Keyboardist brings flavor to Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s sound

by MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

Trans-Siberian Orchestra is a mélange of sound.

The group, which travels around the winter holidays every year, offers heavy rock mixed with classical music and holiday favorites. TSO also tosses in a couple of other genres for a little spice.

The group’s keyboardist Mee Eun Kim reflects TSO’s inherent versatility.

Kim was in Korea and grew up in Malaysia. Her father was a pop singer. She started off her musical journey by learning classical music and then moved on to jazz.

Now Kim provides musical color to a band known as much for their pyromaniac stage show as their music.

Kim, in a phone interview, said she loves the diversity that surrounds her on the TSO stage.

Trans-Siberia Orchestra comes to Hartford for two shows on Nov. 24.

On stage, Kim said the styles and the quality of Tran-Siberian Orchestra musicianship is like a musical buffet. “There are so many amazing singers and musicians.” For example, there are bluesy belters sharing the same stage with Broadway-style crooners.

A TSO show appeals to all kinds of audiences, said Kim.

The keyboardist said the different kinds of fans are apparent in a visual inspection of the audience. Kim said you’ll see a rocker. You’ll see couples tuxes and evening gowns. There also are young and old fans in the TSO crowd, said Kim.

“It’s so wonderful,” said Kim of the diversity at a TSO show.

As a classically trained musician and as someone who learned jazz, Kim said one of the challenges when she joined TSO was to simplify her playing. As a classical pianist, her instinct is to play all parts of an arrangement by herself. As a jazz musician, Kim said her instinct was to offer up all sort of musical filigrees.

With so many different instruments and voices on stage at a TSO show, Kim said her playing now has to fit into the spaces provided by the other arrangement parts.

TSO is known for its production, which includes plenty of blinding lights, zapping lasers, and bombastic pyrotechnics. But the show does have some unintended hazards for its musicians.

The view from over Mee Eun Kim’s shoulder.

“I had my back burned and my hair on fire,” said Kim, matter-of-factly.

But the over-the-top production, Kim said, is just as exciting for the musicians as the fans.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra spends each holiday season traveling across America.

As someone who was born in Korea and has lived in Malaysia, Kim has a unique perspective on the United States.

“America is so big,” said Kim.

Additionally, Kim said that there is so much diversity in musical genres across the nation’s expanse, it’s hard to pin down America’s musical personality.

In Europe and Korea, Kim said you can expect audiences to like a particular musical genre. But in America, anything goes depending on where you stop.

This year, Trans-Siberian Orchestra is revisiting the album that started its musical juggernaut, 1996’s “Christmas Eve and Other Stories.”

For Kim, the tour’s focus brings her full circle. “Christmas Eve…” was the first album she got to play on stage as a member of TSO. She’s excited to play the piece once again. After stepping away from the album for a number of years, Kim said it sounds fresh once again to her ears.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra performs at the XL Center, 1 Civic Plaza, Hartford on Sunday, Nov. 24 at 3:30 and 7 p.m. For information, go to XLCenter.com or Trans-Siberian.com.