Chinese New Year Concert


Friday January 31st, 2014 was a triple whammy day for me:
– end of the electric vehicle project that had consumed me for two years
– Chinese New Year of the Horse
– two concerts: morning in Kahului and evening in Kula

It was madness trying to prepare for a concert against a deadline. As a result, I didn’t have time to document what I played. On a previous occasion, I had worked with a colleague who sang songs of Teresa Teng. That took some research, for the songs were verses of poems from the Tang Dynasty and prose from the Song Dynasty. Without the luxury of time, I decided to choose a theme — music of Asian composers; and music inspired by the East

Audience want variety. They also like connections – how does one piece relate to another. Thus the pieces chosen are not random but deliberate, a result of careful planning.

I invited two of my students to be the opening act. This gave them exposure to a different audience and a chance to perform. One way to get good at performing is to perform to different audiences, at different venues, and under different conditions.

I began with an easy and safe piece to warm-up and get used to the old grand piano. A good candidate is a piece people are not familiar with and can easily forget or dismiss. It’s the warm-up after all.

I introduced the Korean pianist/composer Yiruma, for his story is interesting to tell. I could have given an entire concert of his songs but variety is needed for this audience.

To contrast Yiruma’s music, I played “Jay’s Secret” from Secret (2007) – a movie made in Taiwan. One of my Chinese piano students had introduced the piece to me, while a friend in Houston had told me about the movie on Facebook much earlier.

Speaking of Taiwan, I brought out “Zhi Zu” which translates to “Knowing What’s Enough” – one of many solo piano pieces that my friend Tina showed me in Taipei last March. I had taken photos with my iPad with the intention of trying them out.

After introducing the unfamiliar but sticky music of young Asian composers, I entered the familiar territory of old folk tunes such as Cherry Blossoms (Sakura) and Jasmine Flower (Muo Li Hua). I played my arrangement of Jasmine Flower for harp and Sakura by Rudolf Dittrich in 1894, from a collection of Japanese songs for piano.

I like to balance the familiar with the unfamiliar to keep the attention of my audience.

How has music from Asia influenced Western European composers? Claude Debussy’s Pagodes from his Estampes (1903) is clearly pentatonic in sound. I performed it for my senior recital at college — a very long time ago. Here was an unfamiliar piece but strikingly familiar because of the oriental sounds.

Next, I played extracts from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. Had I the music to Puccini’s Turandot, I would have played the sections that sounded like “Jasmine Flower.”

To relate to the present, I played Tan Dun’s Eternal Vow, the theme tune from the movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

Next concert: Friday February 28, 2014 Music from Movies

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Filed under arrangement, audience, composer, composition, concert, culture, piano, research, review, sheet music, sight reading

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