Improvising on Piano: Jennifer Lin (Age 14)

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Jennifer Lin in 2004

Concert pianist and composer Jennifer Lin gives a magical performance, talks about the process of creativity and improvises a moving solo piece based on a random sequence of notes.

Jennifer Lin, born in Florida in 1990, was only 14 when she performed at TED, drawing tears with her extraordinary improvisation.

A student of the Yamaha Music Education System from the age of 4, pianist Jennifer Lin has an unusual talent for improvisation. Speaking at TED, she compared her creative process to drawing a comic, and admitted that the state of “flow” — when she is able produce beautiful music instantly — cannot be forced. 

Her virtuoso performances, particularly the improvisations, are profoundly moving, and — even via podcast — have been known to reduce listeners to tears. As one blogger recorded, “I was listening to a presentation by a 14-year old girl named Jennifer Lin who plays the piano like whoa … I wasn’t expecting it, and when she was a minute or two into the piece, I was literally crying in the crowded subway car.” Lin was featured on ABC World News Tonight as Person of the Week and also appeared on a “Little Geniuses” segment on Oprah, where Winfrey declared her “a miracle prodigy.”

She has performed for Oprah and The Daily Show, among others. On The Oprah Winfrey Show, she composed a piece on the spot with 5 random music notes that Oprah chose.


Songs That Inspire . . . Influence Generations


Bengawan Solo River in Indonesia

As a little boy in school those days, we had singing lessons & a song book entitled “Sing & Be Happy”. Somehow, my singing teacher didn’t like me, kept discouraging me to sing saying that I had a croaky voice. Nevertheless, where love exists desire persists! Though I am never good at it, music & songs fill my life . . . make me as happy as can be!

I was born in Malaysia, brought up there, had my schooling there, sent on a government scholarship for teacher training in UK & then furthering my tertiary education at the University of Malaya, Pantai Valley, Selangor. That’s how it was . . . down memory lane in Malaysia . . . no political divide, no racial strife, tension or envy, peaceful & harmonious living . . . a land known invariably as “The Golden Chersonese”, where music flow & songs galore!

Songs have no cultural or political overtone attached. Music as such is a universal language. There is but one tongue . . . the musical tongue. Songs like “Rasa Sayang” & “Bengawan Solo” have always inspired listeners the world over. The other day, I was with some Aussie friends chatting & having a bit of wine. John who owns 6 bands related to me that when his band was playing in Penang, Malaysia, he learnt to play and sing that ever popular request “Rasa Sayang”. He just loves it! The favour of the song will always live on.

Another song that comes to mind is “Bengawan Solo.” When teaching in Kelantan, North East Malaysia, I remember Zainab a Malay student of mine who rendered this song beautifully. I learnt it then & I sing it even now. In most karaoke parties I have organised, “Bengawan Solo” never failed to show.

There’re various translations to this song . . . English, Filipino, Burmese & others.

Teresa Teng
Teresa Teng (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Teresa Teng (Deng Lijun) the ever popular nightingale from Taiwan, sadly passed away at the age of 42 in the year 1995. She captured the hearts of men & women all over the world with her songs. There was a saying then “The day is dominated by Deng Xiaoping, but the night belongs to Deng Lijun”.

Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Any karaoke fan would love “Tian Mi Mi” and “Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin” (The Moon Represents My Heart) as sung by Teresa Teng. My former HSC student Kat sings it beautifully in Mandarin . . . & she is Malay! My own wife Lilian sings the English translation version. However, it’s hard to get her to render it in public except small karaoke party. She sings well but fights shy of public swell!

Now let’s hear a delightful group of African boys singing ‘Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin” in Mandarin:

Incidentally, best way of learning a language is through the song in that langusage.

And lest we forget the memory of Deng Lijun (Teresa Teng), who has been commemorated in a public garden park in Taipei, Taiwan, let’s listen to her melodious captivating voice:

Farewell Tribute to a Dear Friend – Dr Yap Chin Fah

Dedicated By P Chong                                                                        Friday, 2 September 2011

 The late Dr Yap Chin Fah

Known among his friends as the “Singing Doctor”, he prescribed

medicine with a smile, and sang with his heart. His deep melodious voice was soothing to the ears and more so to the hearts of women who literally worshipped him with sheer admiration. He rendered both Mandarin & English songs with ease & charm . . . that handsome look with his boyish smile ever so radiant & bright!

