Pianovers Meetup #93 Digest

Pianovers Meetup #93 Digest

It is always a great Sunday evening to look forward to with the Pianovers Meetup. Since the start of the meetup a little more than two years ago, the weekly event that is organised by ThePiano.SG at the URA Centre has seen more than 300 performers and thousands of piano enthusiasts. The Pianovers Meetup is a welcoming place to meet and connect with fellow piano-loving friends to share one’s passion for the instrument. If there is any piano fan who is looking to gain or share tips about piano playing, or would like to simply chat about piano pieces, we’ll be more than happy to receive you at a Pianovers Meetup!

In the tradition of all Pianovers Meetups, the founder of ThePiano.SG, Sng Yong Meng, had a pre-meetup dinner with some Pianovers last Sunday. At dinner were three familiar faces, Hiro, Gavin, and Jeremy, of whom the former two performed for the mini recital that evening.

Pianovers Meetup #93, Goodies
Pianovers Meetup #93, Lim Ee Fong playing
Pianovers Meetup #93, May Ling, Peter Prem, Albert, and Theng Beng

With Mid-Autumn Festival soon approaching, today's Meetup saw Pianover Erika and her family arriving early to share homemade mooncakes. The sweet treats were made by Erika’s mom, Winny, who attended the Pianovers Sailaway in June 2018. Thank you, Winny! It is so generous and kind of you to share them, and to even personally deliver them to us. They were delicious! And what better way to welcome newcomers to the Meetup than with delicious homemade confections?

Pianovers T-Shirt 2018

Want to show the world your love for piano? Now you can do it with a Pianovers T-Shirt! Yong Meng announced that the T-Shirts are now available for purchase at ThePiano.SG for $29.90. The T-Shirt features the iconic metronome logo on the front, and the hashtag “#pianovers” with a classy piano illustration at the back. Pianovers can now be ambassadors for piano music – sweet!

Following that announcement, the next message was about Pianovers Recital 2018 on 28 December 2018, an event held in celebration of Pianovers Meetup’s second anniversary. Apart from the anniversary celebration, the recital will serve as a platform for Pianovers to gain stage experience and hone their craft as pianists. We could not be happier to be a part of our fellow Pianover performers’ musical journeys and to help them achieve their dreams of performing at a recital.

And now… Time for the main highlight of the evening – the Mini-Recital!

Pianovers Meetup #93, Gwen performing
Pianovers Meetup #93, Gavin performing
Pianovers Meetup #93, Siew Tin performing

First up was young Pianover Gwen, who played Sonata in D minor K.32 (Aria) by Domenico Scarlatti. Scarlatti is famous for his 555 keyboard sonatas and transitioning into the Classical period – a rare find for a Baroque composer. And, fun fact! Scarlatti was born in 1685, sharing the same birth year as his fellow contemporaries of Baroque music, J.S. Bach and Handel.

Following Gwen was self-taught pianist Gavin Koh. He first laid his fingers on the keys when he was eight and since then he never looked back. For the recital, he played two songs: Halcyon Days by John Tesh, a song in a 1998 compilation album called "Grand Passion", and Avalon Shores by John Tesh, Charlie Bisharat and Time Landers. A man of many talents, John Tesh is a radio host, news anchor, sports commentator, but most notably a composer and musician. His songs fall into several music genres such as pop, contemporary worship, new age and even 20th century classical music, which have earned him six music Emmys and two Grammy nominations. As an infotainer, he is known for hosting a popular TV programme called "Intelligence For Your Life" with his wife, actress Connie Sellecca. The show had a reputable potential outreach in the U.S. where it aired across 174 stations.

Next up was Siew Tin, who played her 90th song as a regular at Pianovers Meetup – well done, Siew Tin! Adding to her repertoire of Chinese songs, Siew Tin showcased 只有分离 by 曹俊鸿, a song originally performed by popular singer 黄莺莺 that later appeared in the her 1982 compilation album of the same title. The album saw great success, breaking Taiwan’s record of record sales then and was top on the music charts for three consecutive months. At that time, her reputation rivalled that of leading songstress Teresa Teng.

