Pianovers Meetup #55 Digest

Pianover Meetup #55 Digest
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Since Pianovers Meetup started in July 2016, it has created a platform on which piano lovers have been able to meet, play and network over music. Pianovers Meetup is a weekly gathering of like-minded people happening every Sunday evening at The URA Centre. Here, two refurbished pianos await Pianovers as they gather every weekend at 6:30pm. Pianovers Meetup is organised by ThePiano.SG, founded by Sng Yong Meng, and has been forging a close piano community in Singapore.

Pianovers Meetup begins at 5pm for Pianovers to bond over dinner. This evening, we were pleased to have Claire, Gina, Ken, as well as Riana and her son Jovan, join us. All were newcomers and Joven was to play later that evening. We met at 5:30pm and headed off to Maxwell Road Food Centre where we filled our tummies with delicious local grub.

Pianovers Meetup #55, Albert, and Gee Yong
Pianovers Meetup #55, Jovan raising his hand up
Pianovers Meetup #55, Tiffany introducing herself

An hour later, we made our way back to The URA Centre and by this time, other Pianovers had arrived. It was a large group this evening and among the attendees was a group of four students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic Piano Ensemble, comprising Nathanael, Lin Htoo, Anne and Tiffany. All were first-timers at Pianovers Meetup. We also welcomed newcomers Olivier (who would play later), Gavin, Kristine, and a family comprising Selena, her daughter Stella (who would play too) and her mother. Another family was present too: Peter and his wife, Yvonne, along with their son Joshua and Joshua’s sister.

We also saw another newcomer family, Jinci (playing later that evening) and her husband Ronnie. In addition to the above, we welcomed Novita and her daughter Gwen, William and his son Brandon, Russell and his family, Jenny along with her husband and her daughter I-Wen, Will, Chris and his friend Christian (first time attending), Teik Lee, May Ling, Justin and Kelvin. Russell and Jinci are both Jenny’s piano students. Gwen, Brandon, I-Wen and Chris would all play that evening. There were several others who would play too, including several regular Pianovers.

A typical Meetup comprises two segments, the Mini-Recital and the Open Segment, and to kick off the evening, Yong Meng gives an presentation during which he shares what Pianovers Meetup is about. Apart from informing all present about its history and background, Yong Meng also introduced all the members present by reading out the names of the individual attendees, who reciprocated by waving to the fellow Pianovers.

He also took the opportunity to inform everyone about a feature known as Pianover Profile. Once a Pianover performed, that person would get a Pianover Profile, which will be populated with the pieces he/she played. The Pianover can also sign in to his/her account, and update his/her Pianover Profile - Achievements, and About Me.

Pianovers Meetup #55, Albert performing
Pianovers Meetup #55, Gwen performing
Pianovers Meetup #55, Russell performing

At 7pm sharp, the Mini-Recital started. Albert, our regular Pianover known for playing Chinese classics, kicked off the event. This evening, he performed two pieces. The first was "问白云" by 王福齡. This was followed by "西湖春" by 陈歌辛. 西湖春 (named after the West Lake in Hangzhou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site) was published in 1943 and first performed by Shanghai performer 李麗華. Several other singers like 凤飞飞, 费玉清, etc performed covers of this popular piece. Interesting, the lake which provided inspiration for this song is special for it "influenced garden design in the rest of China as well as Japan and Korea over the centuries" and reflected "an idealised fusion between humans and nature”.

Gwen came up to the piano next and played two places. The first was Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major, K. 331, 1st movt, Theme by Mozart. The last movement, "Alla turca" (named by Mozart himself), also called the "Turkish March", is often heard on its own and is one of Mozart's best-known piano pieces. Gwen then performed her second piece, Für Elise by Beethoven. Interestingly, Beethoven probably never wanted the popular version today to exist, preferring the 1822 version instead. To complicate matters, there was never a person known as "Elise"!

Russell was up next and performed Reverie, composed by Debussy. This piece was written in 1890, the same year in which "Clair de Lune" was composed. This was the third and most famous movement of Suite bergamasque. Following the composition of this song, Debussy began to develop his own musical language, largely independent of the style belonging to Wagner, who had somewhat of an influence on Debussy.

Pianovers Meetup #55, Siew Tin performing
Pianovers Meetup #55, I-Wen performing
Pianovers Meetup #55, Brandon performing

Following Russell’s performance, Siew Tin came up to the piano. Siew Tin is also known for her Chinese classics. This evening, she played two pieces, 我是一片云 and 橄榄树. "我是一片云", composed by 古月 and published in 1976, was originally performed by 凤飞飞. This piece was used as the theme song for movie of the same title. Siew Tin’s second piece "橄榄树" was written by 李泰祥. Published in 1979, this piece was banned by the Taiwanese government for broadcase on mass media for eight years. Nevertheless, this piece was popular and has seen cover versions by such singers as 费玉清 and 孙燕姿 (Stephanie Sun). This song was also used as the theme song in the 1979 movie "欢颜".

Next, it was the turn for our little performer  I-Wen to perform. I-Wen has been a frequent attendee of Pianovers Meetups and this evening, she played two pieces. The first was In May by Franz Behr. Following this, she played Jingle Bells by James Lord Pierpont. Jingle Bells was published in September 1857 under the title "One Horse Open Sleigh" and performed in Boston that year. It was originally intended for the Thanksgiving season but over the years became associated with Christmas instead. Today, Jingle Bells is a popular Christmas song sung by families around the world.

