Yiruma, the internationally-renowned pianist-composer from South Korea was in Singapore to perform publicly for the very first time at The Star Performing Arts Center on April 5. All 5,000 tickets were completely sold out. I was so lucky to be able to watch him perform his beautiful melodies; it was even more meaningful because that day was my birthday!
The soft-spoken pianist has a great sense of humor, surprisingly. After opening the concert with “May Be“, Yiruma stood up to greet the 5,000 strong audience.
“Hi Singapore, hi everyone. Wow! This is really wonderful, it’s very scary. It’s scary, but it’s very exciting to be here in Singapore. Are there any Koreans here? Annyeonghaseyo! I’m composer and pianist Yiruma, it’s so nice to meet you. Thank You!”
“Xie xie (Thank you, in Mandarin), I started with the song called ‘May Be.’ I’ll just put it as a song, I sing with the piano, it’s a song without words or lyrics. But I love to sing with the piano. Well, I’d been to Singapore in year 1992; that was the last time I came here. Everything has changed (laughs). But it feels really great to be here.”
“I hope you like my music today. I trust some of you are really familiar with my music, but some of you are not, I presume. My music is very, very simple and calm, so please please don’t fall asleep (laughs). That was the one thing that I wanted to tell you. While you listen to my music, I hope you look back your past memories. Perhaps, I’m sure when I play my music, you’ll probably be capturing the moments you want to remember. That could be the bad memories, that could be happy memories.”
Each time Yiruma stops to interact with the audience, he never fails to draw laughter all around with his jokes, telling them in his subtle manner. It needn’t take big actions to be funny; Yiruma has proven that. After ending “When the Love Falls“, Yiruma said, “Do you like that? (applause) Thank you, I think Singaporeans are all very, very friendly… I think (laughs).”
Yiruma went on to introduce the next two songs from his seventh album, “Stay in Memory.” “I write music from my own memories; it’s like recording for my memories. The piano is just the tool, but I have really good memories here in Singapore, as I said before, from when I was here in 1992. My father was working here in Singapore; he lived in Pandan Valley. I came over to Singapore every summer vacation and I remember every time I shower in the shower booth, something was looking down on me, and when I looked up, there was a lizard. That was a good memory (laughs).”
After performing “Nocturne No. 1“, Yiruma asked, “is there anyone who is sleeping already? Are you ok? You feeling tired? A little? I’m sure you had dinner before you came here. It’s a bit of bad timing (laughs). The next two songs are from my third album. You know, actually, I have stage fright, you believe me? Yes, I have stage fright. You think I’m looking at you, but no (laughs).”
Before performing “Indigo,” Yiruma shared the background story of the song. “I was writing one song long ago. I was sitting on the piano like this, and I turned on the TV. I like writing music with the TV on because it feels like I’m not alone. I was writing things like this (strums on keyboard), and I looked up out the window, and it was already dark, already night. [Sorry] my English is poor, but I suddenly felt the color of the night that I saw made me calm and comfortable. After that happened, I tried to wear Indigo Blue colored clothes every time I go on stage. But tonight, you won’t be able to see it, because it is not outside (laughs).” Did Yiruma just revealed his undergarment’s color? Hmmm…
It seems that most of the audience haven been eagerly waiting for Yiruma to perform “Kiss The Rain“, as thunderous cheers were heard immediately when the pianist announced the title of the next piece. “Now the last song for the first half. I think you need to rest (laughs), I need to rest too. This song, I have to say is very easy to play, is called “Kiss The Rain” (cheers and applause). You know this song? Kiss the Rain? Really? So amazing, and I never met you, but you know this song already (laughs), strange… (laughs) I’m sure some of you here could play piano, and I’m sure they tried this song, downloading from the internet illegally (laughs). It’s ok, I allow you (laughs). Because that was my dream, that many people play my music. Because I’m not a singer, I can’t be on TV. There’s no program for me (laughs), it’s all K-Pop, K-Pop, K-Pop (laughs)! You know I wrote some songs for K-Pop, that’s amazing, but… here we go, “Kiss The Rain,” the song that can be played by anyone. You should try it. If you know piano, you can just press it,” easily throwing yet another joke.
