This weekend, I went up to Los Angeles with some good company to do something I would have never even imagined I'd do -- work for the musician that began my passion for music when I was 11 years old, Yiruma. I've played piano long before, but since discovering and learning his piece, Kiss the Rain, piano and music became something personal and meaningful. It became an expression. There was just something about the emotion expressed in Yiruma's compositions that really got to me, and it changed the way I play music today.
Arrival to the Dolby Theater in the heart of Hollywood was stressful (LA traffic... What's new), but once I got there I was greeted by the HagiEn staff and the great people who allowed me to have this opportunity to work for Yiruma. We picked up my all-access staff badge and I got a quick tour of the backstage area, dressing rooms, and all the parts of the venue that I could photograph from. Minutes before the show, I stood at the sidelines of the stage with Yiruma himself and staff as he waited to walk on for the performance. It all felt too real.
Then the show began. Yiruma began playing and I stood there at the sidelines in complete awe. Hearing all the music that I've passionately listened to and learned since I was a child on that stage, and live from himself, was surreal. It was always a life-bucketlist thing for me to someday watch Yiruma perform live -- though it seemed a little impossible because he never performs in the United States (this is his second performance in the States; his first tour here). Watching him from the furthest seat in the venue would have already been enough for me -- but to have such a personal and special opportunity like this, to stand with him backstage, work with him, and much more was absolutely priceless. I made sure to soak in the moment. At one point I just stood there, looked at the stage, looked at the huge audience and the venue, listened to the music and I just felt so overwhelmed.
Kiss the Rain, River Flows in You, Loanna, Fotografia, Chaconne, Indigo... I could name [almost] every song that was played. Some pieces were joined by the amazing cellist, Yeongmin Kim, who I've recognized from video performances online. It was an honor to hear him perform, too. At one point, Yiruma asked for a volunteer in the audience to come up on stage and play piano with him. I raised my hand but a girl from the front section of the audience was picked. What a lucky girl! She played a simple and small motif, then Yiruma improvised beautifully to make it a whole composition. What I'd give to have gone up there! I probably would have started playing one of his pieces as a joke. ;-)
The last piece was played, but Yiruma came out for an encore of two more pieces. I was a little sad for the show to be over, but I was ready to move on to the meet and greet.
He met about 115 fans all in line to meet him. It was pretty cool to see how excited people got to meet him; I didn't feel like the only one geeking out about him. I got to stand amongst him and the staff and photograph some candids of people's meets.
When the last meet and greet person left, I went up for my turn. The staff was kind to have introduced me personally to him. "This is Charmaine. She drove three hours from San Diego just to work with us and be a photographer," they said. Yiruma expressed his thanks and said it was amazing I'd go out of my way to contact them and do this. As he signed my staff badge, I told him what an honor it was to meet him, to watch his performance, and to work for him because I've loved and played his music since I was a kid. He asked me what instrument I played, and looked pleased when I told him piano and violin. I explained briefly that I was pursuing music but switched to photography, so this whole opportunity was a beautiful way to combine the two passions. I didn't want to keep him in conversation too long (he was probably tired), so I ended the interaction with asking to take a quick portrait of him -- as some of you may have known, I'm trying to do somewhat of an ongoing project to photograph my music idols and inspirations. He happily agreed and everyone in the room thought it was unique of a fan to just want to photograph him alone.
The whole experience ended with thanking all the staff for a great opportunity. I still feel so thankful that they read and responded to my messages, went out of their way to get me approved to join the team, etc. Thank you all at HagiEn! And thank you, Yiruma, for beautifully creating music that literally sparked a life-shaping passion in me.