Tuesday, 30 October 2012

2ND PERFORMER'S VOICE SYMPOSIUM: Lee Pei Ming on George Crumb / The Spiritual Journey of John Sharpley



Sunday afternoon was the only day I could attend any of the sessions at the 2nd Performer's Voice Symposium, I did so as some of the talks were given by my musical fraternity friends or about their lives, and also for my own curiosity. Lee Pei Ming, who lectures at the Conservatory, is one of two Singaporeans who perform the music of American composer George Crumb (born 1929). The other one is, of course, Margaret Leng Tan. She had given the Singapore premiere of Crumb's Eine Kleine Mitternachtmusik (A Little Midnight Music) in 2006 at the Singapore International Piano Festival. From my memory, it was a very absorbing performance as she had worked on the work with the composer himself, besides being a virtuosic pianist herself. In this session, she talked about Crumb, the work and some performance aspects.

The first page of A Little Midnight Music.

Although the work did not require a prepared piano, Pei Ming still needed to strum, scratch and strike the insides of the piano for the required sound effects.

The work is a meditation on Thelonious Monk's 'Round Midnight, and included quotes from Debussy, Wagner and Richard Strauss. She demonstrated some of these with the help of Thomas Hecht, who depressed the lower keys for her.


The second talk I attended was given by Texas-born pianist Elyane Lassaude, now based in Australia, who spoke on the life and works of the American-Singaporean composer-pianist cum educator John Sharpley. She and John had known each other since young, and she had keenly followed his illustrious composing career over the years and was touched by the spirituality of his music. John is a renaissance man among musicians, and his music reflects his wide knowledge and experience of philosophy, literature and Asian cultures and religions. Yet he retains a quintessential American aesthete and all-encompassing outlook in his output. A number of pivotal works were cited, excerpts of which were heard. As it was impossible to have covered everything within 45 minutes, perhaps a separate symposium be held to discuss his music in greater detail sometime in the future. 

People who attended included students, teachers, performers, composers and writers.  

To round up the session, Elyane Laussade performed John Sharpley's Singapore Blues, a work reminiscent of Copland and Barber, but with a Malay-flavoured twist towards the end.

Hearty cheers from the composer (extreme left) himself.

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