A series of 8 questions with pianist, Philip Chiu

What place were you born and where do you live now?
PC I am proud to call Hong Kong my birthplace and Canada my adoptive home (since the tender age of 3). I grew up in North York, ON, spent some time in London, ON, and now I divide my time between Toronto, Montréal and Halifax.
What is your favourite era/genre of music to perform?
PC This should come as little surprise: Classical music (broadly speaking) is my favourite genre of music to perform, 20th century French music being my era of choice – there is endless exploration of colour, tone, and atmosphere in the music of Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and Lili Boulanger.
Who are your musical influences and what do you love about their music?

PC I love great performers and communicators across all genres. Martha Argerich is one of the most exciting, unique, superhuman pianists on our planet. Pierre Lapointe, one of Canada’s great francophone singers and lyricists, inspires me with his creativity and collaborative spirit. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Laura Mvula, an incredible singer who navigates crossroads of R&B, jazz, soul and classical genres and bends them to her will.

Your favourite food (only one!)

PC It would be congee, the humble rice porridge that came from the very basic human need to stretch resources through hard seasons (something many of us, gratefully, don’t have to consider today). My preferred version contains less-than-humble ingredients like salmon, shrimp, and generous amounts of chili oil and ginger/green scallion sauce.

Your most memorable performance? Where were you and who were you performing with and why was it memorable?

PC Sometime around 2005-2006, I was accompanying a mentor/piano professor of mine, the late Peter Longworth. The concert was an informal opportunity for Peter to ‘run-through’ the work for friends before the real performance, with an orchestra, a few weeks later.

Because of the informal setting, I was shamefully cavalier with my preparation and had seriously underestimated the difficulty of my part… I stumbled, gasped and wheezed my way through a very long 40-minute performance.

Afterwards, although he had absolutely every right to be, Peter was not upset with me. He did, however, tell me in no uncertain terms, “Never let anyone hear you play poorly”. These words echo in my head regularly with practical and artistic implications; they remind me that we should treat every audience as important, the music as something to be treasured, and our role as communicators as a privileged, vital thing.

Something unique or unusual about you.

PC I can’t stay away from a great board game (King’s Dilemma, Spirit Island, Clank! In! Space!, to name a few). I love cooking and feeding others. My favourite chore (do people have those?) is doing the dishes: hot water, a clear start-and-finish to the task, restoring something to its proper condition…. it checks all the boxes.

How long have you been a performer?
PC I have been playing piano for 30+ years, but I am only recently becoming more and more comfortable with the concept that I am a ‘performer’ (with all the rights and responsibilities attached).
What are you most looking forward to about performing with VIS on October 25th?

PC I met the VIS’s new music director, Cosette Justo Valdes, when I was asked last-minute to step-in for a performance of a Prokofiev piano concerto with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra last year. We hit it off instantly – I like to think because she was so welcoming, collaborative and warm – and I hoped that we would have the chance to work together again soon. I am thrilled that our reunion is happening so soon.

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