Arrangements I’m working on

This year has been a pretty productive year so far. I finished creating an SATB version of the solo version of In Humility Our Savior that I wrote many years ago.  I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.  It’s a little less intimate than the solo version, but I like how the harmonies, parts, and countermelodies turned out. I will be posting that to the blog shortly.

I also finished an arrangement of Hark All Ye Nations / The Day Dawn is Breaking that we’ll be performing in an upcoming fireside.  That arrangement needs a bit of tweaking, but it’s 95% there.  Look for the sheet music to be posted in the near future also.  I do have a demo mp3, but it was recorded in Chinese to assist the Chinese Choir that is performing it. Hopefully I’ll also be able to find some people to help record it in English.


Be Still My Soul

So about 5 years ago, I recorded an arrangement of Be Still My Soul that Jolie and I did.  When writing the arrangement, I wanted to create the sense of deep overwhelming emotions that occur throughout life’s journey.  And that, in the end, it is the atonement that allows us to overcome.  The hymn represents faith and knowledge that He understands all.

Anyway, through one thing or another I got busy and never really put it online.  I thought it’d be good to finally publish i.

Link: Be Still My Soul

Sheet Music: Be_Still_My_Soul_arranged_by_Jared Ong

I’ve also submitted it to a sheet music competition, so if you’re so inclined, feel free to click the link and vote for it.


Adorable Lady (可爱女人 Ke Ai Nu Ren) by Jay Chou (周杰伦)

Heard this song so many years ago, forgot about it, then was at Boiling Point (Taiwanese Hotpot restaurant) and it came over the radio.  And I was like “Oh, this will make such a good arrangement!”.

One of the fun things about arranging Jay Chou ballads is figuring out how to include the rhythmic aspects of the song.  I ended up using the right hand with some syncopated octaves to get the effect that I wanted in the chours.

Also, yes, there are a couple of note goofs.  I did this pretty much in one take so that’s what came out.

I also hear an arrangement of Tornado in my head that I will probably end up recording in a few weeks.

Dreams to Dream

After hearing that James Horner passed away, I thought this would be a good tribute. To a composer, who, through his music, helped all of us dream.

This arrangement is from a random practice session earlier in the year. I was playing the piano and the melody for Dreams to Dream (from the movie Fievel Goes West) came out from those subconscious musical recesses of the brain we all have. I’ve always liked the movie version of the song better than the Linda Rondstadt pop version, but I did add the verse from the pop song into the arrangement because it’s pretty.

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day. For church today, we performed an arrangement I wrote. It’s a duet/mashup of two primary songs, Teacher Do You Love Me, with lyrics changed to “mother”, and Mother I Love you. Since I don’t want to publish the live track without any of the performer’s permission, below is the track I recorded earlier this month to help the performers prepare. The piece is in Chinese, and is sung by my kind wife. This is my first real Mother’s Day without Mom, I believe she was able to hear it somewhere up above.


Sheet Music Links:

Chinese Version: Mother Will You Love Me Mother I Love You Chinese 2015-04-30

English Version: Mother Will You Love Me Mother I Love You English 2015-04-30

I Have A Testimony

Thought I’d share something that has been in my queue for a while.  My friend Karen Kimball and I wrote a song a couple years ago for primary aged children.  It was based on her poem that was published in the October 2007 Friend magazine.  Converting a poem into a children’s song was something I’d never done before and was an enjoyable challenge. We had lots of discussions about how to keep the essence of the poem while making it singable.  There was a lot of nitty gritty song crafting: creating different versions (two verse/three verse?), testing it with children, getting other musicians feedback.  We were finally able to come up with something we were both happy with.

Last month, I attended a Great 2 be 8 fireside, and I heard Karen’s daughter perform the song. And that reminded me that I’d forgotten to post it to this blog.  So here it is!

I Have A Testimony Sheet Music

Hope you enjoy it.

