Every Sunday evening, the URA Centre is filled with the sweet melodious tunes of piano music played by piano enthusiasts. This weekly scene is one that our Pianovers look forward to, where not only do they get to listen to piano music but they also get to connect with friends, bonded by the love of the great instrument. Here at Pianovers Meetup, you can expect a community of likeminded piano lovers more than willing to exchange thoughts on and share the joys of piano music. Since its inception in July 2016 by ThePiano.SG, the Pianovers community has grown from strength to strength and certainly remains an ever-welcoming place to be!
It’s 5 o’clock on the last day of September and the Meetup informally begins with the usual casual dinner with Sng Yong Meng, the Founder of ThePiano.SG. Yong Meng is joined by a couple of familiar faces, Pianovers Hiro and Elyn, as well as a dynamic group of newcomers, Kathleen, Angelynn Tan, and Jessie Quah with her friends Clara, Carmen and Ashley. Hello, ladies – welcome to our Pianovers Meetup!
While most Pianover Meetups officially starts with announcements, last week’s gathering kicked off with a spontaneous performance stint by newcomer Amos, where he presented two songs with much gusto and eagerness. Welcome to Pianovers Meetup, Amos! We hope you will register for the Mini-Recital soon.
Going full swing into the Meetup, Yong Meng announced that Pianovers T-shirts are now available for purchase at ThePiano.SG for $29.90. The shirt features the ThePiano.SG's metronome logo on the front, and the hashtag “#pianovers” at the back. You can now be ambassadors for piano music and show the world your love for piano. Hurray!
More exciting news! As the Pianovers Meetup soon approaches its 100th Meetup, the weekly session will see exciting changes to its format. Yong Meng announced that from the 101st session onwards, Pianovers can invite their fellow music-loving friends to perform as vocalists, violinists, or be part of an ensemble or band, together with Pianovers. He explained that the Pianovers Meetup has seen what the piano can achieve as a solo instrument, where as of the 94th edition, we’ve clocked in almost a whopping 2000 public performances and about 1200 unique piano pieces! Now, it is time to explore the versatility of the piano with additional instruments.
With the addition of instruments, Yong Meng confirms that the configuration of the piece does not matter, as long as the performance entails piano-playing. However, there will be a limit to such performances of the new format, where the remaining performances will still be piano solos. This is to ensure that the Pianovers Meetup remains, as its name implies, the meetup for piano lovers and piano music – our identity lies in the great ivory keys and so our focus is still on the piano!
While we welcome the change, Yong Meng kindly seeks everyone’s patience with the first few performance recordings, where we can expect to record the output from a few instruments, as opposed to the recording of only the piano at the moment. With that, future Pianovers Meetups will surely be a blast!
And then, the most exciting part of the evening – the Mini-Recital! First up was Kendrick Ong, who played a 1995 song 追 by Singaporean songwriter Dick Lee, which was sung and made popular by 张国荣 (Leslie Cheung). Having suffered from depression, Cheung made a suicide attempt on November 2002 and another successful attempt on 1 April 2003, when he was 46 years old, by jumping off the 24th floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. In the wake of his death, it was found that he left a suicide note that mentioned his condition.
Albert then took to the piano with two performances to add to his growing repertoire of Chinese songs. The first song was 牧羊姑娘 by 金砂, while the second was 南海姑娘 by 陈艺华. 南海姑娘 was first performed in February 1970 by a Malaysian singer. The song grew popular in the later years, when it was covered by Teresa Teng in 1972 and 1977, and grew to be a classic that was covered by popular singers such as Faye Wong in 1995, as well as 梁静茹 and 阿牛. Interestingly, 南海姑娘 and 月亮代表我的心 (The Moon Represents My Heart) share similar traits - Teresa Teng wasn't the original singer for both songs, and they did not gain popularity until her cover versions were released. That is indeed the star power of Teresa Teng!
