The piano duo Fung Chiu, presented by the Community Arts Council of Fort St. James played to a sizeable crowd at the FSJSS gym Jan. 20.
Pianists Janelle Fung and Phil Chiu, both from Montreal, performed a piano duet (as opposed to a proper duo, which would have required two pianos), sharing the keyboard of one piano and performing specially-arranged music to facilitate such a set up.
The pair are professional musicians who came together as a duo for the simple reason they were asked to and it offered them an opportunity to perform and tour.
The pair provided some interesting insight into the lives of professional piano musicians – a life which requires the wearing of many hats, said Chiu – during an informal and informative question and answer period.
Fung is a piano teacher at l’Universite de Montreal and Chiu is an accompanist at l’Universite de Montreal and a piano accompanist-coach at McGill University.
Both also perform in many other capacities, from solo shows to chamber music to performing with full orchestras.
Fung, originally from Vancouver, began playing violin at the age of three and kept asking to play piano. Her mother continued to insist she play the violin until Fung smashed the instrument to pieces.
So her mother relented, and from the age of four, she played piano.
“This is the only thing that ever really interested me,” she said.
Chiu’s life as a musician was not always as clear.
He began playing the piano at six years old, and at 13, Chiu tore up his music books in front of his father one night in anger, thinking he was quitting the instrument.
The next morning, his father had taped together each page of the books during the night.
He continued to play and eventually made the commitment to becoming a professional musician.
The two also gave some advice to aspiring pianists in the audience.
Fung said the optimal amount of practice time for her is five hours a day, seven days a week, but as a newer student of piano, the key isn’t the number of hours, but the importance of putting in at least some time everyday.
They also suggested anyone working on an instrument and doing practice and exercises should take a little bit of time each day to play something he or she loves.
The duet performance included George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Maurice Ravel’s Ma Mere l’Oye and Igor Stravinsky’s Petrouchka.
There were over 90 attendees at the concert, held at the high school’s old gym, which was a much better turnout than the last concert the arts council brought in, said Sheila Thobo-Carlson of the arts council.
“I enjoyed the concert,” she said, but she noted she is looking forward to having a classical performance at the new community hall when it is completed renovations.
“I would really like to give these people a better place to sit,” she said.