Fresh Off the Boat, Episode 3

So Tuesday’s episodes are a good sign that the show is starting to find its stride. I only have time to write a quick blog post on Episode 3. I’ll get to Ep: 4 later this week.

Episode 3 placed the Huang’s in the middle of white Nascar culture and did a good job of emphasizing the quirkiness of the FOtB experience. It was a decent episode to hopefully hook non-Asian viewers to the show. Caucasian’s could get a laugh at the white middle america stereotype, complete with gossip, backstabbing, and Stephen King. And the writers used the old “daydream interrupted by parents” device to increase universal comedic value. So, this episode helped alleviate my previous concerns about the series leaning too heavily on Asian American culture jokes.

What FOtB got right in Ep:3
1. Capri-Sun Waster
Jessica yells at Eddie to stop wasting Capri-sun because it’s expensive. Oh how I loved Capri-sun growing up, but because it was so expensive I’d also make sure to suck the thing until the bag was flat as a pancake. Mom and Dad hated us leaving half-full juice boxes around, to do so was criminal.

2. Honey wins Jessica’s heart by eating her food.
The best way to win over a Chinese person is to enjoy their food and try and speak their language. That’s if you are any non-Asian ethnicity. If you’re Asian, to be legit you have to cook food better than the best Chinese restaurant in town, using ingredients bought from Ralph’s.

3. Jessica cuts equally sized cake pieces for communism
I have no idea why we cut food into equally sized pieces, but we do. The communism joke by the neighborhood ladies takes the cake though (yuk yuk), because it’s an in joke for Chinese viewers. See, the Huang’s are Taiwanese, and with the history between Taiwan and mainland China, Jessica certainly is not a communism supporter. That’s why she gives a death stare, and then covers it up by saying “I’m just cutting cake”. And every non-Chinese viewer would totally miss it. I never ever thought I’d watch a network television show that had an inside joke for Chinese viewers. This is landmark folks.

4. Visors
Notice how Jessica is the only person wearing a visor?  Neither did I, until just now.  And then I was like “Holy Crap all my aunts wore visors growing up! Uh, I wore visors growing up. Wait, no one else non-Asian did!”

5. Karaoke
Yes, Asians love karaoke and it’s serious business, although I don’t know if most of them sing as well as Jessica does in the show. I Will Always Love You is like the perfect song for Chinese singers, because it has lots of long drawn out “oohs”. The longer the vowel, the more powerful the karaoke rush.

What FOtB got wrong in Ep:3
1. Jessica’s misses her friends in DC (cut to scene of them playing cards).
My guess is that this originally was supposed to be a bunch of Chinese women yelling over a mahjohng table, but that Network Execs were like “American’s don’t know what Mahjohng is. Make it poker!”

2. Honey likes Tofu.
And not only that, she likes Stinky Tofu. That requires suspensions of disbelief on the level of a Michael Bay Transformer’s movie. Well, I guess it’s possible that Jessica made a different type of tofu for Honey to eat at their Stephen King movie watching party. Nah, I’m just rationalizing because the show is growing on me.

Fresh off the Boat S1:E1

I’m going to venture into something non musical for a bit here on this blog.  The fact is, for the first time in forever (ok, I did slip in a Frozen joke there), there is an Asian American show on TV.  And that’s such a rare occurence, it deserves a writeup .  So, without further ado, my thoughts below on the Fresh Off the Boat Pilot.

I think I speak for most Asian Americans, when I say that we have been waiting for an Asian American sitcom for a long time. One that does our culture justice and tells our story. We know we are underrepresented in Hollywood media, and I think we’ve done our best to bury it in our subconscious and move on. But now, here we are. A family comedy about a Taiwanese American moving from DC to white suburbia. On ABC (how appropriate). Didn’t see this coming at all, figured the closest we’d get was something on YouTube. So it’s cool.Unfortunately, after watching the first episode, I’m not sure if it has staying power. Sure there were parts I laughed and grinned, but it didn’t draw me in like a good comedy should. A lot of the jokes took a tad too much setup time. And even then, atlhough some of them were funny, they were funny to American-Born-Chinese-mid-thirties me, not generic-American-watching-TV me. As much as I love relating to the show, I’m afraid that’s a problem. The show won’t succeed if its relating to Asian Americans. It will have to relate to a much broader audience.Take Big Bang Theory. The show is about Caltech Nerds, but it’s somehow relatable to the average TV viewer. The comedic timing is great, the cast is quirky, but it is somehow relevant.


