Huiya Chen’s is a remarkable story. Growing up in a poor Chinese household, discouraged from listening to music and scolded for being left-handed, she nevertheless felt a calling. Her calling however was always dismissed and discouraged. She was made to feel that her love of music made people unhappy and her parents were not supportive of her passion.
When the family moved to the USA she heard that there was a piano available to play at the local University (Oregan). She wandered into the music department at 9am and began to play. After a short while she began to feel cold, hungry and itchy. When she walked out into the street it was 11pm. This experience made her realise that Music and The Piano were her destiny.
She worked and saved up money. The money was to enable her to return home and marry her long-standing fiancee Kam Meng. She saved up $1200 but instead of returning home she spent the money on a piano at the local music store.
On bringing the piano home things never really changed for Huiya. When her parents saw the piano, they were scared and unhappy. They didn’t understand her music and they didn’t want her to play. Not wanting to upset her parents, Huiya was afraid to play her music. This obviously made her very sad because she felt that everything she did was wrong.
Even after Kam Meng and Huiya moved to Newport and opened their own restaurant, she was afraid to try anything new. But that started to change when local artist Helen Kropp noticed that Huiya’s daughter, Tinha, loved art. She supplied watercolor paints and paper for Tinha to use. Due to Helen’s encouragement, Huiya also started to painted pictures, especially of sunsets. Her daughter’s name means sunset. Soon a gallery owner noticed the pictures on show in the restaurant and said that they could be sold. He was right. Within a week, both paintings sold.
Art made Huiya feel good. Many people encouraged me and bought and commissioned her paintings thereafter. At this point, although music was Huiya’s first love, she gave it up because she felt that no one was able to understand her music and that it brought only unhappiness.
After moving the restaurant to a bigger and newer location, problems started to set in from a business point of view, in addition to the fact that Tinha was clinically depressed. Huiya was largely held to blame on both counts.
To make matters even worse, one night Huiya’s husband put the money from their business into a bag and carelessly left it in the unlocked car. Someone stole it. But apparently that event made Huiya learn an important lesson. “Why work so hard for money when it could be gone so easily?” she asked. “There was no point in stressing. Losing that money made me feel free.”
From that moment on they moved the piano into the restaurant. Business was slow but it gave Huiya the opportunity to play and be heard. She has since released her CD, ‘With Loving Gratitude’ and she is currently working on her new album, ‘The Tears Of Joy’.
In the meantime we caught up on her single release, “Graceful Rain”. What elevates Huiya Chen’s music above the level of your average new age artist and makes it more than just background noise, is the excellent ability she has to create a mood throughout her music. “Graceful Rain” takes the listener away into an aural landscape of distinctive beauty. That she is able to do this with nothing other than her piano is simply amazing. Considering that this Chinese composer and performer translates her spiritual inspiration into powerful musical prayers through original piano and arrangements without ever having taken any formal music lessons.
Her piano playing demonstrates clarity of thought and purpose, precision, and evidences her deeper musical emotion and skill. Few artists know when to stop. Hueya’s brilliance is found both in the notes she plays and the notes she doesn’t. And this work is strong start to finish. The music evokes feelings of peace, solitude and stillness.
Given the excellent recording quality and light string backing arrangement, “Graceful Rain” is simply perfect. Though Huiya Chen is not yet world famous, she has a rare quality that many composers lack today. She combines both lyricism and individuality in her musical compositions.
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