Many years ago, I was called by Amelia because she wanted to give away a Steinway. Was I interested? I came by her house and was surprised to find the grand dame covered in a black cloth and parked in one corner of the house. How did this happen? This Indonesian mum related her sadness to me. She bought the piano for her 9-year old daughter but she gave it up after a few piano lessons. Mummy kept this baby grand-piano for 10 years because she was hoping her daughter would change her mind. Mum spoke to friends and “advisors” who felt a change of the tuition teachers and music schools could re-energise her daughter. She didn’t and so the musical instrument ended up as a piece of furniture with picture frames and chinaware placed on the piano top.
Photo 1: Grand Piano in an $8 million show flat in Singapore
All I needed to do was to pay for the transport and the piano tuning charges and I would receive a cool $80,000 grand-piano? Yes you heard me right. This Steinway was worth $80,000 when purchased brand new, same as what you pay for the COE in 1995. When I approached friends and friends of friends, many said they had no space at home for a “big toy” or their children were clamouring for the other “must have” possessions. You can well understand Amelia’s predicament to find a suitable recipient when she advertised and a caller asked whether Amelia would pick up the charges for transport.
Photo 2: Not Soi Cowboy but Bangkok’s Mr. Piano at the Twin Tower Hotel
I politely declined because I already had one, albeit of a lesser brand-name at a fraction of the price of a Steinway. I recommended the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts because LaSalle College of the Arts already had one too many. Story ended!
Fast Forward. In a hotel music lounge, I am reminded of the story of Amelia as well as the time when as an undergraduate, I “moonlighted” as a hotel lounge pianist – the last one time before graduation at the Singapore Hyatt.
Photo 3: Miss Elegance on the Yamaha at the Conrad Hotel
There are many reasons I have great affinity for a music lounge – a suitable business meeting venue, privacy or that quite moments. I enjoy when musicians are able to take on Pachelbel’s Canon in D or Frank Sinatra’s Mack the Knife. It’s simply fantastic when a musician can oblige with a Waltzing Matilda or a Jackie Cheung standard the moment you step into the piano lounge. It goes without saying every good pianist must be able to do any genre not associated with his preference. After many decades of inactivity and with much encouragement from my Michelle, my son’s gf I tried this:
Photo 4: Shangri-la Makati’s lobby lounge. This emotive rendition of “Because of a Flower” adequately describes the Shangri-la ambience .
A grand-piano is not confined to the music lounge but can be found in shopping malls and restaurants - like this “TPL look alike” texting Beside the house you can find grand-pianos in churches. Chun See tells me his church owns a Yamaha.
There are many brands of grand pianos out there, e.g. Steinway, Yamaha, Kawai, Petrof, Schimmel, or Bosendorfer. Piano size matters, depending whether it is played by a solo pianist or a group (pop or ensemble). 5/6 star hotels would like the grand if possible but smaller hotels prefer the baby grand. The first Bosendorfer in a Singapore hotel was at the Marco Polo in 1976 and the oldest Steinway concert grand in this country was at the Victoria Theater - both of which I had the pleasure to work with.
Photo 5: Marina Mandarin Hotel’s Mr. Maestro
Bangkok, Manila and Hong Kong are my favourite cities for lounge music. Some of the best places the Manila Hotel, Manila Pen and the Shangri-la in the Philippines. The Hong Kong Peninsula Hotel for afternoon tea and music is also a delightful place.
In Bangkok, good music can be found at the Queen’s Park Imperial Palace and Hotel Lebua at State Tower.
Not too long ago I took a tour of our Singapore’s entertainment backyard and found some great places. Do you know Tan Tock Seng Hospital has a white grand-piano and there’s one over at the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands? As the saying goes, in sickness and health there’s always a grand-piano somewhere.