Pianovers Meetup #93, Albert performing
Pianovers Meetup #93, I-Wen performing
Pianovers Meetup #93, Janice Liew performing

A couple more Chinese songs to add to the evening’s recital were Albert’s takes on 东山飘雨西山晴" by 姚敏, and 两忘烟水里 by 顾家辉. The latter song was performed by 关正杰 and 关菊英 and is a theme song of a 1982 Chinese TV drama entitled 天龙八部之六脉神剑, aka "Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils". The show was adapted from a novel of the original title 天龙八部, written by acclaimed and best-selling Chinese author, Hong Kong writer Jin Yong. Recognised as a prominent figure in China, Jin Yong has the asteroid 10930 Jinyong (1998 CR2) named after him.           

And then it was time for little I-Wen’s performance of the children’s song March of the Little Bears, which she played with much gusto! Thereafter, Christmas came early with I-Wen playing Jingle Bells, which 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.

Taking to the piano next was Janice Liew, a piano enthusiast who is self-taught and plays by ear. She presented her piece on Scarborough Fair, a traditional English ballad with tunes composed in Dorian mode, as it was characteristic of the mid-English period. The song tells the tale of a man who gives his former lover, who lives in the said humble and coastal town of Scarborough, a set of impossible tasks to complete before he will take her as a lover again. Where the song refrain goes, “Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme”, each herb represents virtues of comfort, strength, love, and courage respectively, which were commonly known symbols of Medieval times.

At the Pianovers Meetup, Janice performed a version that follows a popular cover by Simon & Garfunkel. Unlike the original, the cover is presented, adding in a counterpoint with lyrics taking reference from Simon’s 1963 song "The Side of a Hill", an anti-war song.

Pianovers Meetup #93, Teik Lee performing
Pianovers Meetup #93, Jasmine Khoo performing

Playing without music sheet that evening was Pianover Yu Teik Lee, who believes that playing by ear allows him to fully immerse himself into the song. And boy did he play with such feeling! Playing and swaying to the melodies, Teik Lee charmed the audience with his performance of Moon River by Henry Mancini. Although this piece was composed a while back, it took on popularity as it was used in the movie "Breakfast at Tiffany's" in 1961. The lyrics were written by American lyricist Johnny Mercer. Interestingly, there is a body of water in Savannah, Georgia (Mercer's hometown) that is named "Moon River". This name was given in honour of Mercer and his song.

After a fruitful first performance at the previous meetup, Jasmine Khoo came back to perform at last Sunday’s Pianovers Meetup and brought two friends, Jon, a newcomer, and her friend Evelina, who supported her previously. Jasmine presented two of her upcoming Grade 8 exam pieces – we wish her the very best! The first was a lively piece, Gigue: seventh movement from French Suite No. 5 in G, BWV 816 by Johann Sebastian Bach, followed by a steady performance of Presto: first movement from Sonata in E minor, Hob. XVI:34 by Joseph Haydn, who was a friend and mentor of Mozart, and also a teacher to Beethoven.

And if you already didn’t know, it is said that Haydn’s keyboard sonatas evolved with the development of the keyboard. This happened in the late 1700s, during which the instrument saw many changes. Eventually, the harpsichord, which composers used then, was eventually replaced with the fortepiano. The first 30 of Haydn’s keyboard sonatas are scored for harpsichord, while the next nine are scored for either harpsichord or fortepiano, the latter of which could incorporate dynamic changes. Jasmine's second piece, Presto, was scored for harpsichord or fortepiano. This gave the performer a choice as to which instrument to use. 

Captivating the audience next was Rowen Wong, who gave a heartfelt performance of Setia by Datuk Ahmad Dassilah Mohd Yusoff. Setia, which means “loyal” in Bahasa Melayu, is a popular Malaysian patriotic song of the 1990s, when the country was under Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s leadership. The message of the song was one of true loyalty to the country and fellow countrymen. It was broadcasted on Malaysia RTM (Radio Televisyen Malaysia) for many years.

Pianovers Meetup #93, Gan Theng Beng performing
Pianovers Meetup #93, May Ling performing
Pianovers Meetup #93, Jonathan Lam sharing with us

Long-time Pianover Gan Theng Beng then took to the keys with British rock band Queen’s We Are The Champions. First appearing on the 1977 album, "News of the World", the Queen song is a classic favourite among fans and it took the music world by storm by becoming an iconic rock anthem. And, speaking of anthem, it became pervasive in popular culture, becoming a victory anthem that is often played at sports events. A notable sports event is the FIFA World Cup in 1994, where it was its official theme song. Another iconic rock anthem was the 1977 album’s B-side "We Will Rock You".