After a 20-minute intermission, Yiruma returned to stage once again with “Fairy Tale“, an OST from popular drama “Secret Garden.” The funny man was worried that people might leave during the intermission: “Thank you so much for coming back (laughs)! I always get worried, when I have intermission. I felt like people are leaving.”
The next song “Loanna” was named after Yiruma’s seven-year-old daughter. “I wanted to give her something special, something that is priceless. I wrote this while I was in National Service in Korea. I was in the navy; I was a sailor. Yes, I was a sailor, playing piano (laughs). I wanted to play this at her wedding, and now she’s only seven (laughs).”
Yiruma also made a little event for the audience. “Should I do a little event? Do you want that? No event? You just want me to play? I do it in Korea and sometimes people like it, and sometimes they don’t. I still cannot make the decision whether to do it or not. Do you want me to do it?” The audience gave a loud “yes!” in response.
“I’d heard that Singaporeans are very quiet, it seems… not like that (laughs).” Yiruma went on trying to pick a person to join him on stage to do an improvised song together just for Singapore. “I’m going to choose one person from the audience and I’m going to ask her or him to come up to the stage and play a song with me. Is there anyone who wants to play with me? Obviously you don’t have to be professional… just one person… if you want to have a good memory, or a bad one? It’s going to be really scary I tell you!” They titled the song “Good Memories“. The female fan Caitlin plays just three notes repetitively but it was a wonderful collaboration that drew much cheers and applause from the audience. Yiruma said he’s going to use it for his next album!
Cellist Kim Young Min was then introduced on stage to join Yiruma for the remaining pieces, beginning from “Blind Film.” They have been friends and performing together for 13 years after meeting in the navy. Yiruma advised that we can hear better music when we enjoy it with our eyes closed. Yes, I tried to do it, but decided to open my eyes soon after for fear of falling asleep! Yiruma’s music is really soothing!
The only time that Yiruma became more somber was when he talked about “Waltz,” which was written in memory of his late father-in-law. It was sadly beautiful and I was captivated by it that night.
“Now there are only two songs left. You like that? You want to go home? The next song is called “River Flows in You,” and without much explanation, Yiruma began performing this most recognizable piece. After hitting the last note, Yiruma shared, “I saw so many people playing this on YouTube (laughs). It’s great, and it’s such a easy piece to play. I can’t play well but people play so well and they make a clip on YouTube, orchestra version, and there is a House version, do you know? In Europe, one of the DJ made a house version of it (Yiruma demostrates), very strange… (laughs). Now it’s the last song (audience went (awww”), it’s too late (laughs).”
Yiruma revealed that the title of the last piece “Reminiscent” was purposely ended with a “T” instead of spelled “Reminiscence” because they are already so many songs called “Reminiscence.” The “T” allows his fans to find it online easily. Soon it was time to end and send everyone home. “Do you have the time? (yes) You going to remember me? (yes) You want me to come back soon? (yes) I’ll come back soon (applause).
The audience was left yearning for more after Yiruma and cellist Kim Young Min left the stage. After some persistent non-stop applause, the duo returned to perform “River Flows in You” as the encore song and closed the concert on a high note when the audience gave a standing ovation.
Special thanks to Mode Entertainment for inviting Soompi to the concert.
When The Love Falls
Stay In Memory
Nocturne No.1 In C (Summer Nocturne)
Kiss The Rain
Blind Improvisation + Destiny of Love (with Cello)
Waltz in E Minor (with Cello)
Passing By (with Cello)
River Flows In You (with Cello)
Reminiscent (with Cello)
Concert photos credit: Mode Entertainment