I’ll just put it as a song, I sing with the piano, it’s a song without words or lyrics. But I love to sing with the piano. Let me tell you my story without words.
That was one of the many enlightening things the internationally renowned pianist said that stuck with me after three weeks.
I went to Yiruma concert on April 5 at the Star Theatre in Singapore. It was certainly worth the experience as it was far more than what I expected from a piano concert. My brother, who invited me to enjoy this concert with him, selected front row seats for us. I was quite hesitant at first as it was in my opinion then, just an instrumental concert. As usual, my brother knew better as it turned out it was the best decision ever. Two thumbs up.
The structure of the building was beautiful, with the perfectly aligned lightings like stars. It made me wish for a moment that I could create or recreate a structure as magnificent as this – to choose a degree in architecture or civil. The floor was carpeted and the seats are cushioned with the kind of material so cosy that you would not want to get up from.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, Yiruma is a stage name for a South Korean pianist and composer, Lee Ru-ma 이루마. His most popular pieces are “River Flows in You” and “Kiss the Rain”, released in his First Love album in 2001. His piano compositions can be used in film background music and television dramas. His musical style is unique; as his songs carry a dash of classical music with modern “flavor”, they are generically classified as “popular” or “contemporary classical”.
I remembered the opening well. We were all hushed by the dimming lights, the drawing of the stage curtains and a reminder over the PA that photography and recordings were not allowed – a universal signal that the concert was about to begin. Then came this beautiful melody “May Be” while the curtains were still drawn. The curtains were slowly drawn apart to reveal the pianist deep in his performance. From where we were sitting, the sounds resonate beautifully throughout the hall and into our ears.
After his first piece, he introduced himself with a speech he prepared in paper as he claimed that he wasn’t fluent in English. So modest, or all lies – he could construct sentences in proper pronunciation, structure and grammar. There was something I did not expect from my impression of a pianist – his wit. A script of his speech was available in www.soompi.com
“I hope you like my music today. I trust some of you are really familiar with my music, but some of you are not, I presume. My music is very, very simple and calm, so please don’t fall asleep (laughs). That was the one thing that I wanted to tell you. While you listen to my music, I hope you look back your past memories. Perhaps, I’m sure when I play my music, you’ll probably be capturing the moments you want to remember. That could be the bad memories, that could be happy memories.”
– Source: http://www.soompi.com/
He made a lot of light-hearted jokes including one on his stage fright. “You think I’m looking at you, but I’m not.” And we laughed along with him. Addressing piracy and illegal downloading, he did not express annoyance or sarcasm, he just wanted people to enjoy his music.
I love Yiruma songs because they had a calming effect on the listener. His songs were different from studio versions; he included a lot of accompaniment part while accenting the main melody. When he played River Flows in You, my brother said he preferred the studio versions but I preferred the new variation of it, which was significantly different to the studio version.
He played several compositions such as Indigo, Say U Love Me, Waltz, Loanna, Reminiscent and May Be the two famous songs River Flows in You and Kiss the Rain. The piece “Loanna” is a song he would want to play at his daughter’s wedding, who would turn 7 this year.
He improvised a little with audience participation. He chose an audience from his stage right to join him on stage. The lucky person was a Malaysian; she was clearly experienced in piano. She titled her song “Good Memories” and was taught to play three notes repetitively to provide a rhythmic structure while Yiruma played the wonderful collaboration. Although she only played three notes repetitively, he praised her over the moon and not in a condescending way at all.
A few songs after the intermission, he invited his buddy the cellist Kim Young Min. During a duet with a string instrument, the string instrument is usually the highlight of the two, but it was evident that the pianist was the superstar – obviously. It was his concert after all.
He encored. He received a standing ovation. And he deserved it. I was so amazed and satisfied that I forgot to quietly snap a picture at the end – it would have been a perfect picture.
As I was writing this, I understood something about live performers, be it pianists, singers, or dancers – each has only one chance to make a lasting impression on the crowd as most of the audience will only go to his/her or their concert once. I could sum up my experience at Yiruma’s concert in one line: