The weekend before Chinese New Year arrived, a group of enthusiastic piano lovers converged on Piano Park @ URA Centre. This was not just a random gathering of music lovers but another session in the series of weekly meetups organised by ThePiano.SG, whose missions include building a closely-knit group of piano lovers in Singapore. Regardless of the level of experience playing this instrument, all are welcome to join in! Since its inauguration in July 2016, the weekly Pianovers Meetups have attracted more and more people and even taken on a life of its own. People attend and when they go home, they tell their friends and family members about it. The following week, they bring their friends and family alongs along. We are delighted that the movement has been gathering momentum and that we are spreading the good news about piano music!
Every week, the session starts with an early dinner at 5pm sharp. Those who are able to make it will no doubt benefit from the networking accorded by sharing an informal meal of local delights! This evening, joining ThePiano.SG founder Sng Yong Meng were Ace Chow, Wayne, Jeremy Foo and Debashis. Over a friendly meal and chatter, the group chatted, shared their experiences and got to know one another better. Following the hearty meal, the troupe made their way back to The URA Centre, where they were joined by the other Pianovers who had by now arrived.
Being such a close-knit, family-like community, Pianovers naturally look out for one another and share what they have with one another. This extends to even sharing food during festive seasons and today was no exception. Being the final Meetup before the Chinese New Year, Pianovers contributed snacks and those who attended this evening were greeted by a table full of Chinese New Year goodies. The food galore certainly gave a festive tinge to the already joyful event. To enhance the festive mood, many Pianovers even appeared in red! Before the event proper started, Pianovers had already started interacting among themselves, while happily chatting and enjoying the goodies!
Soon, it was 7pm and the lights at The URA Centre were turned on. It was time to start the Mini-Recital. The Mini-Recital is the most important segment of Pianovers Meetups and this is the time when aspiring pianists take to the stage and perform before a “live” audience, comprising the encouraging Pianovers. Performing before an actual crowd not only boosts their confidence but also allows others to enjoy their music and share any advice they may have.
This evening, Charisse Kho Chang Xi was the first at the piano. Charisse came with her parents, Joe and Rachel, and played three pieces tonight, all of them contemporary Christian music. They were Show Me Your Ways and Rain or Pour, both by Jana Alayra, as well as 10,000 reasons by Matt Redman. "10,000 Reasons" was composed by worship artist Matt Redman and reached No 1 position in the US Christian Album chart. On another occasion, it reached No 149 on the UK charts. This evening was Charisse’ first time at the Meetup and her debut performance. Well done, Charisse! Charisse and the next pair of performers coming up, Eden and Jayden Lau, are students of piano teacher Teong Chuu Yii.
When it was Eden’s and Jayden’s turn to play, they played Pokémon Theme Song. This song is also known as "Gotta Catch ‘Em All" and is a song used in the first season of the English version. Incidentally, "Gotta Catch ‘Em All" is the official slogan for the Pokémon franchise. This has resulted in the song being closely associated with this franchise!
After her students finished their performance, piano teacher Chuu Yii went up to the stage. She played Perfect by Ed Sheeran. In March 2017, Sheeran broke the record set by Frankie Laine in 1953. He occupied all of the top five positions in the United Kingdom charts. Concurrently, he placed nine songs in the Top Ten of the UK Singles Chart. Ed’s popularity is obvious. When he was marketing his November 2017 concert, all his tickets, priced between a hefty SGD148 and SGD248, were snapped up in just 40 minutes in one day! As if that was not enough, his tickets were sold in the secondary market for up to S$850!
Janice was up at the piano next. She played two pieces, Chihiro’s Waltz (Spirited Away) by Joe Hisaishi and 迎春花 by 姚敏. "Chihiro’s Waltz" was used in the popular Studio Ghibli anime film "Spirited Away". Incidentally, eight of Studio Ghibli’s films are among the top 15 anime films made in Japan by sales turnover. "Spirited Away" was the second highest-grossing film and brought in USD290 million worldwide.
