As always, a Pianovers Meetup is the perfect way for piano enthusiasts to end the weekend. Last Sunday evening’s Meetup was yet again filled with the joys of warm friendship, and the passion and love for the piano. The atmosphere was as inviting as it is every Sunday, since the Meetup began two years ago, in July 2016. Organised by ThePiano.SG, the weekly event at the URA Centre is a great platform for piano lovers (aka Pianovers) to gather and share their enthusiasm about the grand instrument. No matter if you’re a pianist yourself, a fan of piano music, or simply feel a deep connection to the instrument, the Pianovers Meetup is a free and friendly place for you to express that “piano side” of you!
Before the 96th Pianover Meetup officially started, ThePiano.SG Founder Sng Yong Meng had a quick dinner with a handful of Pianovers eager to get the piano conversation started. Yong Meng was joined by Hiro, Kendrick, Xin Hui, Rainbow and Lukas Lim. These weekly dinners are a tradition of Pianovers Meetups and Pianovers are more than welcome to join in the meals to start the evening.
Getting the evening started were a few Pianovers warming up the ivories while Yong Meng prepared the setup. And with the launch of the new black Pianovers T-Shirt, the event was starting to see more Pianovers proudly wearing it like a badge of honour! Fancy being a part of the Pianovers family? Keen to be a champion of the piano? You can now purchase the shirt at ThePiano.SG for $29.90. The shirt features the Pianovers’ metronome logo on the front, and the hashtag “#pianovers” at the back.
Announcement! In keeping with Pianovers Meetup tradition, selected sessions are themed according to festive seasons, of which the upcoming occasion is Halloween. For the 99th session happening on 28 October, Pianovers are invited to bask in the atmosphere with their Halloween costumes and props, and to present pieces related to the occasion. In the spirit of the event, Pianovers can feel free to have a round of ‘Trick Or Treat’! However, Pianovers are advised to consider and plan their costumes with children in mind, as our Meetups are kid-friendly – we wouldn’t want to scare little tots away! That said, we can’t wait to see and hear what our Pianovers have in store for the themed Meetup.
Number one on the evening’s Mini-Recital list is young Pianover Gwen, who kicked off the segment with 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.
Thereafter, Gwen charmed fellow Pianovers with a lively piece by Émile Waldteufel, Estudiantina Waltz, Op. 191, No. 4, which translates to ‘Band of Students Waltz’. This is an 1883 piece that Waldteufel, who composed the popular Skater’s Waltz too, arranged based off a melody by Paul Lacome in 1881. Waldteufel’s arrangements include a two-piano piece as well as an orchestral version that is well-recognised by the classical music world today.
Gavin Koh then followed with also a classical piece composed in 1840, A Farewell to Saint Petersburg, No. 10, L’Alouette (The Lark) by Mikhail Glinka. As its title suggests, ‘The Lark’ is the 10th piece out of the 12-piece ‘A Farewell to Saint Petersburg’ series. A pioneer in his own right, Glinka was the first Russian composer to gain wide recognition by his country, and was also a cornerstone of Russian classical music. Glinka’s works served as a great source of inspiration and helped prominent Russian composers shape a unique style of Russian music. Prominent composers led by his influence included a collective of five formidable composers, also known as The Five, namely Mily Balakirev, César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Borodin.
Breaking from the Classical side, the Mini-Recital proceeded with Siew Tin performing two songs, 欢颜 by 卢东尼 and 光辉岁月 by 黄家驹 (Wong Ka Kui), of which the latter was performed with fellow Pianover Yuqing as a duet. The song 光辉岁月 was one of the top ten songs to earn a Golden Song Award in 1990. The rock ballad was inspired by a series of events that Wong went through, where in August 1990, he visited Papua New Guinea and personally saw the natives suffering from war and famine. Upon his return to Hong Kong, he came across the news about the imprisonment of South African political activist Nelson Mandela. Wong saw Mandela’s fighting spirit as a symbol of struggle and hope. This resonated with Wong in light of the struggles of his band, Beyond, and therefore inspiring him to write and dedicate the song to Nelson Mandela.
Next up was Albert, a Pianover known for his love of playing “D’Oldies”. Albert added on to his Oldies repertoire with a romantic 1960s Chinese song entitled 忘不了的你 by 姚敏. The composer is also the musical genius who produced beloved iconic songs such as 泥娃娃 and a Chinese New Year classic 恭喜恭喜.
