Mei Wei Lim will be accompanying the Bellingen Youth Orchestra (BYO) to present Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.2, on Saturday 24th June. This piece is readily acknowledged as one of Rachmaninoff’s most enduringly popular pieces and established his fame as a concerto composer. Mei and Annie Phelan (BYO Conductor) planned this musical feat a while ago. “I’m thrilled they are now ready to tackle such a complex work with sensitivity and musicality,” says Mei. Mei has been collaborating with BYO since moving to the region seven years ago. “I’ve been watching some of the members of BYO grow up and develop into confident young musicians. It is a privilege and a pleasure to be able to perform a wonderful musical composition such as the Rach 2 with them,” enthuses Mei. Former Bellingen Youth Orchestra leader Lachlan Wilkins will also be performing violin solos at the concert.
Mei’s musical life started at the age of seven, after moving with her family to Singapore. “I started piano lessons at that time. Neither of my parents nor my grandparents were musical, at least not as far as I’m aware. I was a quiet and obedient child and simply did as I was told, so the piano was simply something I had to do. I don’t recall being particularly enraptured with the piano in my early stages.” However, four years later Mei relocated back to London and successfully auditioned to be taught by Valerie Pardon, who was a professor at Junior Exhibitioners at the Royal Academy of Music (RAM). “There’s always one great teacher in your life, and Valerie was just that. She was a patient and diligent teacher who developed many aspects of my musical gift,” says Mei. Valerie also encouraged Mei to audition for the Junior Exhibitors course at RAM and to change schools, “from a rather rough state secondary school to a local grammar school with a very active music department. This was exciting to me, as I now had musical friends. We literally lived and breathed music.” During these high school years Mei played in her first piano trio at school, played in the school orchestra, wind ensembles and “accompanied practically everyone at school!” She also started composing during these years.
On completing school Mei auditioned for and was accepted into the Royal Academy of Music. She studied piano, piano accompaniment and flute. “I spent a lot of time accompanying other students. I loved working with the sound and quality of different instruments and voices, the variety of repertoire, and the musicians’ contrasting personalities. As an accompanist, I enjoyed providing interactive support and being creative with someone else. Instead of heading to the bar for a drink, I’d rush to a practice room with a fellow musician, to try out a new piece – what a nerd!” Mei was also introduced to jazz at RAM. “I was lucky to have been part of the Academy’s very first jazz course, mentored by UK bandleader/jazz trumpeter Graham Collier and jazz pianist Michael Garrick. My fond recollections include performing my composition ‘Horn Lines’ at the famous Bass Clef Jazz Club in London, watching US sax player Art Porter Jnr improvise on a soprano sax for 20 continuous minutes while circular breathing, and making music with the RAM Big Band.” Despite the bulk of Mei’s training being classical, she admits to enjoying the freedom of jazz, pop and contemporary.
Mei is also an avid snooker player. She approached this skill the way she did her music- with lots of determination and hours of practice. She now plays on her own full size table in Repton. “Finding a home with a room big enough for a full size snooker table and a grand piano wasn’t easy,” says Mei. Fortunately for us, a house in Repton could accommodate both.
Mei has had a very successful career as a musician both internationally and in Australia. She has excelled as a musician, musical director for choirs and composer. Throughout this career she has relished the opportunity to accompany other musicians. “It’s very fulfilling to be able to inspire and help others with their music-making, whatever their level of skill. I’ve had students who aren’t necessarily pianists, flautists or singers – there are many things that can help a musician improve their playing of a piece – timing, speed, phrasing, dynamics, variety of tone colours, fingering, technical control of their instrument and stagecraft,” says Mei. We are very fortunate that Mei has brought these extraordinary musical skills to the Bellingen Shire and will be accompanying our very talented Bellingen Youth Orchestra. An event not to be missed. Click here for tickets.