It is on every Sunday evening that Pianovers complete a weekend with a healthy dose of piano music. Welcome to Pianovers Meetup – where passionate piano lovers (aka “Pianovers”) gather weekly at the URA Centre to enjoy a little recital presented by likeminded Pianovers from the community, and engage in conversations about the great instrument. The Pianovers Meetup was initiated and organised by ThePiano.SG two years ago in July 2016 and since then has seen the community grow.
Before last Sunday’s Meetup began, on 21 October, the Founder of ThePiano.SG, Sng Yong Meng, was joined by Pianovers Hiro, Jeremy Chan, Lukas Lim, Gavin and Mun Yee for a casual dinner at Maxwell Food Centre. And, of course, dinner with Pianovers is always filled with fascinating conversations about piano pieces and the instrument.
With a passionate bunch of Pianovers who care for each other, the community is naturally a welcoming place to be. At last Sunday’s Meetup, a few Pianovers brought some goodies to share with everyone! We’d like to thank those who brought these delightful treats, and a special shout-out to Winny for the cookies, and Ee Fong for the tidbits!
Thereafter, the Meetup kicked off with a couple of announcements from Yong Meng. Firstly, the new Pianovers T-shirts is now available for purchase at ThePiano.SG for $29.90. The shirt features the Pianovers’ metronome logo on the front, and the hashtag “#pianovers” at the back. Pianovers can now be ambassadors for piano music! The second and final announcement was about the new format to the weekly Meetups, starting from Meetup #101! Pianovers, are you ready for it? Read all about the new format and related FAQs.
Following the announcements, the Mini-Recital began! First up was little Gwen playing Tale as Old as Time by Alan Menken, as well as Meadow Lands by Lev Knipper. "Tale as Old as Time" is the theme song from the movie "Beauty and the Beast", the Disney animation film recounting the relationship between its two main characters, Belle and the Beast. Initially very different, they come together against all odds, learn to change each other for the better, and share a life together. The famous piece is played during the ballroom sequence and the lyrics allude to the timeless nature of love. "Tale as Old as Time" was ranked #62 in the American Film Institute list of the top 100 songs. To show her love for the character Belle, Gwen even dressed in the character’s famous yellow gown and brought her Belle doll too!
Up next was Gavin Koh, who played Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin. Originally titled "American Rhapsody", it premiered on 12 February 1924 in the presence of many important and influential composers of the time such as Sergei Rachmaninoff and John Philip Sousa. Fun fact! The original tunes of the rhapsody are largely not known because Gershwin, who also performed the piece live, improvised certain parts of the piece and officially wrote them down only after the performance.
Shifting the Mini-Recital into Chinese pieces, Siew Tin played two songs, namely 海角天涯 by 骆明道 and 我怎能离开你 by 古月, of which the latter song was written by lyricist 琼瑶 and appeared as a theme song in a Taiwanese film, also written by 琼瑶, entitled "彩云飞". The movie’s main theme song, 彩云飞, and 我怎能离开你 share the same lyrics, though both have entirely different tunes. 尤雅 performed 彩云飞 while Teresa Teng sang 我怎能离开你, which was notably more well-received.
Albert kept up the Chinese repertoire with a song entitled 苏武牧羊 by 田锡侯. The song title, which translates to "Su Wu the Shepherd", refers to a historical figure called Su Wu who is a political figure and ambassador of the Han Dynasty. Su Wu was sent on a mission outside of China and into the Xiongnu Empire, where he was detained and eventually endured 19 years of captivity and harsh treatment, especially during the initial years. During his time there, he was also found to have herded sheep – hence the title of song. Despite captivity, getting married and even having children there, Su Wu stayed loyal to his country and decided to return home, leaving his family behind. Because of that, his name became synonymous with the notion of undying loyalty to one’s homeland, no matter the trials and tribulations.
Moving away from Chinese songs, the Mini-Recital saw young Pianover I-Wen performing March of the Little Bears and 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. I-Wen played with such delight and what was even more delightful to see was I-Wen’s mother placing a snack (a Yan Yan!) on the book stand as a reward for her performance!
Jenny Soh then took to the piano performing a 1953 song by Robert Maxwell, Ebb Tide, which is which is often mistaken for the title song of the 1937 movie with the same name. As the 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.
Next was Kendrick Ong, who played a medley of pieces by Japanese composer Nobuo Uematsu, specifically pieces from game developer Square Enix’s well-known video game Final Fantasy. Uematsu is well-established 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 it was used in 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. Interestingly, this song was performed by 王菲 (Faye Wong) with an orchestra.
As it is with a community of piano enthusiasts, we have Pianovers who will keep an ‘ear’ out for beautiful piano pieces that catch their attention and will want to play them, even if they do not know the title of the tunes! Last Sunday, Pianover Janice Liew presented us with two unknown pieces. The first is piece is thus far identified as one from a Chinese documentary and the second was from an Oriental Choir. We hope that fellow Pianovers can listen to the performances and help to identify the tunes. If you are able to, please shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org – we will really appreciate it!
Not too long ago, Janice also presented an unidentified piece that fellow Pianover Gavin could recognise. It is indeed heartening to see such spirit and bonding in the community, where Pianovers help each other with their repertoire knowledge – all for the love of the piano!
Where the Pianovers community grows from strength to strength, the Meetup is familiar with new Pianovers making their debut performance at the Mini-Recital. Last Sunday, we had a first-time Pianover, Mayuri Gupta, joining us for the evening. Mayuri was introduced to the Pianovers Meetup through Yong Meng, whom she informed about a faulty public piano at Fusionopolis. Eventually, this led to conversations about Pianovers Meetup and Yong Meng invited her to join – and here she was on Sunday!
