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I have been in the very fortunate position to have had the opportunity to attend many recitals and concerts over the past few years; often, these performances leave you something with a little more than what you walked in with. These shows are experiences, full of memories and moments that you remember for a long time. More than providing entertainment, musical performances are small moments in which your life suddenly has a soundtrack.

Rather remarkably, Yiruma was someone that gave me something a little more.

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The South Korean contemporary classical musician is known, the world over, for his deeply melodious and inspirational compositions full of sweeping emotion (and just a little bit of magic). Yiruma started playing the piano at the age of five, moving to London when he was merely ten to pursue his youthful love for music. This exact youthfulness is captured within his compositions – full of life, and exuberant vivacity – and despite performing for over ten years, it is this energy that he brought to his performance in Melbourne.

“This is not a concert,” he stressed, almost a little too seriously. “I want this to be an event, an experience. I want this to be a memory-trip.”

I wanted to watch him play; truly, witnessing his mastery is almost hypnotic. However, his music almost lulls you into the tendency to close your eyes, sit-back, and appreciate the resonance of each and every note. Fortunately, there were a lot of notes – his diverse discography was highlighted through an extensive set-list, his music only broken up every so often in order to hear Yiruma, himself, explain the inspirations behind each song.

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“I want my music to heal, inspire, and remind the audience of love and hope.”

Crowd favorites including ‘Love Me’, ‘Indigo’, and ‘Dance’ were met with long luxurious sighs, or the occasional excited squeal. Rather wonderfully, each piece was more spectacular than his well-loved recordings – sensationally precise and full of emotion, ‘Kiss the Rain’ swelled to a truly spectacular climax, the audience holding their breath as the last notes lingered. The audience were given a true treat when the bright notes of the piano were met with the deep romanticism of the Young Min Kim’s cello in duet, a conversation, playing the romantic double play of ‘Blind Improvisation’ and ‘Destiny of Love’.

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Then came the moment that everyone had been waiting for; amidst excited whispers, a wave of phones came out, taking videos and recordings of what was about to come. Looking at the sea of phones, he smiled – it was brightly evident that he wanted people to just enjoy his music, again and again. With such assuredness, yet no less desire, he played the world renowned ‘River Flows in You’. Soon, the phones across the audience turned off – instead of looking at their screens, everyone knew that to fully enjoy this, they needed to be fully swept away. And at the height of the songs luxurious melody, the audience was flying, a blissful high created in the midst of such beauty. As it finished, it felt as if the crowd deeply breathed in comparison.

“I want to say that it is not always about looking forward. We must do that, but we must also look back – to remember, to learn,” he told the audience, his voice almost breaking with emotion. To a great applause he bowed, his straight smile breaking into something much larger as he laughed.

“And now I am talking rubbish, so I am just going to play my last song. Thank you, God bless.”

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But of course, we could not let go of him so easily – the concert finished with a number of wonderfully prepared, but joyously candid encores; he was playing around, having a laugh, and just enjoying his time in the spotlight.

Walking out of the doors of the concert hall on that cold Friday night in the middle of winter, I almost felt overwhelmed; everything seemed a little more beautiful, and I started tearing up. Even though I had known of Yiruma, I had never experienced his music like this before; I had only just discovered the true extent of his magical powers. All at once, I now understood why so many people loved him and his music so passionately.

Set List:

– May Be + Love
– Love Me + Fairy Tale
– Chaconne
– Do You?
– Indigo
– Loanna
– Falling
– Love Hurts + When the Love Falls
– Blind Improvisation + Destiny of Love
– Blind Film + Nocturne
– Kiss the Rain
– Dance
– Heart
– Passing By
– Prelude in G Minor
– Waltz in E Minor
– River Flows in You
– Reminiscent

Photos of Yiruma performing in Plenary and Sydney Opera House courtesy of Castiglione Arts and Culture.