Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Basso Canaries Presents: 'The Billingual Policy' - 10 Feb 2014



In case you don't already know, the Basso Canaries are Andrew Xiao Chunyuan and myself, Steven Ang. This will be our third concert at The Arts House under the Living With series. It will be a programme of English and Chinese songs, two languages that we have been taught to speak from young. Pianist Beatrice Lin will be helping us play again. Singer Alvin Koh and flautist Cheryl Lim will also be making guest appearances.

The show's title, The Bilingual Policy, is really inspired by my 4 year study trip in Taiwan. Apparently the movie I Not Stupid is very popular there, and folks are always asking me if its true that we speak so many languages in one conversation (which of course is true and not so unusual among us Singaporeans). It soon occurred to me that my comfort with both the English and Chinese languages (the latter which is admittedly not as good but has improved significantly over the years) is something akin to having X-Men-like superpowers; friends look on in envy as I chat away with Caucasian visitors, usually an esteemed musician from the US or Europe. Not a day goes by when I'm not called upon to translate one thing or another as a favour, either orally or in writing.



Still, it struck me that folks in other countries, not just the Taiwanese, generally face immense difficulties learning English. Just look at the mainlanders, Koreans, Japanese, and even continental Europeans. Its a blessing that most of us speak it to some degree of fluency. And with the mainland economy increasingly gaining traction, it is our fortune to act as some kind of bridge between the East and West.

So back to the business of singing; in school we have to have to sing in four different European languages: Italian, German, French and English. While it takes forever to memorise the foreign words of the first three languages (Marcello's part in La Boheme act 3 is a bitch to learn!), it is needless to say that I learn English material much faster than others, and sing with better pronunciation and understanding.

So this coming concert is a tribute to our unique educational policy. To give thanks to our unique background, we will present a programme of songs in languages that we actually speak. As a challenge, I will be presenting my first song cycle, Vaughan William's Songs of Travel, as well as local and foreign Chinese songs. Andrew will present songs by local composers, and Alvin will perform British and Singaporean works.

Tickets will soon be available at The Arts House's box office, meanwhile both Andrew and I would be delighted if you could set this date aside for us. Happy New Year!



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