A Date With Friends is a weekend of FREE performances and activities organised for seniors usually in November (but there’ll be an extra one in March next year).
Despite rushing from the Poetry Writing workshop at the Central Public Library to the Esplanade Concourse for the second set by Peter Chua- whom I’ve always admired since I first heard him as a Singapore Talentime finalist in the early 80’s – I still could not get a seat although I had two minutes to spare. (I had to miss the first set that started half an hour before the workshop ended.) The programme mentioned that he would be accompanied by William Lee on the piano.
6.00 – 6.30 pm
Peter started the set by announcing that he would be performing at the Coffee Morning & Afternoon Tea concerts on 6 Mar 2017 when he will be singing songs by Tom Jones and Englebert Humperdinck. I have waited many many years for his return. (The last performance he held at the Esplanade Recital Studio was more than five years ago, I think, when he sangs songs by The Platters. I was so impressed I attended both shows. I had asked the Programme Manager Chris about a year ago when Peter Chua would be scheduled to perform at Coffee Morning & Afternoon Tea and Chris said he didn’t even know who Peter Chua was but that he would check it out.)
The first song was Michael Buble’s The Way You Look Tonight. This was followed by Freddie Aguilla’s Child (in English, not Anak or in Tagalog) and The Bee Gee’s First Of May. I was just enjoying myself when William took over the singing – not that he wasn’t a good singer but he sang Cantonese numbers – “The Heartless Cold Night Wind” and “What Else Is There?” – which I didn’t understand a word of, and I had heard neither tune before.
I was in for a surprise when Peter next sang a medley of two Mandarin songs! (I know Peter is a self-proclaimed kantang, (literal meaning ‘potato’), someone who knows no Mandarin. He must have practised very hard the songs “I Found Myself” (by Liu Wen Zheng) and “Just Like Your Tenderness” (by Tsai Chin) and he delivered very powerful renditions filled with all the right emotions – angst, pain, agony, longing, wishful, sentimental. The only downside was that he bantered too much (and in the Teochew dialect) with William (in the Cantonese dialect) and the audience. This was disruptive for me, but I can’t complain about this as it was meant to be humorous and it was my loss that I did not know Teochew or Cantonese.
7.00 – 7.30 pm
Not satisfied with only 30 minutes of music, I decided to stay for the next set as I found seats when some people left and I also found out from the usher that different songs would be performed.
I was a tad disappointed that the set started with William’s Cantonese song, one whose title I couldn’t even make out. I perked up a little when Peter sang next – a Mandarin song by Liu Wen Zheng called Being Late. I was full of anticipation when the duo announced that the next one would be unplugged; but, sadly (for me) it was another Cantonese number with a title something like A Wanderer’s Confession. The upside was that William played the er hu (a two-stringed Chinese instrument) too, and was verstile enough to change the key mid-way through the song when he realised he couldn’t sing the higher notes. However, this got me wondering if he was treating this performance like a rehearsal, because it was FREE?
The next three numbers by Peter were all in English, including Only You by The Platters, and which I last watched him perform at the aforesaid concert. William sang another Cantonese song, Friends by Alan Tam, with Peter joining in at the chorus and with William himself playing solo passages on the Saxaphone in the transition.
8.00 – 8.30 pm
By the time I returned for the final set of the night (after visiting the library@esplanade to borrow some DVDs), the crowd had soared. I was lucky enough to squeeze myself between two sweet, elderly ladies in the last row. When the set commenced, the crowd had become so huge that passers-by were finding it difficult to walk through the Concourse area.
Peter started with Cliff Richard’s Living Doll, then a Spanish song (which I couldn’t understand but enjoyed the lively music), before launching into a medley of Neil Sedaka songs (including O Carol). The middle section contains Cantonese songs (Genius & Idiot and another sung to the tune of O Susanna, sung by William who also played the er hu in both songs) and a Teochew ditty based on an Elvis Presley song (sung by Peter, which was apparently witty and humorous but were all lost on me).
Again, Peter fumbled with his song sheets and William took to filling in the time with part of a Cantonese song. Those who were not present for the earlier sets might not have realised this was part of the act and might have thought if the duo was treating this performance like a rehearsal or wondered if they were doing this because they were not paid to perform.
The set was supposed to end with a well-known Jamaican song that began with Teh-O but which ended with “I’m so sad to leave you guys. Daylight’s come and we wanna go home”. However, the swelling crowd refused to budge or let the performers get off the stage until they obliged with an encore: a medley comprising an Elvis Presley medley of Blue Suede Shoes, It’s Alright and Hounddog, and a Mandarin song Xiao Wei (with some lyrics in Teochew).
I will definitely buy tickets for both sessions of Coffee Morning and Afternoon Tea featuring Peter Chua and his band as soon as bookings are open!