The last in a series of Chinese pieces was Siew Tin’s performance of 难得有情人 by 卢东尼 , a song performed by 关淑怡 (Shirley Kwan). It made its first appearance in Kwan’s platinum-selling second album in 1989, of which the album's title share the song’s name. Topping the charts of 1989, the song contributed to Kwan’s early successes as an artiste and was the theme song of Hong Kong TV channel TVB’s television series "新婚蜜语".
As Children’s Day approached, our regular Pianover Gavin Koh (who we believe is so very young at heart!) played a lovely medley of six songs, most of which are Disney movie songs. The medley includes Once Upon a December from the movie ‘Anastasia’, Go the Distance from ‘Hercules’, Part of Your World from ‘The Little Mermaid’, Time to be Awesome from ‘My Little Pony: The Movie’, How Far I'll Go from the newer Disney movie ‘Moana’, and lastly Somewhere Out There from ‘An American Tail’. It was wonderful to hear how the medley flowed from one song to another! Gavin even invited the audience to guess the songs and its respective movies – such great fun to have musical riddles like these!
Following the kid-friendly vibes of the medley is our very own young Pianover I-Wen. She performed two children’s songs with such endearing lively energy, it was heartening to watch! The first song was March of the Little Bears, and then it was When the Saints Go Marching In, which is believed to have originated in the 1900s from a number of similarly-titled gospel songs. The first known recorded version of this song came about in 1923.
The mood of the Mini-Recital shifted as Jenny Soh claimed the ivories next, performing a romance-evoking atmosphere with Robert Maxwell’s 1953 song, Ebb Tide, which is often mistaken for the title song of the 1937 movie with the same name. As its title suggests, Maxwell’s ‘Ebb Tide’ features a buildup in the song that is likened to the movement of the ocean waves along the shores. A couple of fun facts about ‘Ebb Tide’: It is noted that ‘Ebb Tide’ and Erroll Garner’s 1954 song ‘Misty’ shares the same first three notes; American musical duo "The Righteous Brothers" did a cover of song to much success.
Up next was Janice Liew who charmed us with Do You Hear the People Sing? by Claude-Michel Schönberg from the award-winning musical ‘Les Misérables’. In the musical, the narrative of the song is a call for people to overcome adversity. An important part of the musical describes a scene in which rebel students demonstrate in the streets of Paris. In a bid to overthrow the government, they draw the National Guard into combat and institute a civilian uprising. Alas, their rebellion fails.
The Mini-Recital saw another medley with Yu Teik Lee on the keys playing ‘If We Hold on Together’ from the movie ‘The Land Before Time’, ‘The Prayer’ from ‘Quest for Camelot’, and ‘Somewhere Out There’ from ‘An American Tail’ – all of which are popular songs from animated movies. What befitting songs for Children’s Day! Coincidentally, Teik Lee shared the same intention as Gavin, where he also invited the audience to guess the medley’s titles and the corresponding movies. On top of that, they both shared the same song, ‘Somewhere Out There’, in their medleys too. And, of course, with such a passionate crew of piano enthusiasts, every song in Teik Lee’s medley was guessed correctly!
Moving to the classical pieces mid-recital were two Pianovers, Li Zhijing and Ten Xiao Qin (of which it was Xiao Qin’s debut performance!), playing Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, BWV 147, 10th Movement by Johann Sebastian Bach. Also the last movement of one of Bach’s 200 cantatas, this popular piece, which is part of the cantata ‘Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben’ (‘Heart and mouth and deed and life’), can be often heard played at a slower pace and ceremoniously at special occasions such as weddings, Christmas and even Easter. For the unacquainted, a cantata is a composition for the voice that includes instrumental accompaniment. It commonly features several movements that, more of than not, includes a choir.
