January 22

My First House Concert

house concert

    I’m one of those people you know who dreams (big and small) and are determined to make them come true (sooner or later). People often tell me how they admire my determination, but for me it is simply an obsession over something I truly desire. One of my dreams was to one day make enough money to buy a big house, so I can have a Steinway grand piano, and hold house concerts.  The house and piano happened a few years ago, but it took me a few more years to get back to my piano practice routine plus make enough friends locally who were interested in classical piano music.

Two months ago my friend June came to visit me. We met at the School of Music at Indiana University and have been great friend since. She has a recital at the end of this month and I invited her to come stay with me and practice at my house until her recital date. Then it occurred to me  that this may be a great opportunity for me to hold my first house concert. My original plan was to get a full concert program ready myself and do a solo concert later this year, but then I thought — wouldn’t it be more fun for the audience if they could hear two pianists in one concert? That way each of us only need to be responsible for half of the program. Also, just because we do a concert in January, doesn’t mean there can’t be another one later in the year.

June gladly said yes and we started working on the details. We have never played together but decided to learn some duets for the concert. (Hungarian Rhapsody No. 4 through 7 by Brahms) We carefully considered potential audience’s availability and decided to hold the concert in the evening on 1/11, which was a Saturday. A few days before the concert, Mike moved the furniture out of the living room and steam-cleaned the carpet. Then his dad and our friend Siong came to help move the piano from the piano room to our big living room. Mike’s step mom also volunteered to help with the reception table, after learning about my pathetic dinnerware collection and poor presentation skills. We arranged the chairs and the whole space looked cozy and professional.

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    Invites were sent and everything seemed to go very well, until a thunderstorm started a few hours before the concert! Even though it prevented a few people from coming, the rest who came arrived on time. My friend Dawn (owner of Single Smile Cafe) brought some amazing chocolate fondue, and Lynn made the reception table so much prettier than I expected. Everyone went straight to the reception table (wait, aren’t you here for the concert? — alright, I admit I couldn’t help getting a few bites too…) and started chatting. I was glad to see the guests enjoying their time. Meanwhile, my piano studio (next to the living room) was now turned into the pianists’ greenroom, and June was still there practicing on my Yamaha keyboard (with the headphone on so the audience wouldn’t hear her) because she was to play first. She presented the whole Schubert’s last Sonata, D. 960.

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     The concert turned out great. June and I both talked a little about our pieces before we started playing — the background of the composer and the piece, and how we felt about them as the interpreters. There was a 15 min intermission during when everyone (oh, yes, me included of course….) ate, drank, and chatted more. We started the second half on time with my performance of Chopin Ballade no. 4, and the whole concert ended with our duet. After that there was another round of eating, drinking and chatting.

It was a dream come true and it was more fun than I imagined. Needless to say I decided to do more house concerts in the future.  I already have more ideas for them, one being getting this girl to play …

Kirby Easler

   This is my little friend Kirby (guitarist/pianist), trying out my piano after the concert. I think she liked it!

 

 

 

 

June 29

Lovely

I’d like to share this page of score with you. It is the first Variation of Mozart KV331. At the beginning of the variation my piano professor Edward Auer had written the word “lovely” to remind me the spirit of the piece.  That was over five years ago. I did understand how the piece should sound like, but somehow it was rather awkward for me to execute it correctly back then. I sounded more “neurotic” than “lovely” when I listened to a recording of my practice.

I certainly hope it sounds better now. I got to record KV331 from Theme through Variation IV yesterday, so you can now hear how I play this passage —

KV 331 Theme through Variation IV

 

 

June 25

Recent News – And a Short Audio Clip of Mozart KV 331

A lot has happened in the past 7 months that prevented me from recording and posting…Long story short, my brand new Tascam US-800 interface turned out not to work with my Windows 7 – 64 bit computer. I searched high and low online but simply couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t get it to work. I was frustrated beyond belief and eventually just quit recording altogether. I finally sent the interface back to Tascam, who issued me a full refund right away (apparently they had known the issue with this discontinued model and its incompatibility with Windows 7 – 64 bit). I didn’t want the money — I wanted an interface that worked for me, but I really didn’t know which interface to get. After all, I’m a classical musician, not a recording engineer.

Then I found out Guitar Center offered free recording lessons every Saturday morning, so I decided to check them out to see if it would help me understand the whole recording process a little better. At first I was totally clueless, but after a few sessions I started to feel more familiar with the recording terminology and equipments. So here are the new equipments I bought in the past few weeks —

– M-Audio Fast Track Ultra interface

-Pro Tools MP – (the software that came with M-Audio)

-Yamaha P-155 – I’ve been wanting to buy a keyboard for a while and eventually decided to go with this one because of it has weighted keys and the touch is pretty sensitive. It can also be used as a midi.

