Prelude (1)

Prelude – a movement or section of a work that comes before another movement or section of a work

All eyes were on the soloist as her fingers danced along the silver keys of the black woodwind instrument while the rest of the orchestra played softly in the background as an accompaniment to the tune of ‘The Flight of the Bumblebee.’

The music started off on a higher pitch and lead into a more mellow tone where the pace of the music soon picked up and became frantic. The soloist took quick breaths as she focused on getting every single note of the fast-paced, uninterrupted chromatic piece with perfection. Because of the complexity of the song, it took a lot of practice and skill in order to perform it well.

The moment the conductor circled his baton and pinched his thumb and index finger together, the music came to an end. Applause erupted as the soloist, still trying to catch her breath, bowed towards the audience, along with the rest of the orchestra.

Backstage, after the concert

“Good job, Taeyeon! You’ve done very well.”

“We’re so proud of you!”

“Our star performer does it again.”

Her fellow colleagues in the orchestra were giving Taeyeon a pat on the back as they started to pack their instruments in the room. Taeyeon smiled and thanked each person, saying it was a team effort too.

“Taeyeon, once again you’ve done a great job,” a deep voice praised.

“Thank you, Mr Choi. Without your guidance, I wouldn’t have come so far,” Taeyeon replied.

“Have a good break before we start our nationwide tour in two months’ time. I’ll talk to you again at dinner later,” Mr Choi added before leaving the room.

Taeyeon let out a sigh of relief. She was glad that tonight’s performance went on without a hitch and she didn’t miss out a single note in the finale piece. It took her hours of practice, sweat and blood before she finally perfected the piece. Even then, she continued to work hard to ensure that her performance would be immaculate.

Detaching her reed from the mouthpiece, Taeyeon placed it carefully into her reed case, along with the rest of the reeds. There was a particular one which was worn out, chipped and had a tiny trace of blood on the tip of the reed. She kept it though it was no longer usable, as it was a stark reminder of the hard work she had put in for the past few months.

Taeyeon cleaned her mouthpiece and placed it carefully into the black instrument case. Locking its silver handles, she gave the case a thorough wipe. Patting the battered instrument case, she mumbled, “Thank you for being my partner for so many years.”

Picking up the case, Taeyeon left the room to join the rest of her colleagues. As she walked along the corridor, she saw several event posters plastered onto the white walls. The poster featured her full body picture prominently with the rest of the orchestra in the background. She paused in front of one of the posters and looked at it. She was surprised at the prices of the tickets for tonight’s performance.

This is me. This is Kim Taeyeon, the star clarinetist. But where is Kim Taeyeon the music lover? Has music turned into a commercial, money-making affair? Has music become a commodity that only the rich can afford to pay and listen to, even though they don’t know how to appreciate it? A item for them to flaunt their social status perhaps?

 

“Admiring your beautiful picture?” A tenor voice interrupted Taeyeon’s thoughts.

Taeyeon turned around and saw Yoseob, a trumpeter standing next to her. He had a cute smile on his face as he leaned against the wall.

“You know what, this is the first time I’m looking at the poster close up. I didn’t know they used this picture,” Taeyeon said, pointing at the poster.

“Don’t worry, you look good though it could be better if you smiled a bit more. I noticed you tend to stiffen up during photoshoots. Just relax and be natural,” Yoseob advised. Afterall, he was the other poster boy in the orchestra. Though he wasn’t very tall, his small face and sharp chin, coupled with his youthful looks often attracted crowds of young teenage girls. He was tasked to introduce classical music to high school students and often gave talks at schools, sharing his musical career.

“Yea, I ought to learn from you. Anyway, shall we go? I think the rest of them are waiting outside,” Taeyeon asked.

“Sure,” Yoseob smiled and led the way to the exit.

Once they stepped out of the door leading to the hallway of the concert hall, there were several fans waiting for the both of them. However, it was obvious that Taeyeon was the star of the night, judging from the amount of people calling her name.

“Taeyeon, I’ll meet you at the carpark. Take your time, I’ll inform Mr Choi,” Yoseob said as he jostled with the crowd, shaking a few hands before he made it to the exit.

