By Anamika Ragu (23A01A), Faith Ho (22A01A), Faith Wan (23S02B) and Tay Yu Ning (23S06E)
After being unable to hold concerts for the past two years due to the pandemic, Raffles Institution Piano Ensemble (RIPE) returned in style on May 17, 2022. Audience members were greeted with glittering star-themed decorations, which transformed LT2 into a celestial space—a hint of the dazzling performances to come.
“As we were unable to have a concert last year […] we were more motivated than usual to perform our best in front of a live audience.”Roger Zhang (22S06D)
The concert, performed by the graduating batch of RIPE, centred around the story of a Little Prince exploring the stars and Earth (with the eponymous title “Ad Astra”).
Not Just A Piano Concert?
Despite their CCA’s main focus on piano, RIPE was unafraid of experimenting with other instruments. EXCO members Chong Hui Hsuen Nicole (22S03A), Guo Yuxin (22S03O) and Yuan Haoer (22S03O) opened the concert with their performance of “Deux Interludes for Flute, Violin and Piano”, which, as the name suggests, showcased the members’ wide range of musical talents.
Nicole, who chose the piece, shared that “At first, we wanted to perform in a group of three. However, we realised that there are a limited number of piano trios. Since I play the violin and Yuxin plays the flute, I looked for repertoires that fit us.”
This, however, was not the only piece to feature multiple instruments. RIPE’s performance of “Healing a Wounded Star”—a piece composed by Music Director Qian Changyi (22S03N)—featured a whopping seven performers across four instruments: piano, violin, clarinet and flute.
“I was very impressed with the use of multiple instruments,” commented Mr Maverick Teo, a General Paper tutor who attended the concert.
Waltz, Dance and March
Following the tender and wistful opening, RIPE livened up the atmosphere with three two-hands pieces, all renowned classical repertoire.
Performers Du Hanshuo (22S02A) and Zhong Songrong (22A01C) took centre stage with their interpretation of ‘Waltz’ from the Sleeping Beauty ballet by Tchaikovsky. They brought the piece to life with the delicate voicing of the melody and masterful use of the pedal, adding to the dreamy ambience created by the decorations.
“I didn’t know that “Once Upon a Dream” was originally based on a classical piece!” remarked an audience member. “I even have the song saved on Spotify.”
Wang Xinrong (22S02A) and Zhang Tianyi (22S07B) kept the energy high with their lively rendition of Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5, with members of the audience bopping along to the music. The rapid switches between the bold main theme and the slower, tender portions illustrated the Prince’s emotional highs and lows during his journey to the night skies.
The audience was then dazzled by an elegant performance of Schubert’s March No. 1 by Abigail Seow (22S06T) and Daniel Seah Zhi Quan (22S07B). The chemistry between the duo was definitely visible as they navigated through rests while skillfully remaining in sync with each other.
Balancing Contemporary and Classical
While the previous three classical pieces captured the excitement of traversing the stars, the next three pieces were more contemporary and brought us along the next step in this journey.
Scaramouche Suite, Op. 165B (II: Modéré) and L’embarquement pour Cythère wowed the audience with the swapping of page turners and performers between pieces.
Having consistently enraptured the audience, RIPE took us by surprise with a familiar tune next, which was none other than Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, picked to diversify the classical concert repertoire. Freddie Mercury himself once said, “You can do what you want with my music, but don’t make me boring.” Needless to say, the CCA delivered with flying colours.
Creating Their Own Stars
Piano Ensemble saved the best for last with three original batch pieces.
“Twin Stars”, performed on flute and piano.
First was Twin Stars, composed by Du Hanshuo (22S02A), telling the story of two friends growing up together, akin to “twin stars”.
Next was A Faraway Place by Guo Yuxin (22S03O), beginning with a violin solo that pulled at our heartstrings, reminiscent of the nostalgia encountered in films or movies. The piano then joined in this melody, building up to a climax and a dramatic ending transporting us into otherworldly stories.
Last but certainly not least was Healing a Wounded Star by Qian Changyi (22S03N), with the aforementioned myriad of instruments. It brought us through The Little Prince’s entire story.
Beginning with a violin solo mimicking the lamentation of the wounded star, the piece then saw the flute and clarinet seamlessly weave in to play out the star and the broken prince’s journey back home. As they travelled together, the piece shifted from sorrow to joy, ending with an ebullient melody.
Putting together a piece involving so many people was far from easy,” Chairperson Nicole remarked, “We were just so happy that everything came through in the end!”
Just like that, the concert drew to a close. With much clapping and a few shouts of “encore, encore!” (sadly unheeded), the audience applauded RIPE’s truly mesmerising performance. A few lingered to talk to and pass flowers to their friends who had performed, while others left through the doors, unwillingly returning back to earth.
“We put in quite a lot of effort to make the concert work and are happy it has made a lot of nice memories, not just for the players, but for the audience as well!”– Yuan Haoer (22S03O)
“Deux Interludes for Flute, Violin and Piano” by Jacques Ibert
Performed by: Guo Yuxin (22S03O), Yuan Haoer (22S03O), Chong Hui Hsuen Nicole (22S03A)
“Sleeping Beauty Op. 66 ‘Waltz’” by Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky, arranged by Sergei Rachmaninoff
Performed by: Du Hanshuo (22S02A), Zhong Songrong (22A01C)
“Hungarian Dance No. 5, Woo 1” by Johannes Brahms
Performed by: Wang Xinrong (22S02A), Zhang Tianyi (22S07B)
“3 Marches Militaires, D. 733 Op. 51 No. 1” by Franz Schubert
Performed by: Abigail Seow (22S06T), Daniel Seah Zhi Quan (22S07B)
“Scaramouche Suite, Op. 165B (II: Modéré)” by Darius Milchaud
Performed by: Qian Changyi (22S03N), Ting Hui Chong (22S03Q)
“L’embarquement pour Cythère” by Francis Poulenc
Performed by: Roger Zhang Xinhai (22S06D), Deng Tianle (22S02A)
“Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen
Performed by: Chrystabel Ng (22S03Q) and Chong Hui Hsuen Nicole (22S03A)
“Twin Stars” composed by Du Hanshuo (22S02A)
“A Faraway Place” composed by Guo Yuxin (22S03O)
“Healing a Wounded Star” composed by Qian Changyi (22S03N)