August 10, 2019 8:35 pm
Updated: August 12, 2019 6:26 pm

Saskatoon pianist competing in National Music Festival

WATCH: For one local competitor at the National Music Festival, it's a step closer to a life on the big stage.


Jerry Hu wants to be a concert pianist someday.

He was hoping to claim the first-place prize — performances with two orchestras and $5,000 — at the National Music Festival to help him reach his goal.

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The 14-year-old, who has been playing the piano for 10 years, prepared two pieces for the festival: a concerto by 19th-century Hungarian composer Franz Liszt and a piece by Regina-born composer David McIntyre.

“I just started working on this [MacIntyre] piece a year ago and … I’ve always wanted to do this,” he said.

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Hu earned his spot in the festival through local and provincial music festivals. More than 500,000 total participants entered the festivals, and a little more than 50 are in the national competition.

“It is the pinnacle of these local festivals,” said Stephen Runge, the head of music at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick.

Runge, whose concerts have been broadcast across the country, is attending the festival as an adjudicator and a representative from New Brunswick, and to instruct the rising talent.

He spent time teaching Hu to better shape his performance, to apply more or less emphasis on certain portions of the piece. He told Hu to play some portions softer — ironic, perhaps, because Hu is soft-spoken.

“Offstage … I think I’m like a different person,” Hu said. “I’m not that outgoing, and kind of more quiet.”

Runge said Hu’s strength came from his phrasing, not his volume.

“It was his sense of lyricism and intimacy, especially his soft playing,” Runge said.

“It was really exceptional. It made such beautiful colours on the piano in both of his pieces [and] it was really very mature playing.”

It’s something Hu has learned from his favourite composer, Frédéric Chopin.

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“His expression, melodies and tunes always are so touching and emotional,” he said.

Hu says he practises six or seven hours a day when he’s not in school, and at least two hours a day when he is.

He did not win the piano competition but said he intends to keep competing. He’s determined to study classical piano performance in university, though he said he is nervous to start high school in the autumn.

Runge said Hu shouldn’t be discouraged by the competition on Saturday.

“The enjoyment really comes out in everything he’s playing,” Runge said.

“For someone his age, it’s really great to hear someone playing with so much maturity and so much passion and so much colour. It’s wonderful.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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