This month’s edition of Coffee Morning and Afternoon Tea is slightly different from the other months’ because there was only one performance, yesterday afternoon, at the Esplanade Concert Hall (instead of the usual venue of Esplanade Recital Studio). The nearly-2000 seats were filled to capacity. There were at least three reasons for this:
one, Liu Jia Chang
two, Liu Wen Zheng
and three, the performers (Cai Yi Ren and his wife Huang Gui Xia)
The moment I stepped into the concert hall, I sensed the atmosphere was also a tad different from the few Coffee Morning and Afternoon Tea concerts held at the Concert Hall that I had attended. It was as though I was attending a full-length concert. There was already a big screen on stage that highlighted the composer, the singer and the day’s performers. (During the concert, members of the audience waved their ‘silver lights’ with their handphones.)
The concert started on the dot, with Cai singing Liu Jia Chang’s Below the Skies to the accompaniment of a five-piece band and a video playing on the screen behind him. Throughout the almost one-and-a-half hours, every song sung was accompanied by some video clip, many of which contain photographs of bygone days that evoked memories. (At one point, Cai had to skip a few phrases because he was choked up with his emotions; but more of that later.)
Some songs by Liu Jia Chang that are familiar favourites include : I Found Myself, Autumn, Where Is My Home, Late Autumn, Moon River, Autumn Poetry, Rainy Sunset, Deep Clouds And Deep Feelings, The Highest Peak, Circle, Warm Autumn, Pavilion Depth, Repay and The Memorable Past.
The one iconic song by Liu Wen Zheng , Promise, was also sung in the style of Yu Tian (a Taiwanese singer with a deep, mellow and husky voice) and Roman Tam (the late flamboyant Hong Kong singer with a very distinctive enunciation), besides Liu’s signature sounds and after Cai’s own take of the song. This is one of the most enjoyable moments of the concert.
When Cai sang Pavilion Depth (a song from a Taiwanese tearjerker inspired by Sung poetry), images of the late Feng Fei Fei flashed through my mind. The lyrics so poignant, I recalled watching her sing this song at her concerts at the Indoor Stadium and being shocked by news of her demise which she made her family keep secret for one whole year, and felt very emotional. When I blinked back my tears, I wondered why the singing was ‘broken’; and I realised that Cai was trying very hard not to break into a sob and had to recollect himself before continuing. It was the most emotionally-charged rendition of a song at the concert yesterday.
Other songs performed include: Childhood (one of my favourites sung by Sylvia Chang), Flowing Water, Never Lonely Again, Duckweed and The Song.
A message from Taiwanese Singer Zhen Su Qin in a video clip, lots and lots of photographs depicting Huang’s musical journey, photo montages of Liu Jia Chang and Liu Wen Zheng, other local singers like Alex Su and Pan Ying, Taiwanese singer Emil Chao, music director and conductor of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra Tsung Yeh and even former Member of Parliament Seng Han Tong, as well as old Singapore (including the National Theatre, the five-foot ways in front of old provision shops, attap houses and old temples, sampans at the Singapore River, the old Robinson Road area, Big Splash, kampongs, the Chinese Garden, the Woodlands cinema, amusements parks, old villages and farms) all add to the feeling that this should have been a three-hour concert.