Jeremy followed with an expressive performance of Intermezzo in E-flat minor, Op. 118 No. 6 by Johannes Brahms, of which this piece is part of the composer’s ‘Six Pieces for Piano’ collection. Brahms completed the collection in 1893, seeing his second last composition through to publication. The collection was composed in honour of fellow contemporary Clara Schumann, who was the wife of composer Robert Schumann, of which the couple were close peers to Brahms. It was also noted that Clara was always the first to bring Brahms works to public performances.
Charming the audience next was Jonathan Lam on the keys with Prelude in D Major, Op. 23 No. 4 by Romantic period composer, pianist and conductor Sergei Rachmaninoff. Rachmaninoff had composed it in 1903, as part of his Ten Preludes, Op. 23. Together with ‘Prelude in C# minor, Op. 3/2’ and the 13 Preludes, Op. 32, this set is part of a full suite of 24 preludes in all the major and minor keys.
Next to go up was Chris Khoo, who presented Climb Ev'ry Mountain by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Appearing in the classic musical film ‘The Sound of Music’, the piece, as Chris shared with us, is meant to inspire and push people to be bold when it comes to achieving the height of their dreams.
Ever the Pianover who has a great love and penchant for playing virtuosic pieces, Hiro played Étude, Op. 10, No. 4 (Torrent) by Frédéric Chopin. Torrent is an 1833 solo piano study, a very fast Presto con fuoco, which showcases continuous sixteenth notes (semiquavers), run by both hands throughout the piece.
As it was with Hiro’s performance the previous Sunday, this performance was also a song request from fellow Pianover Zhijing. However, this time, the request was made a day before the gathering, allowing Hiro to ponder over the piece and deliver a performance next day! Given the complexity of this piece, Pianovers were blown away with how much ease Hiro played it, to which Yong Meng joked “原来点歌是那么容易的!” (“So it’s just that easy to request a song!”), provoking much laughter from everyone.
Jeslyn Peter next played a moving song entitled Safe & Sound by Taylor Swift, Joy Williams, John Paul White and T-Bone Burnett, which appeared in the novel-based 2012 movie ‘The Hunger Games’. In writing the song, Swift said that it tells the story of the protagonist, Katniss, and her feelings of compassion and empathy towards her peers Rue, Peeta and Prim across the narrative. It is with much success that the song’s music video gained more than 140 million views on YouTube to date.
Drawing the Mini-Recital near its close is Lim Ee Fong’s take on Dahil Sa’yo (‘Because Of You’) by Iñigo Pascual, a Filipino singer songwriter who is also the performer of the song. The song was published in Pascual’s eponymous album in 2016 and its music video gained remarkable reception in its view count on YouTube as one of the top Original Philipino Music videos. It surpassed Filipina pop-rock singer-songwriter Yeng Constantino’s hit song “Ikaw” by a massive 73.6 million views.
It is always a bittersweet moment whenever we approach the last song of the Mini-Recital. With that, the recital ended with Julia Goh on the piano playing a goodbye-themed song 再见, 我的爱人 (‘Goodbye, My Love’) by 平尾昌晃 (Masaaki Hirao). Although this song was compiled in Teresa Teng’s 1975 album of the same title, it is actually the cover version of another Japanese song グツドバイ · マイ · ラブ, released in 1974. Teresa Teng often concluded her concerts with this song, and with tears.
The Open Segment then began with a must-have group photo taken with all Pianovers. And, for the first time, the photograph would show many Pianovers seated in the first row wearing the Pianovers T-Shirt and even our very first Pianovers polo-tee. Soon, we just might be able to see everyone wearing the shirt at every Meetup!
And, as with every Pianover Meetup, the event ends with a fun and engaging jamming session that is open to anyone to play, even passersby. That evening, we even saw a few tourists from USA who jammed with us!
It sure is very heartening to see how music allows us to connect with one another, no matter where we come from. With free piano music, great friendship, and a shared love for music, the Pianovers Meetup is the place to be for any piano fan. But if music simply inspires you and you love basking in live music, please feel free to join us at our weekly Meetups – you will always be welcome!