Harmony From the Heart: Quick Interview with AJ Rafael, Jenny Suk, & Jennifer Chung

This post was originally a performance report I had to write for my music class. So it’s a lot more analytical and lengthy. I did get to (quickly) interview the three musicians, and it was definitely a great concert. Read however much you want. Enjoy!

Harmony From the Heart was a charity concert hosted by my business club ABA on March 6, 2010. The headlining artists – AJ Rafael, Jennifer Chung, and Jenny Suk – are all big YouTube stars with a huge following online. The performance was physically located indoors, in the lecture hall at 155 Dwinelle. The performers utilized the stage throughout the concert, while over 200 people in the audience took seats that were usually used during class lectures.

Because the venue was located at a lecture hall, the sound equipment was not designed for concerts. At certain high notes, there was a fuzzy distortion that was somewhat distracting, but for the most part, the singers sang clearly through their microphones. I would classify the overall feel of the space as utilitarian, because it is normally used for a large lecture, so it could easily accommodate the number and provide the stage for an acoustic concert.

All proceeds from the concert were donated to Save the Children, a non-profit organization helping needy children around the world, including those affected by the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. In short, the performance was a fundraiser for a good cause.

At the same time, the concert served as a social event, where students could relax and enjoy a Saturday night (7 – 10 pm) and still have time to head out to parties afterward. The audience came specifically to this event by purchasing tickets beforehand. Our club advertised the concert the weeks preceding the concert, so the attendees knew that their $15 was for a good cause.

The three main musicians were all college-aged, Asian American/Pacific Islanders, and knew each other from previous concerts at other schools and venues. They appeared to be from typical middle class immigrant families; in fact, Jennifer Chung’s mother was in the audience, and many of AJ and Jenny’s friends had travelled with them to the performance.

These artists performed an array of pop, R&B, and acoustic songs, including covers of popular songs that many college-age kids listened to and enjoyed. Thus, the socio-cultural background of music – that of a middle-class, Asian-American group of students – appealed to those who attended the concert, because the style presented by the artists fit the people’s tastes and musical background.

And appeal to the audience they did. People loved the performance. There was constant cheering, frequent “ows,” and even sing-alongs. I looked around during some of the songs, and I felt that the audience was really drawn into the performance. I could feel the tension during a serious song about broken relationships (“Every Time You Lie,” covered by Jenny Suk). I could hear the audience cheering on during a particularly spirited rendition of Pocahontas’ “Colors of the Wind,” covered by Jennifer Chung. I could see the people (especially the girls) enjoying the songs sung by AJ Rafael. All in all, the audience really enjoyed the concert; people stayed after to take pictures and get autographs, and our club got a lot of positive feedback.

The music consisted of popular song covers, mostly in the pop and R&B genre. Artists covered included Mary J. Blige, Demi Lovato, and Owl City, just to name a few. Because Harmony was an acoustic concert, the only instruments used were the piano and acoustic guitar. Another interesting trend was the popularity in covering Disney songs. The reason for this most likely lies in reliving our childhood memories. The audience, mostly undergraduates, grew up watching Disney movies and enjoying music from the movies. Disney songs were sure to elicit a positive response from the audience, and it did.

Jenny Suk covered many R&B songs, focusing on relationships in particular. According to Jenny, “My last song that I did (“Stronger”) means a lot to me, because it really means my whole life, the relationships I’ve had.” Jennifer Chung gave an emotional performance of her original song, “The Bay,” an autobiographical piece that really showed her love for her family and hometown. AJ Rafael worked the crowd with a spirited rendition of his original, “Showstopper,” a song that spearheaded his popularity on the Internet. The instruments contributed to the music by complementing it. There were no elaborate solos, just simple chords that provided the rhythm and melody for the singer (diagram of stage on page 4).

In terms of interaction, the performers couldn’t have done better. They have obviously known each other well and performed with each other in the past. The concert was structured so that each artist had a set of songs they performed during their time onstage. However, this was not set in stone, because they would play an instrument while another was singing or even harmonize with the singer. During Jenny’s set, AJ went up for a song to play piano and harmonize. He also played the piano for one of Jennifer’s songs.

In both instances, the singer and instrumentalist complemented each other perfectly. When Jennifer paused or slowed down, so did AJ. Furthermore, sitting behind the performers, I witnessed firsthand how much they cheered for each other, so there was definitely camaraderie and goodwill among the musicians.

To wrap up, I was personally interested in this concert from the get-go, mainly because I was curious about how well YouTube stars would do in a live setting. They certainly did not disappoint; all performed amazingly well, and I was blown away by their skill and sincerity. In the nearly three-hour performance, I enjoyed the variety of songs, popular and original, that they performed.

Even though I usually enjoy rock and alternative, I could appreciate the messages and styles of popular music that they performed. The R&B and pop songs opened my mind to a wider variety of music. Jennifer Chung reflected my exact thoughts when she said, “Honestly, everything was prepared so well. You have to feel good going into it. Everyone was so hospitable. It was such a good experience and I’m glad that it was a great show.” AJ Rafael added that “Anything for a great cause for me is just amazing to be at and even more amazing to perform at.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.

More papers at randomtidbitsofthought.wordpress.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *