A resplendent piano performance
“On Wings of Song” lets us take flight
Under the direction of Dongfang Song, more than 70 Pao students recently performed a splendid piano concert for the parents, students and teachers of the Secondary Division. The concert included a wide array of virtuoso performances, which combined Chinese and Western musical traditions; among the highlights were piano duets. The 7-meter triangle piano showcased at the concert was a generous gift from the Pao School Foundation and Pao parents. This outstanding concert was the second of its kind; the first was held in 2015 and called '80 minutes to travel around the world'.
Headmaster Wu said to the students: 'Take flight on wings of song and become leaders in many fields'!
The German composer Mendelssohn’s song 'On the Wings of Song', with lyrics based on the poet Heine's poem of the same name, inspired this concert. The concert was divided into five different movements: 'Song and Dance', 'Christmas Flower Ceremony', 'French Style', 'Night Fragrance' and 'New Year Bells'. The different movements showcased the students' colourful personalities and rich, diverse musical talent. Overall, 30 Chinese and foreign piano works (from 11 different countries) were included in the programme, featuring a wide variety of different musical instruments.
Ascending on the wings of song
The concert opened with a French piece called 'Galop Marche', showcasing the adroit, delicate playing of Song Dongfang, accompanied by three students. It was a lively, elegant and joyful performance.
Following 'On the Wings of Song', the students performed two traditional Chinese folk pieces: 'Jasmine Flower' and 'Excerpt of Beijing Opera'. Next came the traditional Belarusian dance 'Yanka-Polka' and Tchaikovsky's“Spanish Dance”from 'Swan Lake'. The audience enjoyed the lively singing and dancing.
With the performance of 'Christmas Flower Ceremony', 'French Style', 'Night Fragrance' and 'New Year Bells', the piano became a time machine, transporting the audience first to the Christmas season with 'Keepsake' and 'The Nutcracker Suite'. The performance of 'French Style' evoked the timeless elegance of the city of Paris: Notre Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower and the picturesque Seine River. 'Serenade' took the audience deep into the night sky, illuminated by stars. Like glowing stars in the black sky, the sublime performance illuminated the concert hall. Finally, 'Hurried That Year' allowed the audience to look back on time past little by little, while 'Spring Sonata' made everyone look forward to the arrival of the New Year.
Every year for the concert finale, Ms. Song plays some crowd-pleasers for the audience. This year she played French composer Ravel’s 'Jeux D’eau' for his teacher and Earl Spencer when she received a full scholarship to study at RWCMD and also thanked Wee Studio, the student team who designed the concert poster.
Preparation is essential
Secondary Division students spent about two months preparing for the concert. Given that their piano skills are at different levels, Ms Song had to carefully select pieces for different students to play. She even revised some solo pieces so that they could be played for 4-hands or 6-hands. It's important to note that Pao School was in full compliance with relevant copyright law; the Music Department purchased the official scores of all pieces used in the concert. This helps to increase student awareness of the importance of adhering to copyright law. Composers and artists own this music, and we need to be respectful of that by not downloading free versions of their music on the internet.
Ms Song always includes Chinese piano music in the concert repertoire, in line with Pao School's mission of passing on Chinese cultural traditions. At the same time, by performing Western musical pieces, students broaden their horizons; this is integral to Pao School's mission of fostering an international perspective. Finally, cultivating an appreciation of the arts and allowing students the opportunity to develop their piano skills and build character; this illustrates Pao School's emphasis on whole-person education. Ms Song is deeply impressed by Pao students' musical talent and has found that they are skilled at writing lyrics and music alike. In the future, she hopes to channel these talents by developing a piano club at Pao School and involving students more in the process of selecting pieces to perform in concerts.
Practicing piano is beneficial in many ways
Piano playing gives students a great sense of accomplishment
Ms Song thanks Pao School and Pao parents for their support of whole-person education and their careful attention to character building. Practicing a musical instrument enriches the lives of students in many ways. Physically, it is excellent for hand-eye coordination. It is also excellent for mental discipline. Finally, learning to play music provides an emotional fulfillment, allowing students to express themselves in a new and different way.
Meanwhile, performing in front of an audience helps students to overcome stage fright and build their confidence. Overcoming challenges along way makes them stronger and gives them a great sense of accomplishment. And as they perform songs from many different countries, the students are exposed to both diverse musical traditions and ways of thinking. This connects them to the wider world beyond their immediate surroundings and helps them to realize that music is a universal language - one that knows no national borders.
May Pao students ascend to new heights on the wings of song!
Song Dongfang, Concert and Piano Studies Director