Casual concert a boon for pianists

Piano lovers take turns to play in public at Sunday gatherings

Mr Muhammad Aisamuddin Norazmi playing his tunes on Sunday.
Mr Muhammad Aisamuddin Norazmi playing his tunes on Sunday. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Two used pianos placed at the URA Centre and made freely accessible to the public have been given a new lease of life - as centrepieces of a series of impromptu weekend concerts.

Nearly every Sunday, a group of around 20 gathers around the public pianos and they take turns playing their favourite tunes. For many of these piano lovers - or Pianovers, as they call themselves - it is a chance to perform without the pressure of a formal recital.

The weekly meet-ups draw people of all ages, nationalities and skill levels - ranging from 56-year-old Isao Nishida to five-year-old Brandon Yeo, who started piano lessons just one year ago.

Brandon's father William Yeo said: "The classes can get very dry, but here he gets the chance to play in front of other people."

Added the 38-year-old technical officer, who takes his son to the gatherings regularly: "It's a good experience for him. It helps him to build confidence and he enjoys showing off."

The meet-ups are the brainchild of former piano teacher Sng Yong Meng, who now runs a Web portal for all things piano-related called ThePiano.SG

He had heard of a local movement called Play it Forward, where old pianos are put in public spaces for passers-by to use.

Mr Sng decided to organise the meet-ups because he felt that there were few performing opportunities for most casual piano players.

He added that the meet-ups also help members learn by listening to other pianists play, which is an advantage over individual lessons or a formal recital.

"You get the kind of exposure you don't get in a classroom," he said. "And professional performances can make people feel distant. They can't interact with the pianist and they don't feel on a par."

Despite the gatherings being a casual affair for the participants, Mr Sng takes them seriously - setting up portable fans and spotlights, and even recording each player's performance on video.

During a single session, the music played can range from Korean and Mandarin pop songs, to classical pieces and theme songs from the hottest Japanese anime series.

Mr Nishida recalled how when he first started attending the meet-ups two years ago, most people played the pieces that they had learnt for piano examinations.

"Playing at home is very different from playing in front of people," added Mr Nishida.

"Sometimes people here are still in the middle of learning, but everyone respects each other."

Mr Nishida, who returns to Japan today after spending 51/2 years working in Singapore, hopes to set up a similar group there.

Another regular is 18-year-old Institute of Technical Education student Muhammad Aisamuddin Norazmi, who fell in love with piano music after joining his secondary school's concert band. He did not have a piano at home until recently, and taught himself to play on the piano in his school hall.

During the latest meet-up on Sunday, Mr Aisamuddin played two pieces - one anime theme song and a tune by South Korean pianist Yiruma.

"You can't get the opportunity to perform so frequently elsewhere," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2017, with the headline Casual concert a boon for pianists. Subscribe