Jovan performed three pieces tonight. The first was 恭喜恭喜 by 陈歌辛 – the first Chinese New Year-themed piece for tonight. Although this is a popular Chinese New Year song, it actually has an unimaginable, dark history. This song has its origins in the post-World War 2 era, when Chinese celebrated the liberation of their country from Japanese rule. Jovan then played Staccato Beans No. 2 from Eight Memories in Watercolor by Tan Dun. His final piece was Figaro Tarantella (from "Rossini's Barber of Seville") by Rossini. "Barber of Seville" was an opera buffa (Italian phrase meaning comic opera, one of the genres in opera). Rossini’s Barber was written two hundred years ago and it has certainly withstood the test of time. It has been described as a masterpiece and is sometimes known as the “opera buffa of all opere buffe”, alluding to the elevated status of this composition.
Albert performed two pieces tonight, 我一见你就笑 by 冼华 and 昨夜你对我一笑 by 周蓝萍. The first piece, 我一见你就笑, was used in the 1971 Hong Kong movie 歌迷小姐, clinching a place as the secondary theme song. This movie, also known by its English name "I Want To Sing", was one of the early films of the late Teresa Teng. It features a song-and-dance theme and was produced when Teresa was just 17. It was also the only film where Teresa was the lead actress. When it was released, this movie garnered a lot of media attention. Because of the popularity of this movie, Teresa Teng was nominated as the Top 10 Popular Actresses in Hong Kong.
Chris performed a medley of Chinese New Year pieces. The compilation was made up of 凤阳花鼓, 贺新年 and 大地回春. This medley had such a catchy tune that Pianovers clapped along as Chris played it. Once in a while, we have Pianovers doing something special at Meetups. Sometimes, Pianovers play “mystery compositions” and ask the audience to guess the names. In this case, Chris played a “mystery medley” and did not share with us the titles beforehand. Of course, Pianovers could instantly recognise the popular Chinese New Year songs. It was done in the name of fun and it certainly added the fun factor to the Meetup!
Jennice played two pieces, and Berceuse by Stephen Heller, and Papillons Noirs by Jules Massenet. "Papillons Noirs" was composed in 1907 and it is one part of a two-part series. No 1 is Papillons Noirs (Black Butterflies) and No 2 is Papillons Blancs (White Butterflies). Jules Massenet was a well-known French composer from the Romantic era. In fact, Massenet was the leading opera composer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Massenet does not appear in the same league of other legendary opera writers like Mozart, Verdi and Wagner. Nevertheless, his operas do have a place in critics’ minds. Massenet’s operas are today considered well-crafted and deserving of attention.
Gavin was up at the piano next and he performed as 喜羊羊 by 刘明源, as well as 彩云追月. 喜羊羊 was composed in 1958 and it is a light-hearted piece that symbolises positivity and joy. Because of this, this song is frequently used in weddings and other celebratory events like Chinese New Year.
I-Wen, our youngest Pianover, played two pieces this evening. She played Ten Little Indians and Oh My Darling, Clementine by Percy Montrose. "Ten Little Indians" is an American children’s rhyme. It is said that the song likely originated as "Ten Little Injuns", written by Septimus Winner in 1868. While the modern song as we know it counts from one to 10, the original song actually counted in the reverse order!
I-Wen’s mother, Jenny, again brought the bubble machine gun to tonight’s Meetup. The previous week, Pianovers were surprised to see bubbles floating when the Pianovers performed. Everyone had a treat again tonight! Children, especially, were elated and could be seen trying to catch the bubbles as they floated towards them! Even the adults had fun with the floating bubbles.
After her daughter’s performance, Jenny then took over the piano! Jenny played 只记今朝笑 by 黄沾. This song was the theme song used in the 1992 movie "笑傲江湖 Ⅱ 东方不败", which starred 李连杰 (Jet Li) and 林青霞 (Lin Ching-Hsia). Being a popular movie, it naturally had popular theme songs. Another popular song from the movie is 沧海一声笑. This is generally seen as the masculine song, while the earlier piece, 只记今朝笑, is the feminine version. In fact, so related are the two pieces that the melodies in 沧海一声笑 are incorporated in 只记今朝笑.
