(Photo credits: Albert Chan / May Ling
L to R: Jerome Lee, Mrs Pauline Huang, Yu Teik Lee)
Presented by Sifon Music Productions (solely owned by veteran Xinyao singer-songwriter Huang Hongmo), Soulful Sunday is a shared musical journey towards pop piano improvisation. Today’s speakers/trainers are Yu Teik Lee and Jerome Lee, ardent and enthusiastic Pianovers. (I found out about this event via a Facebook post by another passionate member, Goh Zensen.)
This sharing session comes about because of the collaboration between Sifon and Zensen. The event is called Soulful because the way Teik Lee and Jerome play is full of soul and passion, with a lot of improvisation and very impressive, and helps the listener understand a different style of playing music.
The first to speak is Teik Lee. He started off by recounting how he discovered his style of music, his learning journey, his insight into piano playing, his favourite songs and genres of songs, how to play by ear and improvisation. (Richard Clayderman is the main motivator.) He also shared how his playing has evolved from a classical background (even quoting Beethoven’s Sonata Op 101) to sentimental pop ballads. It is very enriching to explore and experiment with the different ways of playing the piano. He used Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to demonstrate how a simple melody like this is akin to be given a blank canvas for add-ons by putting in the chords and embellishments. My deepest impression is when he declared that “anyone who can sing can play by ear, even someone without perfect pitch”. (Does this imply that someone who can’t sing properly will not be able to play by ear? I always barely passed my Aural tests, and I need hearing aids; is that why I’m unable to play by ear?) He further demonstrated with a Malay song (Lenggang Kangkong), a Chinese song (The Moon Represents My Heart) and Moon River (which he also sang). He also mentioned that it is not easy to coordinate singing and playing (which I didn’t really comprehend). His talk ended with a quote from Beethoven: To play a wrong note is insignificant, but to play without passion is inexcusable.
The next speaker is Jerome, who also began by sharing how far he has come from a classical background to explore across multiple music genres over three decades. He also spoke at length about reharmonising techniques through interaction, simplification and improvisation. One thing I remember is: The more you learn, the more informed you are because all teachers teach differently. I have definitely not come across a teacher like him. Nevertheless, he got me curious enough to want to try to transpose (pop) songs into just C+, G+ or F+ (or their relative minor keys : Am, Em & Dm), as most songs can be played with just these 6 chords. (But I’m thinking it’ll be easier to play in the original key according to the score.) He demonstrated using eight songs written by Singaporeans such as Eric Moo, Dr Liang Wern Fook and Dick Lee. (Now I’m inspired to dig up my score for these songs and play them again.) His segment is twice as long as Teik Lee’s because it is more technical (and therefore more ‘complicated’). One new term I learned is that an anacrusis is also called a Single Note Glide.
It has been a refreshing and enriching session. I look forward to attending more such sessions but I doubt I would make the ‘switch’ from my classical training easily. (After all, it was much much more difficult for me to get started on the piano compared to these two gentlemen. And I had a very different career path which would not have allowed me the ‘luxuries’ that they had.)