Moving from rock to jazz, May Ling enchanted the Pianovers with an instrumental jazz fusion piece entitled Spain by composer Chick Corea, who is also a jazz pianist himself. Despite its many versions, the original 1971 version that appeared on the album "Light as a Feather" is still the most well-received, so much that it is considered Corea’s most memorable work and a jazz standard. For the unacquainted, a jazz standard is essentially a composition that is a must-have in a jazz musician’s repertoire, and that it is highly regarded by both jazz musicians and listeners alike.

Known for his love for playing classical pieces like Beethoven's Sonatas, Bach's Preludes and Fugues, and Prokofiev's works, Jonathan Lam impressed Pianovers with his passionate performance of late Romantic composer Sergei Rachmaninoff’s most recognised piece, Prelude in C sharp minor, Op. 3 No. 2. The song was nicknamed "The Bells of Moscow" in light of the chilling similarity between its introduction and Kremlin’s stately carillon chimes. With this piece being the first of 24 preludes that were set in various major and minor keys, Rachmaninoff attributed his inspiration to his predecessors, naming influences from Alkan, Bach, Scriabin, and even the leading composer then, Chopin.

Pianovers Meetup #93, Hiro performing
Pianovers Meetup #93, Jeslyn Peter performing
Pianovers Meetup #93, Lim Ee Fong performing

This brings us to the next performer at Pianovers Meetup, where Hiro tickled the ivories with one of Chopin’s most admired pieces, Polonaise in A-flat major, also known as "Heroic Polonaise". With great confidence, skill and zeal, Hiro played the long-time classical piano favourite, which requires advanced proficiency, excellent mastery of the keys and a stamina for this physically demanding piece. How is it so? The song tests pianists with its long list of challenging technical elements that includes fast ascending chromatic perfect fourths, rapid difficult octave scaling, trills with the weaker fingers, quick scales, fast arpeggios, broken chords, chords with wide fingering, and last but definitely not the least, the use of a wide range of the piano keyboard. Thank you, Hiro, for introducing this piece to Pianovers. Your performance has definitely wowed us!

After the timeless classical songs came a song that is barely six months old – Lovely by Billie Eilish, Finneas O'Connell, and featuring Khalid Robinson, performed by Jeslyn Peter at the meetup. No stranger to Pianovers Meetup, Jeslyn is back after her previous performance at Pianovers Recital 2017, in August last year. And supporting her that evening was Jeslyn’s father, Peter Prem. It was encouraging to see both dad and daughter of (what we know them as) the fun-loving Boogie Woogie family, back at our meetup again!

Jeslyn’s rendition of "Lovely" was indeed lovely as she played the song with such earnestness, though the song title is intended to be sarcastic where the tunes indicate anything but lovely. Songwriter Eilish was reported declaring that it is really a depressing and miserable one, which is a befitting song to appear on the dark Netflix original series "13 Reasons Why", as it did on the show’s second season soundtrack.

On a lighter note, Pianover Lim Ee Fong closed the mini recital with two songs, Londonderry Air and Make Me A Blessing. Londonderry Air, as its title suggests, is an air with its roots in Northern Ireland’s County Londonderry, making its melody the perfect choice as the country’s victory anthem at the Commonwealth Games. Its sweet and memorable melody has made its way to the hearts of the American Irish diaspora community and is now considered an Irish classic known through the world. As with most popular songs, the main tune of ‘Londonderry Air’ was used to compose new songs. A notable song that was inspired by the tune was ‘Danny Boy’, which includes lyrics and was first recorded in 1915.

Pianovers Meetup #93, Group picture
Pianovers Meetup #93, Jonathan Lam, Teh Yuqing, Evelina, Jasmine Khoo, and Jon
Pianovers Meetup #93, Pianovers interacting

It was yet another delightful evening that left Pianovers with their hearts full. The final part of the event, the Open Segment, saw the usual group photo taken with Pianovers and some free-for-all jamming, where it ended with lively chatter and piano fans, friends and family catching up with one another. We even had regular Pianovers Tabitha, Jin Li and Xavier joining us at the end, and there was also a group of us engaged in a deep conversation until 10.30pm.

Such is the passion of like-minded piano enthusiasts where we love to share the joys of playing and listening to piano music. If you find yourself drawn to piano music, or that you are simply curious about what a Pianovers Meetup is like, you are more than welcome to join us! Here at Pianovers, you’ll find it to be a place that’s beyond just piano music. You’ll find it to be a place of great connection and friendships.