While the term "People Musician" may not be one that many are familiar with, it is not difficult to guess what it means.
Coined by Singaporean pianist Gabriel Hoe to describe himself, it reflects the marriage of the 28-year-old's passion for making music and desire to forge connections with the people he encounters in life.
He explains: "'People Musician' is a term that came to fruition through reflection on who I am and the role I play in society. It is a combination of two things — people person and musician — [and it means] someone who enjoys interacting with others through music."
Owing to his cheerful disposition and easy-going nature, Gabriel possesses an ability to not only put his audience at ease but also keep them fully engaged throughout each performance.
At his recent Anime-themed show as part of Fever's Candlelight Concerts series, for instance, the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music alumnus demonstrated this by interacting with concert-goers with a warm smile between songs, filming Instagram videos with them, and even treating them to an impromptu piece at the end of his performance.
In an interview with Hear65, Gabriel explains how he communicates with people through his performances, recounts how he fell in love music, and talks about what it is like to be a part of the Candlelight Concerts series.
Hi, Gabriel! What set you on the path to becoming a musician?
Hi Hear65, thanks for having me! With the support of my parents, I was introduced to music when I was young. I found myself being very comfortable with music while exploring it and felt that I best expressed myself through the medium. As time passed, my passion for music grew and I wanted to share what I loved doing most with everyone. That’s how I wanted to become a musician.
"I found myself being very comfortable with music while exploring it and felt that I best expressed myself through the medium."
What was the very first song or piece that you played on the piano?
I can’t quite remember exactly the very first song I played on the piano, but I do remember very clearly one of the first few tunes that I heard which struck a chord with me. It was Gershwin’s 'Rhapsody in Blue', as shown in Disney’s Fantasia.
Credit: TET Photography
You pride yourself in being a “People Musician”. How did you come up with this term?
People Musician is a term that came to fruition through reflection on who I am and the role I play in society. It is a combination of two things — people person and musician — [and it means] someone who enjoys interacting with others through music.
"People Musician is a term that came to fruition through reflection on who I am and the role I play in society."
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What goes through your mind when you are on stage? How do you keep your audience engaged?
When playing the music on stage, I’m really just thinking about the music, immersing myself in it, and wanting to bring out the best of what I feel should be brought out. Other times when on stage, I feel happy and grateful that I get opportunities to perform for others and share with them what I love doing most. As for engagement, it comes in two parts — the music itself and the talking. For the music, I feel that the more engaged you are as the performer with the music, the more engaged your audience will be. For the talking, I love to share with the audience my perspective of the music I’m playing, what I love about it, what about it spoke to me, and what to look out for in it.
"I love to share with the audience my perspective of the music I’m playing, what I love about it, what about it spoke to me, and what to look out for in it."
You’re well-versed in both classical and pop music. What are the main differences between the ways in which you approach the two genres when you perform?
Classical is more inward for me, reflecting and showing your own interpretation of the music and its details. Pop music is more outward, focusing more on bringing out the music that is already there, and the emotions and feelings that come with it.
Let’s talk about your experience of performing at Candlelight Concerts. How did you end up becoming one of the series’ Singaporean performers?
It was through word of mouth and recommendations. I do believe that for things to happen, you have to be there at the right time, in the right place, and sometimes with some luck thrown in.
You have an eclectic mix of shows (Mayday, Movie Soundtracks, and Anime Soundtracks) on the series’ schedule. What inspired you when you were deciding on their themes?
They were mostly decided by Candlelight Concerts! It just so happened that I do love all kinds of music, and I am very happy and find it fulfilling to play a whole range of music. There are other [styles] of music that I've played for their previous shows as well, such as Beethoven and Ed Sheeran!
The goal of Candlelight Concerts is to make classical music more accessible to people. How do you achieve this in your shows?
By relating the music to what everyone experiences in their daily life, be it emotions, stages of life, life events, or even analogies. And by doing so, we realise [that] there’s much more connection than we know [between] what we do and who we are [and] classical music.
Moving forward, are there any other genres or styles that you hope to explore?
All kinds really! I’m always open to exploring new music. Feel free to send links of your favourites over anytime, fusion, Mandopop, musicals, EDM, J-pop, K-pop, your favourite recording of a classical work, anything!
"It’s always really nice to see how so much can be achieved when people come together to create something, and how beautiful it can be."
Lastly, beyond performing at Candlelight Concerts, how else do you plan to share your love of music with others?
Through collaborations with fellow musicians or the community alike! It’s always really nice to see how so much can be achieved when people come together to create something and how beautiful it can be. I am always on the lookout for new collaborations!
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Catch Gabriel Hoe at Candlelight Concerts' upcoming A Tribute to Mayday (28 October 2022), Best of Anime Soundtracks (21 November 2022), and A Tribute to Yiruma at The Arts House (23 November 2022) shows.