Brandon played a total of three pieces this evening. First was Sayonara, followed by Five Hundred Miles by Hedy West. "Five Hundred Miles" is about the story of a traveller far from home, broke and embarrassed to return. Finally, Brandon played Oh Suzanna, written by Stephen Foster. This piece was first published in 1848 and was not just one of Stephen Foster's best-known songs, but also one of the best-known American songs. It sold more than 100,000 copies, a feat given that no American song had sold more than 5,000 copies then. This song quickly became the unofficial theme of the Forty-Niners, the name given to the people who participated in the Gold Rush of 1849, during which they flocked to the west in search of gold.

Pianovers Meetup #55, Jinci performing
Pianovers Meetup #55, Tiffany performing
Pianovers Meetup #55, Jovan performing

It was Jinci’s turn next and she performed Sonata in E minor Op. 90 No. 27, 1st movt by Beethoven. During his lifetime, Beethoven, who was a crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic era, wrote 32 Piano Sonatas in all. Beethoven’s works were many and included "Moonlight Sonata", "Pathétique", "Tempest", "Pastoral", "Waldstein" and "Appassionata". Many of his best works came from the last 15 years of his life. Unfortunately for Beethoven, his hearing began to suffer when he was in his late 20s. When he came to the last decade of his life, he was almost completely deaf.

Tiffany performed Deep in Abyss (from Made in Abyss), a piece composed by Yuki Yasuda, Kana Utatane and Masahiro "Godspeed" Aoki. "Made In Abyss" is a Japanese manga series by Akihito Tsukushi and tells the story of a young girl who befriends a humanoid robot. She follows him into the Abyss to look for her missing mother. Tiffany was with us for the first time this evening and was part of a group of four friends from the Ngeee Ann Polytechnic Piano Ensemble.

Jovan was up next and performed Greensleeves. "Greensleeves" is a traditional English folk song and alludes to a Lady Greensleeves, which was a nickname, not a title as one would have thought. This referred to the green sleeves that were part of women’s clothes during the 15th century (known as the Tudor era). Interestingly, the sleeves then were of a different colour from the main clothing and attached with lace, rendering them special importance.

Next, Jovan played Lullaby by Brahms. This piece, first published in 1868, is perhaps one of the most famous and recognisable among young parents, for its has been used for generations to lull babies to sleep. Unknown to many, Lullaby was dedicated by Brahms to his friend, Bertha Faber, on the occasion of the birth of her second son. Brahms had been in love with Faber for some time. Faber used to sing to Brahms and he came up with this lullaby – known as Wiegenlied in German – that includes her singing as a counter-melody hidden within. Jovan also played Kerry’s Dance, before ending his performance for the evening.

Pianovers Meetup #55, Olivier performing
Pianovers Meetup #55, Stella performing
Pianovers Meetup #55, Grace performing

After Jovan’s performance, Olivier came up to the piano. He played Pirates of the Caribbean. Although this theme song for the popular movie is widely credited to Klaus Badelt, it was Hans Zimmer who wrote most of songs. There were other writers involved in the orchestrating effort, too, although they are not given recognition.

Stella, another newcomer this evening, played "Surprise Symphony" by Joseph Haydn, "Gypsy Song", and "Melody". Hadyn’s music is known for having many jokes, and the "Surprise Symphony" offers a very interesting illustration. Listeners are caught by surprise by the use of a sudden fortissimo chord at the end of the otherwise piano opening theme in the variation-form second movement. Following that, however, the music reverts to its original, quiet tune. This gives the impression that nothing has happened. The joke is never repeated.

Grace played "Arabesque Op.18 in C Major" by Robert Schumann. In 1840, Schumann married Friedrich Wieck's daughter Clara, but not before going through a legal battle with the father.  Like Schumann, Clara also composed music and enjoyed a successful career as a concert pianist. Unfortunately, Schumann suffered from with mental disorder from as early as 1833. He attempted suicide in 1854 and voluntarily admitted himself to a mental hospital, where he died in 1856.

Pianovers Meetup #55, Jaeyong performing
Pianovers Meetup #55, Chris performing
Pianovers Meetup #55, Group picture

Jaeyong performed Memory by Andrew Lloyd Webber. "Memory" was the music in the famous 1981 musical "Cats" and was performed by the character Grizabella during the musical itself. The song signifies the memory of the character’s illustrious past and is the climax of the musical. The composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber, is also well-known as the writer of the music for another Broadway musical, "Phantom of the Opera".

Last but not least, Chris came up to the piano for the last performance of the evening. Chris played "Air in G", by J.S. Bach. This piece has its roots in the second movement in Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068. "Air in G" is an arrangement from violinist August Wilhelmj.

Pianovers Meetup #55, Brandon, and Stella
Pianovers Meetup #55, Albert, William, and Teik Lee helping to move the piano
Pianovers Meetup #55, Grace, Jaeyong, and Tiffany

Following the conclusion of the Mini-Recital, we moved into the Open Segment. This is a time of open jamming, bonding and networking! This evening saw lots of activities by Pianovers. Nathanael, who came to support her friend Tiffany, was seen singing to many of the tunes at the piano. Jinci, Ronnie and Jaeyong had a great chat, and so did Gee Yong and Anne. The activities were not limited to the adults only; Brandon and Stella had fun too! They played on the same piano at first, then decided to part ways and have one piano each. Special mention must be made of Albert, William and Teik Lee, who helped to move the piano back to its original position. Thank you, gentlemen, for assisting!

After a night of music and fun, Meetup #55 came to an end. We were all sad to leave but at the same time, look forward to the next Meetup! See you all at Pianovers Meetup #56 this Sunday!