Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lai Chun Yuen 梨春园 - guzheng performance

Not wanting to miss the guzheng performance, we rushed to Lai Chun Yuen, arriving a little past 7pm. We were still able to watch the performance. It was impressive. All the ladies with one man performed on the guzheng with two guys on the percussions.

No conductor, no notes but the ladies and men performed beautifully. What is perhaps a little lacking is the set up in the rest of this magnificient hall. But one cannot complain when one is watching and listening to the performance without paying a cent.

If only someone were to project the title of the pieces that the guzheng troupe was playing. The music was very familiar but it took a while to try to recall the title. The pieces chosen was very well suited to the crowd, very robust, full of life and energy and towards the end, with the encore, the crowd was clapping hands to join in the beat.

If they were to have such performances very weekend, it would certainly be great. If only I could have my table and chairs nearer to the performers.  Wine was on sale there, and maybe a glass might match with some pieces and some oolong for others.

I think the current management is having vendors offering all kinds of things for sale, preferably heritage stuff of Chinatown and Singapore. It is almost like a flea market and I think more could be squeezed in to make it really like a market. If they could keep the noise level down, and have performances like every alternate half hour during weekends, it would be a fun place to go to. Maybe even the musical buskers too! Imagine even the amateur nanyin singer - be it Hokkien or Cantonese. The erhus, the pipas, the Chinese strings .. and maybe, the Teochew kong kuan (the whole group might bring the roof down).

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Photos of Old Singapore

Taking an after-dinner stroll through the streets of the Cantonese-speaking Chinatown (in the old days, that is), we chanced upon the re-opening of the Lai Chun Yuen 梨春园 (Li Chun Yuan), the famed old opera-house of yesteryears. The outside facade of the row of what seems like shophouses belie the existence of an opera-house inside. If only we could bring back its old glory with the newly restored and renovated interior. It could well be.The new management is coming up with something in a matter of days. For the time being, it was a to be a spread of stalls selling things of the old. As it was already past 9pm the only stall that was open was the Hogart Art London stall! And what warm greetings we received from the staff! "We are still open, just for you!" How not to oblige with a purchase? But we resisted and got to discussions about old Singapore, quizzing each other on one's knowledge of old Singapore.

Question for you, "Which street was the first street of Singapore?"

There were old pictures of Chinatown in the old days, and certainly worth buying for keepsakes as well as for friends. They are frame-ready. I was told that these photos were collected and produced from England. So, for the old Singapore and old Chinatown buffs, this is worth looking at (no commercial interests on my part).

Tomorrow night will be the final night of this weekend's guzheng 古筝 performance. I hope in the weeks ahead, we could get to see more arts performance, it be Chinese or even of other kinds. It is certainly a great place to be part of the Singapore's Arts Festival.

How nice it would be to sit down, have a few cuppas of good oolong 乌龙, poh-lei 保利 or the current trend of pu-erh 普洱, and watching a Cantonese opera. Tai Lui Fa 帝女花 came to mind. (^^)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pasar Theatre in Chinatown

Interesting title for this event, "Pasar Theatre" in which I understand "Pasar" as market in Malay. Nevertheless, it was Arts to the people, and in this part of Chinatown, behind the Tooth Relic Temple, it's the older folks. Of course, apparently oblivious to the music or the blast, a few groups in the far back were more interested in the "Dum" (Checkers) or Chinese Chess. Such is typical of a marketplace.

When I was there on Sunday 24 May 2009, I was in time to watch the Nanyin performance by Siong Leng Musical Association, one of the two Nanyin groups in Singapore, resident in Bukit Pasoh, a couple of minutes walk up the slope.

To bring the folks back to the old days, the emcee was dressed in the typical samfoo of yesteryears, 1960s and before. And of course, with young girls, there was the typical twin pony tails. Ah, only this time, the lady emcee was speaking mostly Mandarin. I was trying to scan the faces of the old folks to see if they could understand. Some did. She did add in some Hokkien here and there, and probably some snatches of Cantonese as well.

To many of the old folks, the small skitch that I saw of her talking to an imaginery letter writer of her telling her parents back home about her work in Nanyang and enquiring if their sow at home had already given birth .. they certainly must have brought lumps to the throat, if they understood the Mandarin. 

The emcee cleverly weaved in the stories with the Nanyin performances and again, if the audience understand the ancient Hokkien, they might appreciate the lyrics of songs such as "Jia Hang Tsu Beh" - eating sweet potato rice porridge, something I could relate to as they could be a meal by itself and certainly supplemented to keep the tummy filled. Easy to grow, and it grows fast, the sweet potato roots could be eaten in many ways, and the leaves too, whether in fuyi (Cantonese for the fermented tofu) or in sambal (Malay for the chilli paste).