It was another evening of enjoyment as piano lovers from all over the island converged at The URA Centre. Since the previous Pianovers Meetup concluded, pianists and music lovers alike had been waiting with great anticipation for today. And they certainly had good reasons to do so! Every Sunday, this group of passionate people meets to play the piano, network and exchange ideas. The weekly Pianovers Meetup is the brainchild of ThePiano.SG, which has made it one of its missions to build an inclusive community of piano lovers.
As always, the session started at 5pm with an early dinner at the Maxwell Food Centre, just across the road from The URA Centre. Dinner is a very good way to bond and this evening, we had a group of five join Sng Yong Meng, the Founder of ThePiano.SG. They were Emma, Kasandra, Teik Lee, Han and Christopher. Emma is from South Korea and along with Han and Christopher, was new to the Meetup. After dinner, the group returned to The URA Centre, where they were joined by a family who had hailed from dinner. We warmly welcomed Amy, her husband Ankit, as well as their daughter Aira. Aira would go on to perform that evening.
We had a big turnout this evening. As we would realise later, today’s group almost reached the record of 50 attendees we saw in Meetup #57! Thank you, Pianovers, for your strong support on Sunday! Today’s session was special because the first segment, Mini-Recital, was co-hosted by our very own Pianover Teik Lee! This is indeed a step closer to being part of "Pianovers Connect", a new initiative to provide opportunities for our Pianovers to perform in events or gigs, and for them to conduct activities, workshops and courses for a wider audience. Thank you, Teik Lee, for co-hosting the Mini-Recital!
Pianover Gwen got the ball rolling with The Entertainer as Scott Joplin. Joplin, also known as The King of Ragtime Writers, was an African-American composer and pianist. One of his compositions "Maple Leaf Rag" rose to prominence as one of his most popular ragtime pieces and actually provided him steady income for the rest of his life. In the later part of his life, Joplin performed "The Entertainer". Unfortunately, it did not become quite as popular as "Maple Leaf Rag". Following "The Entertainer", Gwen also performed The Fairy Court.
After Gwen, Jaeyong was next to go up to the piano. This evening, Jaeyong performed two pieces, Last Date and Somewhere My Love. "Last Date" was composed in 1960 by Floyd Cramer and was an instrumental piece. Through this piece, Cramer illustrated fully the style of playing that he had popularised, known as the “slip note” style of piano playing. "Somewhere My Love" was composed by Maurice Jarre and was also known as "Lara’s Theme". "Lara's Theme" was originally the leitmotif used in the film "Doctor Zhivago". Following that, the leitmotif was used as the basis of "Somewhere, My Love".
Our regular Pianover Siew Tin was up next and she performed 雁儿在林梢 by 欣逸. This song was the theme song used in the movie known by the same title and starred the famous Taiwanese actress 林青霞. This song "雁儿在林梢" was originally produced by 琼瑶, who had written a novel with the same name, and performed by 鳳飛飛. There was another song used in the same movie, known as "奈何", that had been covered by other popular singers, like Teresa Teng and Faye Wong. Very coincidentally, "奈何" would be played by another Pianover, Albert, later this evening.
Stella performed "In May" by Franz Behr as well as "The Fair". Behr was a composer of many great songs and salon pieces for the piano. He was popular for a while and his opus numbers reached 582, a very sizeable number. However, Behr is almost totally forgotten today.
Jovan was up at the piano next and he performed three pieces this evening. Jovan played The Secret by Léonard Gautier, I Just Can't Wait To Be King by Elton John and Over the Rainbow by Harold Arlen. "Over The Rainbow" was written for the movie "The Wizard of Oz" and became so popular that it won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Apart from this, the song reached No 1 status in the "Songs of the Century" list. This song also had the honour of being listed as the greatest movie song of all time on the list of "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs". Another feather in the cap came when Garland’s rendition of this song was earmarked for preservation in the National Recording Registry.
Our regular Pianover Albert came up on stage next. He played two pieces, "奈何" by 李达涛 , as well as "晚安曲" by 刘家昌. "奈何" was one of the songs used in the movie "雁儿在林梢", whose theme song known by the same name had been performed earlier by Siew Tin. "晚安曲" was published in 1979 and originally performed by 費玉清. The China Television Company used this piece to accompany the test pattern that signified the end of broadcast. In addition, it gained popularity as retail outlets across Taiwan like department stores, supermarkets, restaurants, bakeries, as well as public spaces like libraries, used it to announce their closing every night. Because of this reason, "晚安曲" was also popularly known as 打烊歌 (The Closing Theme).
Teik Lee, who was co-hosting the Mini-Recital tonight, had his turn at the segment. He played Song From A Secret Garden by Rolf Løvland. This was the first international album by "Secret Garden" in 1996 and gained popularity in Korea after having being featured in the 1995 drama “Our Sunny Days of Youth”. it became so popular that it achieved Platinum awards, not just in Korea but also Norway.
I-Wen, our youngest Pianover, played two pieces. The first was Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Mozart had composed a set of variations for solo piano based on this melody and published in 18th century Vienna. This was known as Twelve Variations on “Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman” K 265. Next, I-Wen played Happy Day by Sachiko Ruka.
Gavin got up to the piano next and played Tifa's Theme by Nobuo Uematsu. Uematsu is well-known in the video game industry for his work in the Final Fantasy series. He is also often referred to as the "Beethoven of video games music”. A self-taught musician who started playing at 12, Uematsu has appeared a total of five times in the top 20 composers during the annual Classic FM Hall of Fame. Another piece from Uematsu is known as "Eyes On Me" and was used in the video game developed for Playstation, Final Fantasy VIII. This was the first song in video game history ever to win an award at the 14th Annual Japan Gold Disc Awards. This song was performed by 王菲 (Faye Wong), interestingly, with an orchestra.
