Lifestyle

HITTING THE RIGHT NOTES

By Annie Yim

My conceptual concerts initiate dialogue using various art forms. I wanted to produce works that are heartfelt and thought-provoking. They are a labour of love.

I was 14 when my parents decided to move from Hong Kong to Vancouver. It was just before the handover of Hong Kong back to China in 1997 and quite a few people we knew had left. I remember feeling very homesick and missing my friends and my excellent music teachers. I first fell in love with the piano, and music, at the age of four when I heard it played by a teacher at kindergarten. The magical feeling of that moment is still fresh in my mind, and I knew I wanted to make those beautiful sounds myself.

When my family relocated to Vancouver, I was fortunate to find gifted teachers there and began pursuing my dream of becoming a concert pianist in earnest. Over time, I realised I wanted to be geographically closer to the European composers that I had studied all my life. In 2003, I moved to London and have lived here ever since. My most precious possession, the Yamaha C3 grand piano that I have had since I was 12 years old, came with me and helped me feel at home in my new city.

Collaborating platforms

Launching MusicArt in London in 2015 proved to be a crucial step-up in my career. MusicArt, as a platform opened up so many opportunities for me to collaborate with, and commission works from, composers, visual artists, choreographers and poets from all over the world. But the real inspiration behind this step was the wonderful teachers and mentors I had, including Joan Havill at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and Robert Silverman at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. The idea for MusicArt emerged from my desire to explore the inspirations and aesthetics that influence other creative artists. Using London as an arts hub, I wanted to combine music with visual arts, with poetry and create a thought-provoking dialogue. It has been a fascinating experience to collaborate with other artists on works across creative disciplines. I believe that MusicArt and my collaborators are succeeding in dissolving the boundaries that exist between art forms.

Creative expressions

My Conceptual Concerts take inspiration from and pay homage to icons of music and poetry and art and their work. The unique compositions that my collaborators and I come up with focus on dialogue. The idea is to create dialogues that are musical and spoken, historical and contemporary, travel across space and time and combine visual and aural interactions. We interweave music and words, blurring the boundaries between the traditional roles of musician, composer and poet. Collaborating across art forms to create hybrid new works has unleashed a new creative dimension, full of potential, for me as a pianist. I think of these collaborations like chamber music; at its heart, chamber music is about engaging in dialogue, listening to different voices and ultimately making music together.

I am always moved when my performance engages new listeners. Two weeks after the premiere of ‘Conceptual Concert in Three Acts’ in 2018, I performed a new programme of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Schumann’s Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood) and Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit at the stunning St. Martin-in-the Fields in London. A couple of teenagers came up to me after the performance and told me it was their first time attending a classical music concert, and one of them said, “You’re super good”. An innocent comment like that filled me with pride as a musician.

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