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Cateen thrills his fans in season-ending Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra concert

Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra Cateen
Hayato Sumino, a.k.a. Cateen, received a standing ovation at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts.

We’re used to seeing people asking for autographs from Vancouver Canucks captain Quinn Hughes. Or from pop musicians who perform at Rogers Arena or BC Place. But I can’t recall ever witnessing throngs of autograph hounds lining up to obtain the signature of a classical pianist. But that’s what happened on Saturday (May 4) evening at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts after the Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra’s season-ending concert.

The main attraction was Cateen, a.k.a. Hayato Sumino, a classical-music phenom with nearly 1.4 million YouTube subscribers. As the guest soloist, he didn’t disappoint.

In fact, the Japanese pianist brought the house down—and had the capacity crowd on its feet—with his closing number. It was his amazing “10 levels of ‘I Got Rhythm’ ”, in which he reworks George Gershwin classic multiple times in a stunning display of keyboard dexterity.

Watching this 28-year-old international star fly back and forth over the keys was a sight to behold. It was full of rhythm, all right, as well as melody and boundless passion.

That was certainly the most memorable moment of a night billed as All that Rhythm with Cateen! But it was not the only highlight.

Watch Hayato Sumino’s interpretations of “I Got Rhythm”.

Hsieh shares Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra history

The evening began with the Vancouver College Wind Ensemble, a large group of Grade 10, 11, and 12 students under the direction of Emma Ashcroft. The ensemble closed its set with a memorable version of “Arabesque”, which is American composer’s Samuel R. Hazo’s reflection on his family’s Middle Eastern background.

“The opening flute cadenza, although written out in notes, is meant to sound like an Arabic taqasim or improvisation,” Hazo once wrote. “Much the same as in jazz improvisation, the soloist is to play freely in the scales and modes of the genre. In this case, the flute plays in bi-tonal harmonic minor scales, and even bends one note to capture the micro-tonality (quarter-tones) of the music from this part of the world.”

For the audience, it was like taking a trip to Lebanon. And it featured plenty of infectious drum beats along with a thrilling conclusion.

That was followed by Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra music director Ken Hsieh fielding a range of well-crafted questions from the orchestra’s president, Graham Blank. Hsieh revealed that the size of the VMO has increased from 16 to 60 players since he founded the organization in 2003.  Nowadays, the VMO performs eight to 10 concerts a year.

Hsieh also mentioned that tough-guy actor Dwayne Johnson sat quietly in the Chan Centre audience throughout the VMO’s entire 15th anniversary concert. Who knew that The Rock enjoyed Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9? I certainly didn’t until Hsieh blurted this out.

In addition, Hsieh disclosed that his first experience as a conductor came as a 16-year-old student at Eric Hamber Secondary School. His debut came leading school band members through “O Canada” at the Orpheum Theatre.

“I’d never seen my hand shake so much—and it still does,” Hsieh quipped.

Ken Hsieh
Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra music director and principal conductor Ken Hsieh (above) studied under famed Japanese music educator Morihiro Okabe.

Sumino demonstrates dazzling speed

The conductor told the audience that Sumino made the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. And the Japanese superstar remained on-stage with the VMO through the first section, Gershwin’s Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra.

The first movement alternated between Sumino’s gently evocative piano playing and grand orchestral sounds—a reminder of the hustle and bustle of Gershwin’s New York.

Complementing Sumino as the star of the second movement was trumpet player Mark D’Angelo. His captivating solos reminded me of films that feature Gershwin music, including Woody Allen’s Manhattan. This section offered more of a nighttime feel, with clarinets and quicker paced piano setting the mood before a gentle ending showcasing the violin section.

The final movement showed off Sumino’s phenomenal speed. He came across as the piano equivalent of American guitarist Al Di Meola. Yet Sumino still conveyed so much emotion and energy while giving the Chan Centre keyboard a workout like never before.

After the intermission, the VMO performed Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, Op. 45. Hsieh mentioned that the Russian-born and New York-based composer originally planned it as a ballet. However, he added, many deemed it undanceable.

What stood out were the gorgeous melodies. Julia Nolan’s terrific alto sax solo seemed to emerge magically from the back of the stage.

Hsieh was in his element, bringing up different sections of the orchestra in rapid succession in an explosive finale. He clearly had the respect of his players, who eagerly responded to his cues. Not bad for a conductor who had  earlier confessed that at the age of six, he cried every day when his mother wanted him to attend piano lessons.

For more information on the Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra, visit the website. Follow Pancouver on X (formerly Twitter) @PancouverMedia and on Instagram @PancouverMedia.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.