for us as we felt the full force of the range of music, which was steeped in history."

Read more: Healing sounds from the harp at Parkinson's gathering