The things FOTB S1:E1 got Right:
1. Lunchables

I never ate lunchables crowd, what with my dairy allergies/lactose intolerance (another thing they nailed), but I can say that Lunchables and Pop Tarts were manna from heaven. They allure they had to a Asian kid growing up was insane, most likely because all our white friends had them and we couldn’t ever get some.
2. Car Rides.
Specifically the kid asleep in the back surrounded by pillows. FOTB also nailed it with “The Sign.” The cut from Eddie listening to hip hop to Ace of Base’s Swedish Pop had me cracking up. Yes, I remember listening to that song with my family in a car, and yes I remember singing terribly. Kudos for that
3. How Americans react to smelling Chinese food.
Yeah, that’s pretty accurate, and I can understand why. It’s the mix of garlic, tofu, and bamboo that usually does it. All completely foreign smells to a Caucasian nose.


Things FOTB S1:E1 got wrong:
1. Accents
Specifically Louis and Jessica. Louis is played by Randall Park who is Korean American. His English is too perfect for a FOTB Taiwanese man. The inflections and tonal shifts of a Chinese man speaking English as a second language aren’t represented. On the other hand, Constance Wu’s accent swings a bit too much to other side. I can tell she’s Asian American, emulating English spoken with a Taiwanese. It’s a too forced and doesn’t sound right. Luckily, American audiences won’t be able to tell a difference.

2. Kissing in public.

I have a hard time imagining a first generation Taiwanese mom and dad, with their three boys standing around them, kissing on a children’s playground. In the 90’s, that just didn’t happen, ever. Seriously artistic license must have been taken there :).

3.Constance Wu’s Mom look.
Look, I know mid thirties Chinese woman are hot. I am married to one. But they are never that well-coiffed with three kids. I know there’s that running joke in the showabout the humidity and her hair, but she just looked a little too put together for it to be a realistic portrayal of a Taiwanese mom running a household and adjusting to a new home. Maybe if it was a few years down the road and she was settled in.

Anyway, I hope Fresh Off the Boat succeeds. Perhaps the show will need a few more episodes before it really starts to hit its stride. After all, even though there’s a lot of comedic material growing up Asian in white America, but only can do a few episodes of that schtick before it gets kind of old. What will really make or break the show is how relatable the characters are to America.

Rude – Magic!

Heard the song Rude on the radio by the reggae band Magic! and wanted to do an arrangement of it.  I wanted to keep some of the general groove, but wanted to it make it slightly more romantic (after all, that’s one of the things that the piano does best).  Hope you like it!


Frozen Brothers

Thought it’d be cool to do a arrangement/mashup of a couple of pieces of music from completely different mediums. I played Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons (with my wife watching) a while ago, and was extremely impressed with the storytelling.  The theme music was also quite awesome.  Anyway there are a couple of lands you visit with lots of ice, snow, and icebergs – which led me to the idea to mash it up with Let It Go – from Frozen.

Ran into a couple of fun challenges when arranging. The main theme from Brothers is in F# minor, Let It Go is in F minor.   I decided to use F minor just because I liked the tonal quality of the key for merging the two pieces.  Also, Brothers is in 3/4, Let it Go is in 4/4.  It was interesting to figure out a way to merge the two without making things sound abrupt.

Definitely recommend, if you haven’t already, to play the game.  Also, don’t read the spoilers, and just play it for the experience.  The game is about 4 hours long so it’s basically like sitting through a couple of movie.