You should definitely not miss the closing concert of the French May Arts Festival 2022 on 24 and 25 June at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre.
Cities of Light – A Love Affair between France and Hong Kong… The subtitle doesn’t lie, the concert represents the epitome of the Festival’s aim and mission to build a bridge between France and Hong Kong and to reach out to the entire community through a cultural exchange concert.
Acclaimed Hong Kong composer Leon Ko, Malaysian pop diva and platinum-selling singer Gin Lee and Zulu South African jazz vocalist Talie Monin will bring you a music feast filled with iconic Hong Kong songs and their French counterparts.
From Tchin-Tchin, the French version of Tsai Chin’s The Forgotten Time from the world-famous movie Infernal Affairs, to the Cantonese version of La Vie en Rose by Danny Chan, the concert will present surprising gems and adaptations.
We had the chance to exchange with Hong Kong composer Leon Ko and South African jazz vocalist Talie Monin about the choice of the songs and their collaborative process.
Leon Ko is a multi-awarded Hong Kong composer for musical theatres and films (Heading East, The Good Person of Szechwan, The Passage Beyond, Our Immortal Cantata, Sing Out, Takeaway, The Originals, The Woman in Kenzo, etc.). He was the musical director of Hong Kong pop legend Jacky Cheung’s 2004 musical revival world tour Snow. Wolf. Lake. He also took part in the revitalisation of Cantonese opera.
For Cities of Light – A Love Affair between France and Hong Kong, Leon selected all the songs, starting with the familiar Hong Kong hits that were famous covers of French pop songs. “As I was doing research, I was surprised to find out such adaptations went decades earlier than I had expected. More surprising was how many Hong Kong songs were adapted into French”.
Leon also selected songs which had the potential to be re-arranged with seemingly unrelated materials. For Gin Lee’s ballad Person Under the Moon (2016), Leon has replaced the original arrangement with Debussy’s Clair de Lune to complete the moon theme. As he said, the concert is “not only a cross-cultural endeavour, but also an unlikely yet perfectly harmonious musical echo from different centuries, countries, and genres.”
Among French classics, Leon picked La Vie En Rose (Edith Piaf, 1947) and Les Champs-Elysées (Joe Dassin, 1969), undoubtedly the most renowned French songs in the world. “Thanks to Emily in Paris, another horde of French pop songs made it into the public consciousness”. Je Ne Veux Pas Travailler (Pink Martini, 1999) will be featured in the concert too!
Born in Johannesburg, Talie Monin has enjoyed a spectacular rise among the top ranks of the global jazz elite after winning an Award at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2018. Having trained in Paris at the American School of Modern Music and the Bill Evans Piano Academy, she will mainly sing the French songs.
In 2021, Talie was already the lead singer in another successful French May Arts Festival highlight concert Jazz in French Films feat. Patrick Lui Jazz Orchestra, filled with best-known French film theme music pieces rearranged by Hong Kong pianist and composer Patrick Lui.
As Talie says, “it seems the French music just gravitates towards me. In both these instances I have been requested to be part of the show. I have learned so much from these past two shows!”
Although she studied in Paris, Talie is not fluent in French, and singing in this language is a challenge. “I regret not learning completely during my time in Paris. Now I am learning through song, which is much more fun of course! I am finding it much easier when the words are tied to a melody”.
In addition to solo performances by Gin Lee and Talie Monin, one of the highlights of the concert will be a song battle where the two singers will interchange between French, English, Cantonese and Mandarin in a series of songs to see which one wins out.
Finally, Leon added: “Gin is primarily a pop singer and Talie sings jazz. This concert encompasses a vast array of styles and both singers have been so game in taking up the challenge as some of these songs are no easy tasks. We are all pushed to the limits, which was exhilarating.”
Cities of Light – A Love Affair between France and Hong Kong is an highlight programme of the French May Arts Festival 2022.
24 & 25 June at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre – 8:15 – 9:00pm. More details can be found here.
Artistic and Music Director: Leon Ko
Arranger and Band Leader: Pong Law
Stage Designer: Albert Au
Costume Designers: Victor Chan, Doris Kath Chan
Stage Director: Ata Wong Chun Tat
Singers: Gin Lee, Talie Monin