The 21st Annual Piano Ensemble Festival was held in the College Theatre in the at Fullerton College and showcased immensely talented participants who delivered grace, suspense and pure entertainment in each of the 13 performances.
As 7:30 p.m. neared, performers and audience members settled comfortably in their seats and waited for the upcoming duets and multiple ensemble teams that would soon occupy the dimly lit stage.
Performers were divided into six different levels: early intermediate, intermediate, late intermediate, advanced, teacher, and multiple.
“Each category is divided by playing level rather than age so that in each section, all students play about the same level of difficulty,” said Monica Lee, Chairwoman of the event.
Any doubts about whether the early intermediate students were going to captivate like the higher level performers, quickly withered away as each duo demanded the eyes and ears of the audience.
Lee emphasized that judges looked for, “well-prepared teamwork, accuracy of notes and rhythm, balance, musicianship, interpretation and stage presentation.”
Each pair of young performers relied on each other’s strengths and rhythm as students nodded and swayed to the music, gracefully lifting their fingers up to signal the pauses. Every note pulsed with accuracy and vibrant color, at times soft and melancholy and other times loud and alarming. It was imminent that these starlets would capture the audience, as spectators refused to divert their eyes from the stage.
Performers playing at the intermediate level and on continued to awe as the notes and composition became more complex and fast-paced. However, for Intermediate Level sisters, Thanh Tong, 14, and Trisha Tong, a slow and dreamy piece called “Dreams We Share” by Randall Hartsell was the perfect choice to showcase their tight-knit teamwork and ability to produce crystal-clear notes that rang throughout the theater.
“My sister and I just played and practiced every night. There’s only one pian
o at our house, so we would have lessons at piano school twice or three times a week,” Thanh Tong said.
While the duos flaunted their flawless delivery and keen interpretation, the multiple ensemble teams grabbed the unwavering attention of the audience once again. Both teams under the multiple categories were quartets, but the execution and overall performance of each were vastly different.
The first quartet opted to focus just on perfecting their musicality through their performance of “Petite Suite-Menuet” by C. Debussy. While their delivery was clean and sharp, the song fell a bit flat, as it did not provide a certain climax or twists that could liven up the performance.
Nevertheless, 18-year-old Chris Gu, who participated in the first quartet, said he wa
s excited to perform since he had worked on it since last semester and had rehearsed every day for several hours at his piano school.
In contrast, the members of the second quartet served a truly fun and relaxed performance as students waved at the audience or even held up a selfie stick to take a group photo while they were playing, almost as if they had planned a mini skit. Audience members chuckled as a performer flashed a toothy smile and waved before diving back into the piano to join the rest. Their song “Galop-Marche” literally galloped through their fingers with its rambunctious notes and bouncy rhythm.
However, the highlight of this concert was undoubtedly, the teachers. Plowing through “Tarantella” by Rachmaninoff, piano instructors Carolyn Chu and Sandra Wu maintained sheer power and control over the piece, not to mention the fiery speed that both performers demonstrated effortlessly during the entire run. Quite simply, they dominated and branded the concert as their own, alluring the audience to their undeniable skill.
“As teachers, we are expected to be at a certain level,” Wu said. “All the performers were absolutely fantastic, the best in their category. As for me, there’s always room for improvement, but I tried my best and am satisfied.”
The crowds seemed to be blown away by the over-all entertainment that they received that night in the campus theatre.
For more information on upcoming Fullerton College Performing Arts events, you can visit the Fine Arts website.