Taeyeon gave him a nod before she turned around to face her fans. Camera flashes were going off as she dutifully signed each and every poster that was presented to her. She thanked them for coming and told them to give the orchestra a lot of support in their upcoming nationwide tour before she left the building.

When Taeyeon got onto the coach at the carpark, she sat down at the first available seat she saw. She was exhausted after a night’s performance and wanted to rest. The coach moved off from the carpark once Taeyeon was on board.

“How many posters did you sign just now?” Sooyoung, the violinist asked, poking her head between the seats where Taeyeon and Sunny, a flautist sat.

“Stop bugging Taeyeon. She needs a break.” Sunny turned around and glared at Sooyoung. The latter meekly retreated back to her seat.

“Good job, Taeng,” Sunny praised, patting Taeyeon’s arm.

“Thanks Sunny. I’m glad tonight’s performance is over and it’s time for a break,” Taeyeon said, looking out of the window.

The coach was heading to a nearby Korean restaurant where the musicians would be having a late dinner. It was their usual routine after the end of a series of concerts. It was also a way for the musicians to relax and enjoy good food in a casual atmosphere.

At the restaurant

Mr Choi rapped his chopstick against the wine glass, trying to get everyone’s attention in the noisy restaurant.  He rose from his seat, raised his glass and said, “I want to thank each one of you for putting so much hardwork and time for the past three months to prepare for this concert. It has been really successful, judging from the rave reviews I’m getting. We’ll take a two week break for everyone to recharge before we regroup again to talk about our upcoming nationwide concert schedule. Now let’s cheers to our successful performance!”

Everyone raised their glasses and cheered loudly, hitting their glasses with each other’s. The boisterous atmosphere soon resumed as everyone continued chatting away.

“Any plans after today?” Sunny asked, poking at a piece of bulgogi.

“Nope. Will spend the next few days holed up at home to rest I guess. Luckily I’m not very busy at work for the time being.”

“Remember to go out and get some fresh air. You’ve been shuffling between your home and the practice room for the past few weeks,” Sunny said, with a look of concern.

“Yes mummy,” Taeyeon joked, earning a jab in the ribs from Sunny.

~*~*~*~*~

The following morning, Taeyeon woke up just as the sun peeked through the horizon. It had been her habit to wake up early since young because she had to juggle schoolwork with clarinet lessons. When she was seven, her parents wanted to expose her to music instead of burying herself in schoolwork. They brought her to a performance by the famous Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra when they had a concert in Seoul.

Taeyeon immediately felt in love with the clarinet when she heard the unique tone of the woodwind instrument. It was deep, woody and warm at the same time. After that performance, she bugged her parents to let her learn the clarinet. She worked hard to prove her parents that she was serious about playing the clarinet. At the age of fifteen, she was accepted into the Seoul Youth Orchestra after several rounds of audition. She finally joined the Seoul National Orchestra at the age of twenty two and soon joined the ranks of soloists within the orchestra.

Taeyeon quickly rose to stardom when she gave a soulful rendition of Norah Jones’ Come Away with Me on the clarinet during one of the performances with the Seoul Youth Orchestra. People started to take note of the youthful looking girl with the light brown hair that was always tied in a short ponytail whenever she performed on stage. People would pay her to perform at functions or private events. However, Taeyeon never let fame overwhelm her. Once in a while, she would drop by the children’s home near her house and gave free music lessons to the less fortunate kids over there.

Slipping on her bedroom slippers, Taeyeon got out of bed and headed to the toilet to wash up. Making a simple breakfast of toast and eggs, she sat down at the dining table and flipped through the morning’s newspaper as she ate. There was a news article about yesterday’s performance and most of the news was about Taeyeon.

I miss the old days…no fame, just music. Plain simple music for everyone, regardless of their background. To enjoy and appreciate…for free.

 

A thought suddenly came into Taeyeon’s mind. She finished her cup of coffee, washed the plates and folded the newspaper neatly on the table. Putting on a hoodie and cap, she left the house and headed for the train station.

Taeyeon formulated a plan in her head as she took a train to the city centre. She sat down at one of the benches inside the crowded train station and observed the people during the morning rush hour. After an hour or so, she decided that she would put her plan into action.

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