Moving on to Chinese songs from the 21st Century, Kendrick gave an energetic performance of two songs as a medley. The first was 青花瓷 (‘Blue and White Porcelain’) by 周杰倫 (Jay Chou) and the second was ‘醉赤壁 by 林俊杰 (JJ Lin), of which the two composers happened to be contemporaries in the Chinese music scene. At a 2008 music awards show, Jay Chou's 2007 song 青花瓷 achieved critical acclaim with awards for "Best Lyrics", "Best Composition of the Year", and even "Song of the Year", where Chou himself won "Best Composer" and "Best Producer", amongst other awards. Trivia time! When the song's lyricist first handed the lyrics to Jay Chou, he mistook the title 青花瓷 as 青蛙池, which translates to ‘Frog Pool’ because of the phonetic similarity!
Up next was Kenneth Guan playing the soothing tunes of Recollecting Memories by Asteria, which is a background song used in a multiplayer online game called MapleStory. The game comes in a side-scrolling and role-playing format, where background music (aka BGM) like ‘Recollecting Memories’ helps create the atmosphere and set the mood for certain segments of the game. MapleStory is a product of South Korean company Wizet and was first released in 2003. By popular demand, a second version, MapleStory 2, was published in July 2015 and generated about $2.98 billion in revenue in a 2017 report.
Back to Classical piano, Chris Khoo then took to the keys with a bright and cheery piece, The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss II. The piece is a popular waltz composed by Johann Strauss II, composed in 1866. It was inspired by the Danube River, a major river in the European continent that starts in Germany and runs through a total of 10 countries.
Shifting to a gentler and more mood piece, the Mini-Recital had Pianover Gan Theng Beng caressing the ivories with Lyphard Melody by Paul de Senneville and Olivier Toussaint. It is a popular piece originally performed by Richard Clayderman in his 1977 album, which contains his signature piece – ‘Ballade Pour Adeline’. What a sweet and lovely song!
Hiro then performed Teresa Teng’s classic 月亮代表我的心 (‘The Moon Represents My Heart’) by 翁清溪, adding his first Teresa Teng number to his repertoire. Following this, Hiro played Auf Flügeln des Gesanges, Op. 34 No. 2, which was an adaptation that Franz Liszt arranged for solo piano (S.547). The title, which translates to “On Wings of Song”, was first published as a poem by Heinrich Heine, a German Romantic poet. Medelssohn adapted it for music and placed it in his collection of “six songs for voice and piano”, as the second piece, and thereafter came Liszt’s adaptation.
Next, Pianover Lim Ee Fong presented two popular Chinese songs: first it was 我家在哪里 by 刘家昌, followed by a zealous performance of 上海滩 by 顾家辉. 上海滩 was used as the theme song in the 1980 Hong Kong TV series of the same title and is also a favourite piece of long-time Pianover Gee Yong (who played it 5 times at Pianovers Meetups!), so much that Pianovers recognise the song as his signature piece. This Chinese classic is certainly a piece that is well-loved by many music lovers.
Speaking of long-time Pianovers – May Ling, who has been with us for two years since October 2016, play For Once in My Life by Orlando Murden and Ron Miller. Many versions of this piece exist today, but undisputedly, the most successful and familiar version is the 1967 up-tempo arrangement by Stevie Wonder.
Ending the Mini-Recital was Grace Wong, who loves playing Classical pieces and thus far never fails to keep her repertoire of Preludes and Sonatas. Grace first performed Étude, Op. 10, No. 5 (Black Keys) by Frédéric Chopin and the final piece of the night, Sonata No. 26 in E-flat major, Op. 81a by Beethoven. Chopin’s ‘Black Keys’ features rapid playing of the black keys by the right hand. Interestingly, this piece is also known as the ‘Black Key Étude’ as its right-hand part is entirely on black keys, except for one note. In 2017, Artur Cimirro recorded the first complete arrangement in double notes, which was first published in 1922. This song was also given a modern treatment in Jay Chou’s 2007 movie ‘The Secret’. This song was part of the Piano Battle scene, which saw the pianist play ‘Black Keys’ first, followed by a transposed all-white-keys version.
With that, the Mini-Recital ended and the Open Segment was initiated with a group photo of all Pianovers attending, and this group photo was special because we had a surprise furry Pianover guest – Kenneth’s pet dog!
In Pianovers Meetup fashion, we had the two pianos at the URA Centre placed side by side for an open jamming session, where anyone can approach the instrument and play to their heart’s content. The Piano Park was a hive of activity, as Lim Ee Fong was seen exchanging ideas with Lukas Lim, while Grace Wong, Kenneth Guan and Teh Yuqing engaged in their own conversation. Some Pianovers also decided to take a spontaneous group photo with the surprise guest; Roxanne, May Ling and Grace Wong had a photo taken with Kenneth’s pet dog!
If you’re reading this and wondering if you can join in the fun, the answer is a resounding musical “Yes~!” We love to have new Pianovers and grow our community of piano fans and friends. Beyond that, the Pianovers Meetup is a great place to forge strong friendships built by the shared passion for the glorious instrument. We look forward to meeting you at a future Pianover Meetup!