reflections by participants

Jimmy Yap

21 November 2018

1 day before the start of Coalesce

"Yes!", I exclaimed as I punched my fist in the air with euphoria. Ever since I had been informed that I was entitled to Coalesce (Royal Birmingham Conservatory Immersion Trip), I had been anticipating this event. And, now I had finally, after what seemed like an eternity, arrived in Birmingham!

Teacher Rado, my kind, patient and caring Teacher had allotted me 1.5 hours of practice time on my first day (before Coalesce began) as I was desperate to have more practice before the big day (concert day) arrived. 1.5 hours was thankfully enough for me to have a grip again on my pieces after about a week of no practice.

22 November 2018

Day 1 of Coalesce

Today was the first day of my three-day Birmingham coalesce trip. Starting the day off with a practice session for a good warm up, it was followed by an informative lesson conducted by Miss Beetung Goo.

Miss Bee had prepared interesting activities where we could compare the differences between the harpsichord and the piano.

Andreas and I completed the activity with some funny and creative ideas. Afterwards, Miss Bee played some famous pieces by famous composers such as Amadeus Wolfgang Mozart and more on the harpsichord so we could compare them with how the pieces would have sounded on the piano. Last but not least, we finished the lesson with the fun activity of colouring an organ.

Completing the practice session that followed, it was time for my lesson with Pascal Nemirovski. Pascal gave beneficial ideas such as: knowing the composers’ background, knowing when the piece was composed, and then listening and imagining how a good version of your piece would be like. He also mentioned that though your technique must be good, emotional playing is still more important.

Reminiscing this statement in my mind repeatedly, I learnt that although technique is important, emotional playing is key.

After the interesting lesson conducted by Pascal, it was time for my enjoyable individual lesson with Katharine Lam.

She gave me valuable tips such as when I reach the climax, I shouldn't slam on the end of the slurs and instead play it like a non-legato.

She also told me to play the second beat of my left hand like a staccato instead of an accent.

Following that, it was time for my "Little White Donkey" piano and flute duet. Katharine reminded me to play my left hand lighter as Emily (the flutist), was the melody while I was the accompaniment. Although I made mistakes during the practice, it was still a fun and valuable practice session with Emily and Katharine.

It was fun and interesting playing duet pieces. Although I had played duet pieces before, this time it was a duo with a different instrument.

The next lesson by Colin Walker was very different from the rest: instead of focusing on techniques, he started the lesson by illustrating the journey of a musician clearly on the white board.

When he informed us that in DIP ABRSM, we need to do neither scales nor sight-reading, instantaneously, I cheered!

He also went through variations and told us to explain the meaning of the word "variations". Immediately, my hand shot into the air as I answered, "variations is where a piece is remixed".

Roaring laughter reverberated through the classroom as Colin commented that remix is too modern (so technically I am correct, just that remix was too modern! 🤪)

First day of Coalesce was very memorable and meaningful. I had learnt how to play pieces more emotionally, gained the experience of playing with a flute, and last but not least, learnt the phases of the ABRSM exam and the meaning of "variations".

23 November 2018

Day 2 of Coalesce

Beginning the second day of the Coalesce trip, was a practice session with Emily, together with Andreas.

It was an interesting session as Emily and I, under the guidance of Teacher Rado, revised the sections that we were normally off-beat and made mistakes. Emily and Teacher Rado also taught me effective counting systems which enabled me to be on the same beat.

The duet practice with Emily was followed by a lesson with Robert Markham.

The lesson with Robert was great as he gave me essential tips such as how to do a slight "rubato" at high note throughout my solo piece, "Lyrical Waltz". He also added that I needed to know the composer’s background (in my case, Dmitri Shostakovich) in order to play the pieces better. Apart from that, I also needed to work on expressing certain parts of the piece when the feeling varies.

After my practice session with Robert it was time for the group lesson with John Thwaites.

John’s session was very short, each student was allocated only 15 mins. As my schedule had a break immediately after lunch, I agreed to Rado's suggestion to allow others to go first so that everyone could have a proper lunch.

The experience with the John was simply wonderful - by making the 3 changes that he suggested, the overall impact was simply amazing!

Although I ended up with only 5 mins with him, it is still one of the best sessions that I had in this trip: gaining bravos from John when I managed to make all the changes that he requested during that short time span.

Finishing the day with my practice sessions, I enjoyed all of today’s interesting lessons, most importantly from John, where I learnt that minor differences would make a drastic improvement to my piece!

24 November 2018

Day 3 of Coalesce

It was finally the big day I had been anticipating: Concert day!

Starting the day with a practice session, it was followed off with my duet with Emily. Throughout the practice session with Emily, Teacher Janet had been accompanying us, giving us precious tips.

She told me how to use the "una corda" to make my left hand softer. It was fun as I had never used it before. Teacher Janet also reminded me to take note of my articulation so as to play more emotionally. She also provided a lot of useful tactics and reminders, which would contribute to the success in the actual performance.

After the flavoursome lunch, I went to the Eastside Jazz Club for my rehearsal. Thoughts gushed through my mind as I recalled all the practice sessions that I had, all the tips that I was taught, and as I played my pieces, reassuring myself it was only a rehearsal.

Finishing the rehearsal, it was followed by a break. As time flew by, the concert inched nearer.

As if someone had jinxed the clocks to run at double time, 6pm had struck in a blink of an eye. Assembling in the Bradshaw hall for the actual performance, adrenaline poured through my veins as my heart did a deafening drumroll against my rib cage.

"Jimmy Yap!", as the dreadful voice intoned in my ears, I knew it was my turn. Taking in a deep breath, I started playing my pieces as the piano sang. Just too soon, I had finished my pieces!

Thunderous applause reverberated throughout the spacious hall and it felt as though there was a diamond shining in my chest!

This Coalesce immersion trip was definitely worth it as I had learnt many valuable tactics and I wish to join other similar immersion trips in the future.

Thank you Seimpi! Thank you Rado! Thank you to all my 'comrades', without which I would not have such a valuable, memorable and fun trip.