By Clarine See (18S03G) and Yeo Kee Hwan (18S03Q)
Photo credits to Raffles Photographic Society
If one had to sum up Piano Ensemble’s recent concert, ‘journey’ would be a most apt description. And a journey it was indeed, as the audience was transported to a world beyond the confines of Lecture Theatre 2 on the night of 28th April.
It was clear from the start that Piano Ensemble was going beyond presenting a well-rehearsed repertoire for the night — from the tropical decor of the venue to the entertaining island shenanigans that the emcees brought to the audience, the time and effort dedicated to creating a mood of adventure was evident. The usually drab LT2 was dressed up for the occasion – fairy lights were strung along the stage, paper cuttings of coconut trees and lush waves lined the walls, and paper boats were placed on every seat, a delightful invitation to sail away to worlds unknown.
Keeping in line with the theme of adventure, emcees Gillian Yeong (17A01A) and Joshen Lim (17S07D) acted as tour guides for a tour group (the audience) that had been shipwrecked on an island. The entertainment factor was definitely not lacking, with the emcees running from wild crocodiles and desperately fixing broken boats while exchanging playful banter along the way.
With a fairly long set list consisting of 18 pieces in total, one might think it to be an overload of foreign classics that all blend into each other after awhile. Fortunately, the adventure theme brought direction to their selection of songs as well; familiar tunes from well-known movies and musicals were interspersed with the expected classical pieces. And even then, these pieces happened to be easily recognisable ones, thereby allowing the audience to fully experience their time exploring the variety of music that was performed that night.
The first song to be played that night was, quite aptly, a prelude. Though not necessarily as well known as the other songs that were played later in the night, it served as a good lead-in, being a piece with archetypically classical elements such as an alberti bass line, light ornamentation, as well as slight use of rubato for stylistic purposes. It certainly did set the stage for the well-known “Libertango”. Composed by Piazolla in 1974, and arranged by Kyoko Yamamoto, this rendition that Jacie Lim (17A01C) and Ashiley Annushri (17S03I) brought to life remained true to the essence of this spirited tune. Skilfully swapping the melody lines between them, they maintained continuity in their performance while simultaneously altering chord progressions and using dissonance to add colour and texture on top of the original’s catchy beat.
Beyond indulging the audience with classics, the Piano Ensemble also took care to cater to a whole variety of music tastes, performing well-loved popular music pieces arranged by the members themselves. They ranged from Joe Hisaishi’s timeless “Kimi wo Nosete (Carrying You)” from animated film Laputa: Castle In The Sky (arranged by Faye-Anne Ho, Ashleigh Aathar, Paul Low) to pop song “7 Years” (arranged by Ashleigh Aathar). They even performed a spirited medley from “Les Misérables” (arranged by Paul Low), demonstrating the prowess of the guests performers and drawing cheers from the audience in their excitement.
Keeping themselves updated with the latest trends, the Ensemble also performed Rocoberry’s “Always” (arranged by Ashlyn Ng, Dione Lim, Isaac Lee, and Chen Xinyuan) from the wildly popular Korean drama Descendants Of The Sun, drawing cheers from the audience. Memorably, guest violinist Jackie Sim (17S03G) performed “Theme from Schindler’s List” along with Chloe Chia (17S03N) and Anna Cheang (17S07D), suffusing the piece with the melancholy tune of the violin to truly convey its character.
But of course, the mood was not entirely sombre, as it was meant to be an adventure. The atmosphere was cheerily lightened by Rachmaninoff’s “Italian Polka”, particularly with Hao Jia (18S05A) and Yuchen’s (18S06H) energetic performance. Besides enthusiastically completing phrase after phrase of the fast-paced melody, the performers also added in their own quirks to liven up the mood. From standing up to twirl around the bench to switching parts but playing the other’s equally skillfully, they were indeed in equal parts admirable and entertaining, rightfully earning the cheers from their friends in the audience. And the fun did not end there; upon ending their performance on a dramatic note, they promptly looked at each other and smiled cheekily before dabbing, to the uproarious laughter of all.
The last piece of the night, Johann Strauss’ “Trischt-Tratsch-Polka” (arranged by Paul Low), was undoubtedly the most entertaining, and perhaps most perfectly embodied the theme of the concert. All eleven members of the J2 batch split themselves between the two pianos on stage, and so commenced a piece that was a sheer delight in both the execution of the music and the performance aspect. High-fiving, slapping on party hats, and alternating between standing and squatting all took place around the piano while the members somehow maintained perfect synchrony in both rhythm and tempo. The playful, frenzied nature of the polka was well-expressed, conveying a sense of unrestrained joy and spontaneity to the audience.
All in all, Piano Ensemble’s attempt to bring its audience along on a journey was definitely a rousing success. Beyond weaving in an adventure into the script, the music that was carefully curated was in itself a journey as well -the pieces were varied widely to ensure that the audience would not be alienated by unfamiliar works, and every piece brought something unique to the table. Notably, in evoking a whole range of emotions, from solemn despair to unfettered joy, the Piano Ensemble also conveyed the idea of music itself being an adventure of passions. By the end of the night, there was a sense of reluctance to accept that the adventure the emcees had brought the audience on had come to a close, as testament to just how engrossing and enjoyable the ride with Piano Ensemble was.