The Piano Guys in Singapore. Weird, Wonderful And Strangely Moving
“I drink only vodka. I am Russian, ex-military, usually I only listen to heavy metal. I cried.” That’s a self-confessed fan talking about The Piano Guys YouTube channel.
Singaporeans are nuts for all kinds of music, so it was no surprise that when The Piano Guys turned up for a one-night only concert here on Monday 2nd September, tickets flew and a bigger venue was booked to accommodate excited local fans.
The Piano Guys are a hugely infectious (in a good way) pop meets classics group that have won over millions of fans online with their quirky instrumental offerings. In a nutshell, the group’s music is like you were invited to the kind of party where Beethoven, Taylor Swift, Faure, Michael Jackson, Mozart and Coldplay are jamming together in some kind of super ensemble. Weird, wonderful and strangely moving.
The increasingly famous group features uber-talented pianist and composer Jon Schmidt and kick-butt cellist Steve Sharp Nelson.
The duo introduce themselves with their own brand of self deprecating humour,
“I’m Steve, I play the cello, which is kind of like a violin with a pituitary problem and I’m Jon, I play the piano which is sort of like a cello but…not really. ”
The magic really begins when you add the Studio/Video talents of Al Van Der Beek, Tel Stewart and Paul Anderson.
The Piano Guys began making stunning music videos to accompany their classic/pop mashups for fun, but their "hobby" soon turned into a worldwide online phenomenon.
“The Piano Guys don’t just make music. They create sonic and visual masterpieces, works of art to be devoured by the ears, eyes, mind, heart and soul.” Alexa Verdugo Morgan, StGeorgeUtah.com
As of March 22, 2013, their YouTube channel had 1,477,284 subscribers and 205,655,804 total video views, about twice as many subscribers as Christina Aguilera. The self titled channel gains an average of 4,000 new subscribers every day, and each of their videos has received over 1 million views. Phew!
With all this preceding razzmatazz, The Piano Guys in Singapore did not disappoint. Fans were treated to the full range of their intelligent interpretations such as David Guetta’s Titanium (melded with Faure’s Pavane), The Bourne Ultimatum/Vivaldi and a compelling marrying of Dvorak's Largo (Going Home) and Phillip Phillips' Home.
Nelson played on a number of cellos - a classic named Boris, a carbon-fibre model that doubled as percussion instrument, and a skeletal electric called Bruce Lee with the ability to record and overdub. This enabled multiple layers of cello playing to be heard simultaneously, essential a virtual cello orchestra.
He performed solo on Beethoven's 5 Secrets, a play on themes from Ludwig’s Fifth Symphony, partly accompanied by accomplished violinists from Singapore’s own United World College. Pianist Schmidt also had his own solo, a ’brillante’ composition called Waterfall, which involved constant crossing of the hands and an impossible amount of ‘prestissimo’, somewhat like an updated Scarlatti sonata.
“Two and a half hours passed all too quickly, and two encores - Bring Him Home from Les Miserables and Elvis Presley's Can't Help Falling In Love - brought about a standing ovation. If you did not smile, laugh, cry, clap in rhythm or throw up your hands in pure pleasure, thy name is Ebenezer Scrooge.” Chang Tou Liang, The Straits Times
The Piano Guys have promised to come back to Singapore and we can’t wait, meantime what’s next for them?
We just want to keep doing what we’re doing,” Sharp Nelson says. “I honestly believe our best song has yet to be written.”