Next on stage was Edward Loh, the piano student of Jenny Soh, mother of I-Wen who had performed dearlier. Edward played Intermezzo in A, Op.118, No. 2 by Johannes Brahms. Intermezzo came from the compilation Six Pieces for Piano, Op. 118. This compilation is very much beloved in the classical music circles and was dedicated to Clara Schumann. It was the second last composition to be published while Brahm was still alive. Interestingly, Clara was the first to perform publicly any Brahm’s work. We love how piano teachers like Jenny bring their students to the Meetup. Not only does this expose students to the world of music outside of the classroom, thus allowing them to pick up valuable tips that help in their learning, it also helps the students to gain confidence.
Chong Kee played Prelude and Nocturne Op. 9, For Left Hand by Russian composer Alexander Scriabin. According to the annals of classical music, Scriabin had overpractised Liszt's "Don Juan Fantasy" and Balakirev's "Islamey" and damaged his right hand. Physicians informed him he would not play again and Scriabin wrote the first piano sonata as a way to reflect the injustice he felt in him. He then wrote the "Prelude and Nocturne, Op. 9 for Left Hand" alone. However, Scriabin’s right hand eventually recovered.
Aira went up to the piano and played three pieces, Black Eyes, Street Beat (by Allen Bullard) and Swing Detectives (by Ben Crosland). "Black Eyes" has been performed by several performers. The most performed version was written by Adalgiso and published as Schwarze Augen (“Black Eyes”) in 1910. "Black Eyes" is probably the most famous romance song ever written in Ukrainian and today it has become a important part of jazz musicians’ repertoire.
Wei Yuxin played two pieces. The first was the well-known Für Elise by Beethoven and the second was All Of Me by Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons. Although Für Elise has been heard by many, most people do not know that 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"!
Next up on stage was Jayden. Jayden was a newcomer and he had registered to play at the Mini-Recital. This was an achievement for him and for us at ThePiano.SG, we felt heartened by his courage and initiative! Well done, Jayden! Jayden played three pieces, La Mourisque by Tylman Susato, Waltz in G (No. 2 from Poklad melodií, Vol. 2) by Bedrich Smetana, as well as Aria in F, BWV Anh. II 131 by Johann Christian Bach. Smetana was a Czech composer and was widely regarded in his country as the father of Czech music. This was due to the fact that he had pioneered the musical style which became associated with Czech Republic’s desire for independence. Outside the Czech Republic, Smetana was known for the "The Bartered Bride" and "Má vlast (My Homeland)". In particular, "Má vlast" showcased the history and legends of this eastern European nation.
Chen Wenlong, who was a newcomer to Pianovers Meetup, was the next player. Wenlong is a friend of Pianover Wei Yuxin and we were happy for Wenlong. Not only did he take the first step of attending Meetup and being part of our community, he also performed on his very first visit! Wenlong played River Flows In You by Yiruma. "River Flows In You" was included in Yiruma’s album "First Love". Yiruma is an accomplished pianist from Korea and visited Singapore in February 2007 for his concert.
Yap Huan Ching performed Sonatina in C Major, Op. 20, No. 1, 2nd movt by Friedrich Kuhlau. Kuhlau’s music saw lots of influence from Beethoven, whom Kuhlau knew in person and admired. Kuhlau had the credit of introducing many of Beethovens works to the public.
Claire Woo went up the piano next and played two pieces tonight. The first was Fairy Wings by Kevin Kern. "Fairy Wings" was compiled in the album "In The Enchanted Garden", which was Kevin Kern's debut album and released in 1996. Following "Fairy Wings", Claire performed Board The Ship by Kevin Penkin. Penkin is fast gaining popularity in the video game and anime markets. He wrote "Under The Dog" and "Defender’s Quest" and collaborated with Nobuo Uematsu. These have helped propel his career and his range of works now include science fiction thrillers and visual novel adventures.
Next at the piano was Chia Ming Hao, who performed Nocturne in C# minor, Op. Post. by Chopin. This piece was meant as a dedication by Chopin to his sister, Ludwika Chopin, as an exercise before she began to study his second Concerto. There is a history to this piece as well. This nocturne was also famously played by Holocaust survivor Natalia Karp, who was sent to a Nazi concentration camp after the death of her husband in a bomb raid in 1943. Amon Göth, the commandant, ordered her to play for him on his birthday and was very impressed by her performance of this nocturne. He spared both her and her sister's lives.
Our final player for tonight at the Mini-Recital was Jonathan. Jonathan played Prelude in E flat major, Op. 23, No. 6 by Sergei Rachmaninoff. This piece was composed in 1903 and is part of Rachmaninoff’s Ten Preludes, Op. 23. This set includes the famous "Prelude in G Minor" and together with Prelude in C-sharp minor, Op. 3/2 and the 13 Preludes, Op. 32, is part of the full suite of 24 preludes in all the major and minor keys.
Following the conclusion of the Mini-Recital, we moved into the Open Segment. The Open Segment is always welcome as this is a time when people can openly jam on the pianos and network. Lots of interaction was witnessed tonight, as Gee Yong and Greg shared a light-hearted moment and Gwen and Jovan had fun on the wooden horse. We also had other young Pianovers trying their hands at the piano.
We took the opportunity to pose for a nice group photograph. Soon, it was time to say goodbye. Thank you, Pianovers, for making the time to attend Pianovers Meetup #59. See all of you again next Sunday!