Music

Watch this meticulous, COVID-era piano cover of 'Bohemian Rhapsody'

"It's music now that will help keep everyone smiling," says Calgary’s Thomas Yu.

‘It's music now that will help keep everyone smiling,’ says Calgary’s Thomas Yu

Thomas Yu performs Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody in his Calgary home. (Thomas Yu/YouTube)

"I'm naturally an introvert, so I don't find it challenging to be at home," says Thomas Yu, a periodontist and gifted classical pianist based in Calgary.

But with his periodontal practice closed in order to contain the spread of COVID-19, Yu has had extra time on his hands for piano-related projects.

"It's music now that will help keep everyone smiling," he said.

His latest is a meticulous cover of Queen's 1975 hit Bohemian Rhapsody recorded in his home on three GoPros and a Zoom recorder, and later edited by Matthew Holdenried.

"My approach to piano covers is to create the most accurate version, as if you are listening to the original," Yu told CBC Music via email.

"I started Bohemian Rhapsody by listening to it over and over, second by second, writing down every note from every voice and instrument. Even if there was a little riff by the second guitar, I wanted it included."

Yu, winner of the 2016 Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition, says his favourite part of this Bohemian Rhapsody cover is the opening.

"You hear the same chords repeated, but inside the chords there is voicing of the melody," he explains, adding, "Thank you, classical music, for teaching me how to voice."

This isn't Yu's first foray into classical crossover.

"My first cover was in 2009 (I Want You Back by Jackson 5) and it got almost 500,000 views," he recalls. "It was amazing to see how interested people all around the world were with it. I wanted to do more and more covers, but life got in the way, so I would only record one every few years."

But with unexpected time at home, imposed by coronavirus concerns, Yu rediscovered his passion to record.

"After covering Radiohead's Paranoid Android, I knew that the next big project would have to be epic. In my opinion, the only song that could match it was Bohemian Rhapsody. It took me a couple days to hash out the notes, and during that time, I was so amazed by Freddie Mercury's songwriting. He was a true genius. My pop preferences are all over the place, but it's the big works that tend to attract me to do a piano cover."

Yu says he's taking requests for his next piano cover. If you'd like to nominate a song, reach out to him on Twitter or Instagram.

In the meantime, he'll occupy himself not only with practising piano, but also his son's at-home pre-school education.

"Today, we are learning about musical instruments — our favourite subject, of course."

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