IN his quest to find the ultimate violin a renowned Malaysian electric violinist recently travelled from across the world to Donegal for a very special project which will see the county and its beautiful landscape take centre stage in Asia later this year.
Kuala Lumpur-based artist Dennis Lau is a rising star in Malaysia and has collaborated with big names in the music industry across Asia.
After first seeing one of Asia’s biggest pop stars, Wang Leehom’s custom-made dragon guitar, simply known by the name Bahamut, Lau decided to contact its Donegal-based creator to develop a masterpiece of his own.
Alistair Hay is the founder of Emerald Guitars, based outside St Johnston, and has been building guitars, from standard guitars to custom creations for artists like Leehom and American guitar hero Steve Vai, for nearly two decades.
Lau said for any musician, having an instrument custom-made for them presents many challenges, such as getting the right balance of character, playability and tone.
“Just like a soul mate, a musician’s instrument plays a very important role in the development of the player’s voice and personality,” he said.
In searching for his ‘soul mate’, Lau has gone through multiple instruments, all well-built for performance, yet have not connected with him on a deep level such as the instrument Hay has begun to build and has been named The Phoenix Violin.
Lau visited Hay in his native Donegal last week and is confident that he will create an instrument like no other.
Despite Alistair’s great reputation with stringed instruments, he has not worked on a violin, but he is supremely confident and excited to create something remarkable.
Having explored various concepts the Malaysian artist and Irish luthier decided on The Phoenix as it represents many facets of Lau’s Chinese heritage, fiery style of playing and the birth of his new musical journey.
Lau said: “The choice of material, carbon fibre, was due to it’s lightness, strength and resonance. It’s not a material that many craftsmen know how to create with, but Alistair has much experience and knowledge with it.”
Lau’s visit to Ireland was invaluable experience for both men and the face-to-face interaction gave Hay a better judgment and understanding of the artist’s expectations.
Hay said: “We are not building an instrument, but more like a suit and masterpiece where it has to fit perfectly.”
Lau added: “If I work with an individual who is well-respected for their level of creativity and professionalism, I entrust them fully to express their creativity and energy in their work, as I believe they will put their heart and soul towards it.”
The next milestone for Lau is his first large-scale concert titled ‘Dennis Lau & Friends – The Phoenix Rising Concert’, produced by Jennifer Thompson, on October 22,. Instead of just one act, the concert will have mixed ensembles, showcasing talent of great artists which Lau has collaborated with over the years like Ning Baizura, Jimmy Sax, Syafinaz Selamat, Atilia, Soo Wincci and many more.
On this night, The Phoenix Violin will make its debut appearance to showcase the esteem of both maker and performer while County Donegal will also take centre stage in footage reflecting the epic journey The Phoenix has taken.
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