 Sadly, we shall no longer have his company nor to have him entertain us with rendition of songs by Michael Ball such as “Love Changes Everything” or his favourite song on Shanghai Bund in Cantonese. He passed on some days short of his sixtieth birthday defeated by that dreadful cancerous disease of the colon.

 He sang as though there were no tomorrow . . . impressing on the importance of the present. In all the years that I have known him, he never turned me down to be present to sing, whether it was a home karaoke dinner or a public charity performance. All the time unknown to me he was fighting to beat this dreadful disease.

Below: A happy Dr Yap at our party to celebrate Tom’s birthday (1 October 2010)

At the last function (29 September 2010) attended by him in my house, he was in real high spirit, giving no indication of his being ill as you can observe from all the illustrated pictures. We had a roasted suckling pig and nobody was handy with slicing off the crunchy skin of the pig. He rolled up his sleeves saying “No problem” for in his father’s house in Ipoh, Malaysia, they always had this three times a year.

Dr Yap exhibiting his slicing skill with the pigling (Picture: Above & below)

A shock to all of us, he was in China when he passed away . . . seeking his last hope of living.

Gone but not forgotten, In Heaven he lives on. No longer forlorn, he’s telling us that life’s still worth the living, and living it to the full. Sing with a merry heart & make others merry! Don’t be sad when life is bad. Sing unto Him with a merry heart. Play your part out with a mighty shout: “Glory be to God!”

A Star Is Born

Cover of "Candle in Wind 1997 / Something...
Cover via Amazon

Let your hearts be swayed

Your spirit free

Your eyes & ears be tuned

to the melodious voice of Steve,

as he renders with such ease & finesse

two great popular songs:

Candle in the Wind” & “When You Say Nothing At All”.

Rest assured you’ll have lots to say & sing about,

as you listen with awe & admiration.

Where have you been, Steve, all these years?

Kirkby College Memorabilia

Kirkby College Memorabilia

Kirkby Badge

Needlework TableAn old picture (left) taken in 1960 at the time of College Exhibition

It’s been 49 long years since we left Kirkby College.

Now it’s looking back rather than future fate.

We all have reached a point in life

To savour and treasure what we hold dear.

How the years have flown and how have we grown. As the years accumulate behind us tip the scale of the future years ahead, we can’t help but try to recapture some of the glorious memories we have. Life’s journey takes us through lots of bumps; for life certainly is no bed of roses. Even with the beautiful roses, we’ve got to take care not to be pricked by their thorns. Isn’t that what all these Kirkby Reunions are all about?

Having graduated fresh from High Schools, we were thrown into an environment so unfamiliar to us then. Sadly, a few of our colleagues got lost, but most adjusted and adapted well to our Alma Mater. Our curriculum of study required us to select certain options. Many chose Art and Crafts, Music, some more academically inclined picked English; needlework for the girls and others. I picked woodwork as my option. I wasn’t too sure I would be capable of using all those carpenter’s tools – not hammer and nails.

Having determined to find my soul mate in College, the next thing I decided upon was to work on a needlework table. Some chose to do book shelves, coffee tables and others. To me, the needlework table was going to be a labour of love – yes indeed labour for two whole years. 

6329-symbol-love-chinese-calligraphy-paintingChinese Character for Love

The needlework table is still in our possession after all these 49 years. It traveled from Kirkby College in Liverpool to Malaysia, and now it is here in Perth, Australia. I guess such memories are worth every penny on earth, and no hefty amount of cash offer will dissuade me from parting with it. Our daughter Agnes said: “Please dad, don’t ever sell it.” No way! It’s a family heirloom. In terms of age, it’s kind of an antique!


SANY0011Recent Pictures Top & Bottom

It’s also a piece of art, solidly constructed of teak with craftsman’s precision joints and finished with linseed oil. The top opens to reveal a sliding tray that holds all the pins, needles and thread. Below the tray lies a storage compartment. It was built with love and love will see us through till our dying days.

Paul Chong