David played 月亮代表我的心 (The Moon Represents My Heart) by 翁清溪 (Weng Ching-hsi). Under the old Communist China's rules, foreign music was not allowed into the country for a long time. This changed in in the late 1970s when the country adopted an Open Door Policy. "The Moon Represents My Heart" became one of the first popular foreign songs (called "gangtai" songs) in the country under the new Open Door Policy. This song represented a stark contrast to the songs prevalent before the Open Doors Policy was instituted (the existing songs were often revolutionary songs). Teresa was honoured to have been given the opportunity to perform in China, however, she unfortunately died of an asthma attack in 1995.
Deli came up next to the stage and played Intermezzo in A, Op. 118, No. 2 by Brahms. Intermezzo has its origins in the compilation "Six Pieces for Piano, Op. 118". This compilation is held in high regard in the classical music circles and was dedicated to Clara Schumann. This was the second last composition to be published before Brahm’s demise.
Wayne and Jonathan did a four-hand performance and shared their rendition of Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47, Movt. 2 by Dmitri Shostakovich. This piece was originally meant for an orchestra and contains four movements. When this piece premiered in Leningrad in November 1937, it was so well-received that the audience present accorded it a standing ovation that lasted more than half an hour. Although Wayne and Jonathan did not know each other before they joined Pianovers Meetup, they found chemistry in each other and worked well for this four-hand performance. This is a fine example of a community of piano lovers that ThePiano.SG aims to build. Well done, Wayne and Jonathan! We look forward to seeing both of you playing together again!
May Ling played My Destiny by Lyn. "My Destiny" comes from the drama "My Love From The Star", a South Korean television series. In this romantic fantasy story, an alien lands on Earth in the Joseon Dynasty. Four centuries later, it gets into a romantic relationship with a modern actress.
Teik Lee performed his rendition of two Chinese New Year pieces, 恭喜恭喜 and 贺新年. Although this songs are usually cheerful, Teik Lee played them in a slow, sentimental fashion. We appreciate your efforts in experimenting and playing this song in a different style, Teik Lee.
Grace performed two pieces tonight, Prelude No. 1 in C Major by JS Bach, as well as Étude Op. 10, No. 2 by Chopin. The second piece is special in that it allows the pianist to work on the weaker fingers on the right hand. This is achieved by getting the pianist to use the third, fourth and fifth fingers as they work on the rapid chromatic scale figures. The short chords and single notes, meanwhile, are played by the first two fingers, as well as all fingers of the left hand. When Chopin composed this piece, he painstakingly indicated the fingering for almost 800 notes.
Jeremy was the last performer for tonight. He played Sonata in C Major, Hob.XVI:50 No. 60, Movt 1 by Haydn. This was written for Therese Jansen Bartolozzi. Because of this special dedication, Bartolozzi published this piece around 1800 with the title: "A Grand Sonata for the Piano Forte Composed Expressly for and dedicated to Mrs. Bartolozzi”. Although Jeremy was new to Pianovers Meetup, he did not shy away from performing in front of a crowd at his first session. Well done, Jeremy!
After the Mini-Recital concluded, we moved into the Open Segment. This is always a welcome moment, as Pianovers are free to jam on the pianos and interact freely. Pianovers can be seen sharing openly and chatting excitedly about music, and others are seen catching up with each other. It is customary during Meetups to take a group photograph but tonight, we took two! What made the second one different from the first was the loud shout of “Huat ah!”, reflecting the buoyant Chinese New Year mood!
Please note that due to the Chinese New Year festivities, there will be no Pianovers Meetup on 18 February and 25 February 2018. The next Meetup, Pianovers Meetup #70, will take place on 2 March. Do note that this is a Friday, not a Sunday. This will be a special session held at 10 Square @ Orchard Central and will be held in conjunction with Casio Electronic Musical Instruments Singapore.