-On Stage KS7150 Table Top Keyboard Stand – for my Yamaha keyboard I originally purchased a standard sized keyboard stand which was adjustable from 27″ to 39″. 27″ turned out to be just one inch too high for me. It was to either purchase a tall keyboard bench, or a lower keyboard, and I decided to go with the latter.

The recording lessons at Guitar Center also helped me connect with the instructor Ben, who actually came to my house tonight for a private recording lesson. I was so glad to find someone who could set everything up for me without me having to read through the horribly complicated manuals. Ha! Ben also made me realize I probably was never going to figure all these things out without help.

So here’s the first short clip I did after my recording lesson, hope you enjoy it. This is the theme from Mozart’s Piano Sonata KV331 (I promise the rest of the Sonata will come soon!), hope you enjoy —

Mozart Piano Sonata KV 331 – Andante grazioso

November 12

11/11/11

Today is a special day so I shall do a special blog update. First of all, I will be doing a cafe concert with my 8-hand piano group “The Four Top Notes” at Single Smile Cafe next Thursday. This is a free and informal public concert, so do stop by anytime between 5 and 8pm if you happen to be around.

Among all the 8-hand piano pieces performed is Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No.2. This is an exciting virtuosic piece and I will be playing the primo part (the melody) on piano II. The piece starts slowly but then gradually speeds up towards the end. I had so much fun with this piece during the practice sessions that I decided to learn the original solo version, because when all the crazy notes were divided by four pianist, the piece was (I don’t usually say this) simply not challenging enough for me!

This week is special for me because I made some good progress musically. I have finished Chopin Ballade No. 4 and performed it from memory twice, so I’m hoping to do a new recording on it soon — this time, a video as well! A few things have been holding me back: the piano needs to be tuned, my piano group concerts are coming up, and my jewelry business is starting to get busy  because of the holidays. BUT it will be done. I promise.

Another thing that makes me happy this week is that I am finally able to see my life from a different perspective. All of a sudden I “feel” the world around me changing, although I know it is only me that is changing. I have been working on this for many years and now it’s finally happening. It felt like something inside me “clicked” and changed the direction of my mindset and my whole being, and then from then on I just started to get a little happier each day.  I will talk more about this in the future. I cannot tell you exactly what happened this week, because nothing really happened other than my finishing Chopin Ballade #4 and moving on to Liszt Rhapsody #2, but basically, know that I feel hopeful and look forward to the future, and am at a happy place.

Hope you have a happy 11/11/11  too. 🙂

August 17

The Lady Who Calls Me Millie

I have been going to Single Smile Cafe to play a few short pieces and listen to other musicians play almost weekly. Not only do we have regular musicians, we also get some regular audience as well. There is an old lady in the audience who comes every once a while and she seems to really enjoy my playing. Instead of Mollie, she somehow remembered me as Millie. I never corrected her because, I guess, I actually liked that name. Every time, when she sees me, she would ask, “are you going to play today, Millie?” and I would tell her yes. When I finish and go back to my seat, she would ask, “are you going to play more, Millie?” If I  tell her no, she would ask, “will you play more, Millie? I really love it when you play the piano.” She would ask several times until she is certain that I will not play anymore for the night.

After countless hours of practice, I believe that is all a musician wants – to hear the audience ask, “will you play more?”

 

May 18

New Recordings and Music Night at Single Smile Cafe

Added two new recordings to the recordings page today — updated Chopin Nocturne Op.9 No.3 (second take) and the popular Nocturne Op.9 No.2 (first take). No.3 is a new piece for me. Just started three weeks ago and probably still need to work on it for a little longer.

I played both pieces at Single Smile Cafe tonight. Keith Miller, a member from the Greater Summerville Music Forum (which I just recently joined) started the “Acoustic Night” for musicians and anyone who enjoys free live music with a cup of coffee on a nice summer night. The current plan is to hold the acoustic night every Tuesday from 6-8pm, and anyone who plays music is welcome to bring an instrument, share some music in a relaxing setting with a supportive audience. The little cafe was packed tonight. I met a few talented musicians and exchanged a lot of ideas with them. We stayed until the cafe closed at 9. It was great fun.

Earlier today I also had my first practice session with an 8-hand piano group. It has been too long since I had to sight read so much, but I enjoyed it immensely and look forward to our next practice session in two weeks.

Striving for perfection is important, and so is the sheer enjoyment of playing. It was a happy day for me today.

March 22

Classical Music on Netflix

I have had a Netflix subscription for a while, but it was not until recently that I started to notice a few movies and documentary about music on their DVD list. Today, while browsing their category, I was pleasantly surprised to see a music&musicals category. I watched this documentary “They Came to Play” on instant streaming and loved it. Having been an amateur pianist until age 21, I found this documentary  on  the 2007 International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs truly inspiring. Even though I eventually had professional training in music, very often I still find myself an amateur pianist at heart.