27TH APRIL 2019
Within the world of Chinese literature and music, the concert at The Star Performing Arts Centre on 27th April 2019 must have been one of the most iconic and ground-breaking seen in Singapore in recent times.
It featured two defining giants hailing from the Taiwan music industry – Chyi Yu and Michelle Pan Yue Yun, whose songs have given voice to listeners’ emotions for decades. They paid tribute to a third giant – San Mao, a woman writer who died in 1991 at the age of 47 whose literary words have inspired generations.
Titled “Hui Sheng” (translated as “echo”) the 2 ½ hour concert comprised Chyi Yu and Pan singing songs from a seminal album of the same title, produced in 1985, which was a collaboration between the two singers and San Mao, who wrote the lyrics and provided narration. San Mao’s English name was Echo.
In addition, Chyi Yu and Pan also sang other crowd-pleasers which they are famous for and which thrilled the audience, capping the evening with a total of 30 songs including five encores.
The show attracted an appreciative mostly-Chinese crowd, who made their way smoothly and easily to the 5,000-pax capacity The Star Theatre, ascending the escalators and going through the turnstiles with much anticipation.
Those spotted amongst the audience included a Member of Parliament, theatre practitioners and Singapore’s Chinese literary greats.
Clad in full-length formal ball gowns, Chyi Yu and Pan, both aged 61, held court throughout the performance and their voices have clearly stood the test of time. The audience was mesmerized by Chyi Yu’s ethereal, haunting vocals, and by Pan’s lower evocative voice.
The top-notch stage set-up was key in communicating the intent of the concert.
At times, the high-definition LED screen behind showcased the singers, showing with brilliant clarity Chyi Yu’s distinctive dimples and Pan’s sculpted cheekbones.
At others, 3D images worked with translucent drop-down screens at the front of the stage to create memorable special effects. When Pan sang 晓梦蝴蝶, which is about butterflies, it appeared as if the stage was alive with throngs of multi-coloured butterflies. When Chyi Yu sang 一面湖水, about a lake, it appeared as if she were standing on the edge of a beautiful blue lake amidst mountains.
San Mao’s words also appeared on the backdrop, with narration, so those present could appreciate the beauty of her writing and the breadth of her life. Her songs even included desert-inspired tunes, as she had lived in the Sahara desert for a time.
One of the most special moments of the night was when the duo sang Olive Tree, a Chyi Yu hit with lyrics by San Mao. The appreciate audience broke out in wolf-whistles and applause the moment the band played the first bars.
Interestingly, the song was conversely sung by Pan! Pan quipped after the song, “I’m very brave to sing this!” What Chyi Yu sang instead was a unique counterpoint melody 在那遥远的地方 (In That Faraway Place), which blended beautifully with Olive Tree.
At the end of the concert, both ladies paid tribute to San Mao, a woman before her time and prolific writer who travelled the world, married a Spaniard and chose to remain childless when her peers were all walking traditional paths.
“Thank you for the music, thank you for the culture,” said Pan, at the end of the concert. “I hope you’ve all fallen in love with San Mao, thank you all for coming.”
At the end of the night, as the audience filed out smoothly out of the venue with smiles on their faces, it was clear that the legacy of the three ladies had touched hearts and minds.
Photo Credits: Rock Records Singapore