Oliver Gao, 15, left, and Alyssa Xiong, 14, will be performing at the 22nd annual Fall Piano Concert on Nov. 16. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)

Dark, dramatic and whistfully dreamy dominate annual piano concert in Pitt Meadows

The 22nd annual Fall Piano Concert takes place Nov. 16

The dark and brooding sounds of Sergei Rachmaninov alongside the wistfully happy music of Robert Schumann will be featured in the 22nd annual Fall Piano Concert.

At first Alyssa Xiong didn’t think she was going to be able to play Rachmaninov’s Prelude in C Sharp Minor Opus 3 No. 2 because of the massive chords involved.

“Comfortably I can reach eight notes,” said the 14-year-old.

“Rachmaninov could reach notes, like 13 notes apart. So he had a huge hand span,” she explained.

“If I was playing it slowly I was fine with the chords. Once I tried to speed it up I had a bit of difficulty,” Xiong smiled.

But after debating about the problem with her teacher, Dan Wardrope, she came up with a solution by using different muscle groups in her wrist and arm.

“You have to use more pressure sometimes to make the chords sound massive enough,” said Xiong.

What she enjoys most about the piece are the dark and dramatic themes throughout.

“Rachmaninov said he had trouble writing happy sounding pieces, as I believe most of his pieces were dark, dramatic, gloomy, broody,” said Xiong.

Nicknames for the prelude include The Bells of Moscow, The Burning of Moscow and The Moscow Waltz, after his home town that he left after the Russian Revolution.

In his new home, America, the piece became so popular it was nicknamed It.

“Because when you’ld finish your concert the audience would start yelling, ‘Play It, Play It’. It was such an iconic piece by Rachmaninov,” Wardrope laughed.

Oliver Gao, 15, will be performing Schumann’s Arabesque in C Major Opus 18.

“It’s a piece that he composed in his early years,” Gao explained.

“It’s really famous for it’s overall wistful atmosphere. And in between there are more passionate, darker sections that contrast the piece,” he said adding that the main theme of the song has a dreamy-feel.

The piece also features a lot of harmonious textures.

“Schumann’s music was notoriously (difficult to play). It often doesn’t sound as hard to play as it is. There’s lots of layers,” said Wardrope.

Schumann famously depicted two characters in his pieces called Eusebius and Florestan.

“Eusebius was more of a meditative character while Florestan was a passionate fiery side of his personality,” said Gao.

This will be the first time for Xiong and Gao performing in the concert. There will be ten performers in total who are all at the Grade 10 or the Associate of The Royal Conservatory level, the highest graded level or professional level of piano.

Two performers in this years concert have actually completed their ARCT.

Every year the concert raises money for a different charity.

This year they are raising money for HOPE International Development Agency whose mission is to improve the supply of basic human necessities for the neediest of people in the developing world through self-help activities and to challenge, educate and involve North Americans in those development issues.

This will be the third year they will be donating to HOPE. Last year they donated $950 to the organization.

In total the concert has raised more than $30,000 for different causes over the last 22 years.

The 22nd annual Fall Piano Concert takes place at 7 p.m. on Nov. 16 at Swaneset Bay Resort and Country Club, 16651 Rannie Rd. in Pitt Meadows.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are $15 which includes light refreshments at intermission.

The concert sells out every year and so tickets must be pre-ordered by calling Dan Wardrope at 604-818-8853 or email djwardrope@gmail.com.

The program will also include performances of Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Joseph Haydn, Franz Liszt, Claude Debussy, Nikolai Medtner, George Gershwin and a duet.

Performers will include Maisie Liu, Oliver Gao, Tracy Yang, Alyssa Xiong, Adriana Wardrope, Charis Wardrope, Tabea Hall, Andrew Croswell, Emily Zhang and Nicole Lassetter.

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