Case Study: adapting music for amateur choir

A trained soprano approached me recently about adapting a famous Buddhist song, arranged for four-part voice, for a 45-person amateur choir, pianist, cello, and saxophone. Continue reading “Case Study: adapting music for amateur choir”


Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival poem and song: dan yuan ren chang jiu

There are many kinds of sheet music for the popular Chinese song Dan Yuan Ren Chang Jiu sung at Mid-Autumn Festival.

When I asked my mom to select songs made popular by the late Teresa Teng besides my favorite Ni Ze Me Shuo, she mentioned Dan Yuan Ren Chang Jiu. On the night of the super blood moon and lunar eclipse, I learned of its significance. The lyrics come from a famous poem by Su Shi, also known as Su Dong Po. The song is associated with the Mid Autumn Festival, which is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. For 2015, it’s Sunday September 27th.

Continue reading “Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival poem and song: dan yuan ren chang jiu”

Playing music you love by reading notes

These days students are more motivated to learn to play music they have already heard of than to discover music by reading notes. There are many methods to communicate or transcribe music nowadays.

Besides playing the music on CD, via youtube, via iTunes, on iPod, on radio, on record player, you can enjoy it even more if you can play it on a musical instrument. Of course, you can always sing it acapella.

Continue reading “Playing music you love by reading notes”

Piano playing in Taipei, Taiwan

What a joy it was to meet up with my old friend Tina, whom I’ve known since my teenage years. The way we met was in class in the Hakka town of Miao Li Gong Guan. She was accompanying choir – and I noticed she played a wrong note on the piano.

To discover after a lifetime of wedded bliss, motherhood, career, …. she still plays the piano — that’s the joy!

I grew up in a neighborhood where our fathers were colleagues, our mothers volunteered for community activities, and we kids went to school together. We were competitive, and we all learned to play the piano. Every other year, we’d “return” to our native lands (Taiwan, Korea, etc) on “home leave.” Some industrious parents (like mine) would put us through school so we’d progress in our own languages. That’s how I met Tina.

How many of us still play the piano? Few.

My entire family learned to play the piano. First my father — in college — he learned to play the black keys. He bought a new Yamaha upright (a console) in Okinawa. My mother, my 6-year old sister, and I started piano lessons from a Japanese neighbor, the wife of one of my father’s colleagues. Eventually when my brother became of age, he started lessons, too.

As I listened to Tina sightread the Chinese equivalent of “fake book,” that is, jian pu (simplified Chinese music notation) as right hand melody and accompaniment in Western chords, I thought of all the years that had gone by. Suddenly I felt a shake. The ground beneath me trembled on the morning of Wednesday 27th March.

I stopped her. “What is it?” I asked.

Tina stopped playing abruptly.

The IKEA loft bed above the covered upright piano was shaking from side to side.

“It’s an earthquake,” she replied and went back to playing the same piece.

Barely a week has gone by since she came to pick me up at the airport. Today she waited for me at the same airport with presents.

I wish there was more time to play music — we have not even managed a duet together — ever.

“Come visit me,” I said. “You’ve missed out on all those great places I’ve lived.”

A future blog: jian pu — simplified Chinese music notation