Singapore’s Mandopop superstar Stefanie Sun has performed in front of thousands over her 15-year career, but the Sing50 concert on Friday will mark the first time she is singing with a full orchestra.
“It is one of those unknowns. To work with the orchestra and a conductor is not something that I am familiar with,” she tells Life recently after her first solo rehearsal with the band, sans orchestra, at recording studio Leo Studio.
At Sing50, Sun will be belting out four of her most popular hits – Cloudy Day, My Desired Happiness, Green Light and Kepler – accompanied by the Metropolitan Festival Orchestra, conducted by Professor Chan Tze Law.
She says with a laugh: “I’m used to always taking command, with everyone just following me. They did advise me that it’s the same this time, so I’m trying to get that into my head.”
The 37-year-old had her “first little taste” of melding classical with her songs last month when she performed with renowned Chinese pianist Lang Lang on stage at Hunan TV’s 20th Anniversary Concert in China.
“He played the piano while I sang Yu Jian (Encounter). It was great because we got to feed off each other and go with the flow. I’m looking forward to doing that with a lot more people as well as with all the string and percussion instruments.”
Lang Lang will also be making an appearance at Sing50, though in a separate item from Sun.
Aside from performing with the orchestra, another new experience for Sun was working with Golden Horse Award-winning composer Ricky Ho, who was responsible for arranging the songs in her item.
“I’ve never worked with Ricky and I’ve heard a lot about him. I didn’t know what to expect, but after hearing the whole arrangement I was very happy. He is so good and adds this really nice touch of class to it,” she says.
The seasoned performer admits to always getting nervous before her performances, not to mention this upcoming one in particular.
“It is a very big-scale concert and the number of people involved is pretty overwhelming,” says Sun, who has a 2 1/2-year-old son.
“For the approach to my best hits, it is a little bit challenging because it starts from classical and morphs back to pop, which is what I’m good at.”
Describing herself as a “typical kiasu Singaporean”, the petite singer reveals that she downs protein shakes and also engages in visualisation to compose herself before going on stage.
She says: “I will visualise from the moment I am seen by everybody backstage. I visualise the songs and the costumes changes, so it all goes through my head.”
Her fellow Sing50 performer, jazz maestro Jeremy Monteiro, says: “We just need to concentrate on the task on hand and remain calm, cool and energetic in order to play a nice show.”
The 45,000-strong crowd at Sing50 will be the largest he has ever performed in front of since he started his career in 1977.
Friday’s event will top the 11,000 showing he had more than 20 years ago at the Nippon Budokan in Japan.
The 2002 Cultural Medallion recipient says: “What is big about the production is that there are four times more people in the audience. But the work I am doing in rehearsals is not that different from any other show.
Together with his all-star band of Singapore-based jazz musicians, Monteiro, 55, will be performing a medley of his original compositions and well-known standards, which he describes as “familiar and melodic”.
He says: “I’m very happy that jazz is being featured in the concert. It is a recognition that jazz has played an important role within the Singapore music scene in the last 50 years.”
But the highlight of Sing50 for him would be the big musical reunion backstage with the other performing artists.
“One of the first people I worked with was Rahimah Rahim, and to be on the same show as her is quite exciting. Working again with Dick Lee will also be great and it is going to be an amazing party.”
Echoing his sentiments, singer Rahimah says: “The most beautiful thing is being able to meet my friends. Some of them have returned from overseas and having all of them back together is really awesome.”
One of Singapore’s most popular singers in the 1980s, the 59-year-old has been working as a full-time administrative assistant in a legal firm for the past seven years.
She will be performing in a Malay segment, together with rock legend Ramli Sarip, pop yeh-yeh pioneer Jeffrydin, folk rocker Art Fazil and 2009 Singapore Idol winner Sezairi. It is the first collaboration for all five of them.
Ramli, 62, says: “I was proud to be called up to perform. I have done so many shows, but this one is extra special because of SG50.”
Fondly known as “Papa Rock” by fans, he was the frontman of heavy metal rock group Sweet Charity in the 1970s and 1980s.
The singer says he is most looking forward to the moment when the crowd sings these tunes alongside him during the show.
“During the 1960s, you would see all the Chinese, Malays, Indians and Eurasians singing these songs. They are like national songs and that’s the beauty of it.”
Award-winning composer Dick Lee, 58, feels events such as Sing50 play an instrumental role in exposing Singapore music to the world.
The music veteran, who is behind iconic local musicals such as Beauty World and Fried Rice Paradise, will be performing a medley of four of his biggest hits alongside two young emerging stars in a segment.
He says: “Our music scene is still evolving and will continue to grow, especially as the world opens up via the Web.
“I hope that our musicians can continue to strive for a unique identity in our music that will set us apart.”