Mayuri played her first piece Prelude in G# minor Op. 32, No. 12 by Sergei Rachmaninoff, of which this prelude is from ‘Thirteen Preludes, Op. 32’. Thirteen Preludes, together with ‘Prelude in C# minor, Op. 3/2’ and the ‘10 Preludes, Op. 23’, form a full suite of 24 preludes in all the major and minor keys. One interesting thing to note is that Rachmaninoff appeared to be the only composer who did not first intend to write a set of 24 pieces, in a time when all composers who did so had such a goal in mind.
Another Pianover making her debut performance at the Pianover Meetup was Yuka Mukaeda, who attended a Meetup before as an audience member, along with her group of friends. Last Sunday, Yuka presented Deux Arabesques L. 66 No. 1 Andantino con moto by Claude Debussy, who composed this piece as a young adult only in his twenties. This piece, together with another, forms Debussy’s ‘Deux Arabesques’, which is deemed a pioneering impressionistic work in music that came after the French visual art form. In popular culture, players of the video game Final Fantasy V can have their characters play different pianos in various stages of the game to reveal extracts from ‘Deux Arabesques’ – fun!
Erika Iishiba followed next with 手纸 (‘A Letter’) by Yukie Nishimura, a 1999 song originally written by Yukie. One thing we’d love to highlight about this piece is that it is often mistaken as a piece composed by Yiruma under the title ‘Spring Time’. While it is unknown how this came about, it is likely that a netizen erroneously attributed the wrong composer to the song.
Back to classical piano pieces, Grace Wong then performed one of Frédéric Chopin’s four Scherzos, Scherzo No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 31, adding to her largely classical repertoire. It is known that this 1837 piece is dedicated to Countess Adèle Fürstenstein. An interesting fact about this Scherzo – Chopin’s student, Wilhelm von Lenz, provided an insight into the piece and mentioned that the opening tunes of the well-known sotto voce serves as a question while the second phrase is the response.
Even though it is common to have solo pianists at the Meetup, our Pianovers are no stranger to collaborations. Some Meetups ago, fellow Pianovers Jeremy Foo and Teh Yuqing played the 4th movement to French composer Claude Debussy’s "Petite Suite, L 65", a suite for Piano four hands – this means that this piece would require four hands playing on the same piano! Last Sunday, the duo shared the ivories again and played 1st movt, En Bateau’ (‘Sailing’). This suite has inspired several transcriptions, one of which is a famous orchestral version by Henri Büsser, a colleague of Debussy’s. Debussy is also famous for other pieces such as ‘Clair de Lune’, ‘Arabesque No. 1’, and ‘Golliwog's Cakewalk’. The duo gave an engaging performance and supporting Yuqing in the audience that day was his friend, Xie Yuan.
Pianover Rony Ang, a father to his daughter who also plays the piano (and encourages her to do so by being a role model himself!), played "童话 (‘Fairy Tale’)" by 王光良 (Michael Wong). The song’s music video depicted Wong at a concert playing the song, of which it is heard by a dying girl over the phone. The dying girl is established to be the love interest of Wong’s character in the video. At the end of the video, she dies and the viewer hears the voiceover "When the whole world ignored me, only you wouldn’t leave me alone”. The video has sparked much debate on whether the song is based on a true story.
Chopin’s pieces are popular amongst Pianovers, as it is amongst many classical pianists all around the world! And so the Meetup saw Pianover Hiro played the second Chopin piece of the evening, Waltz in A-flat major, Op. 34 No. 1. Chopin was well-known for his waltzes, which totals to 36. Sadly, out of this total number, only 18 to 20 are published. The rest are either in private hands or believed to be destroyed or lost.
Yet another popular piano piece that was performed at last Sunday’s Meetup was Paul de Senneville’s Mariage d’amour, performed by debut performer Jessie Quah at the session. The piece is made popular by Richard Clayderman. Despite the general association to happiness, weddings and marriage, given the title of the piece, its narrative is largely debated on because its tunes, written in minor key, suggests a conflicting sadness. In addition, the choice of words in the Chinese translation, ‘Wedding in the Dream’, seems to hint that the wedding may not have happened.
After the classic piece, Lim Ee Fong then took to the keys with two Chinese numbers, 两忘烟水里 by 顾家辉 and 寻梦园 by 朱然. 两忘烟水里 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.
The last performer of the Mini-Recital, also a first-time performer at the Meetup, was Xavier Hui performing Sonata in E minor, Hob. XVI:34, 1st movt, Presto by Joseph Haydn – welcome Xavier, we hope to see you again! A little trivia about the piece: It was noted that Haydn scored his sonatas differently in light of keyboard developments in the late 18th century, most notably after year 1770. The keyboard development saw the harpsichord replaced by the fortepiano, which allows for dynamic and timbral changes. This was something that Haydn recognised as he composed the sonatas, thus leading to the first 30 scored for harpsichord, and the following nine scored for either harpsichord or fortepiano. With the "Piano Sonata in E minor, Hob.XVI/34", also the 34th sonata, as termed by the Hoboken-Verzeichnis classification, the piece is scored for both keyboards. This means that the performer has the option to play it on either instrument.
After all that great piano music, the Mini-Recital came to an end and the Open Segment began with a customary group photo (by means of Pianovers Meetup tradition!). Our Pianovers then caught up with one another, welcomed new faces and had a good time jamming freely as they like. We would like to especially express our gratitude to Pianovers Siew Tin and Albert for always helping to tear down the equipment after the Mini-Recital – you’re too kind!
It is the end of another Pianovers Meetup, but our love for the piano and the company of piano friends surely keeps us looking forward to the next one. We’d like to extend a warm invitation to readers who love playing the piano or even enjoy listening to piano music to join us at our weekly gathering every Sunday. No matter your age or musical background, you will always be welcomed to be a part of our Pianovers family!