The International Piano Festival and Competition that was hosted by UCSI University’s Institute of Music from the 8th to the 12th of June was a treasure trove of exciting musical events the entire week. UCSI was privileged to have Dr. Lucas Wong, the Assistant Professor of Piano at Soochow University School of Music in China, conduct a masterclass during the festival. Dr. Lucas Wong is a highly talented and well-rounded musician. From giving solo performances to playing chamber music to being an extremely established pedagogue, he is a master of all trades.
Dr. Lucas Wong conducted a voice-piano masterclass in UCSI IMus Recital Hall on the 10th of June with the help of a few performers, namely Luigi Gan (Baritone), Sia Pei San (Soprano) and Jeremy Yeo (Pianist).
Luigi was up first, performing the art-song “Zueignung” by Richard Strauss. Luigi and Jeremy were both commended for their efforts in interpreting the piece as there was a warm, rich tone from Luigi’s voice that suited the song very well, and Jeremy was an excellent support to the song. The piece stirred memories of his years in the University of British Columbia as it had been one of the earliest pieces he had played during his studies there.
After their performance, Luigi was asked to explain the song in detail. He told us that the piece was about love and the feeling of heartbreak as the character is being separated from his lover. Dr. Wong starts to probe about the background of the music, asking questions that helped us to see the relation between the words and the music.
“You have to sing every element of the music. Say it as if you mean it” Dr. Wong stressed as he requested for Luigi to recite the poem in German, while he provided the English translation to the non-German speaking audience. He then turned to Jeremy and asked him a question that most vocal pianists tend to overlook, “How will you invite the singer into the music? What kind of mood do you want to create for the singer?”
Dr. Wong explained that as a vocal accompanist, the pianist’s job is more than just to play the accompaniment for the vocalist, but to pick the piece apart and look at how the words influence the music, and work with the words.
“Many times we do the opposite of what the composer really means. Art song is when the words come before the music.”
Dr. Wong concluded his session with Luigi by acknowledging his potential in singing, and that he can further enrich his music by being more specific, identifying important words of the phrase, and writing out the poems that he is singing.
Jeremy returned to the stage with Sia Pei San who sang ‘Je veux vivre dans le rêve (Juliet’s Waltz)’ by Charles Gounod. Juliet’s Waltz is a song about Juliet singing about her youth and living in her daydream. It is a breathless, exciting piece that draws people to see Juliet’s perspective on life, a young woman who cannot wait to explore the world and will not be tied down. After the performance, Dr. Wong complimented her singing and proceeded to get rid of tension that was due to nervousness. He taught her to use her facial expressions to help her with her singing.
“You’re singing a happy song! You should smile.”
He also called up three volunteers to stand on each side, and she had to rush up to someone different every time the beat changed. The whole scene helped her to relax completely as well as recreate that sort of breathless feeling that was lacking from the song. The whole unconventional teaching method created a lot of laughter in the hall, but Pei San did a wonderful job and went along with his teaching and ended up with beautiful performance at the end, projecting both the attitude and the voice in her performance.
“It’s like he put her in a box and she had to sing her way out”- Dorothy Kay Yen Sin, student of Foundation in Music Program
“The masterclass was really fun. It was actually my first masterclass, and it was a different approach from the usual masterclasses I’ve watched. For me it feels more like the opera workshop I attended last year” –Sia Pei San.
It is safe to say that everyone really enjoyed the masterclass with Dr. Lucas Wong and gained incredible insight during the session.
“The basic unit of any music for me is harmony. Then it is the marriage between harmony and text that brings life to the song”
This article was written by Jessica Teh, IMus Scholar, 2nd semester in the Foundation in Music program.