Sai Kung is not known for its music. Sure, there are a few commendable restaurants with live players once in awhile, but ultimately this is a district generally recognised for its visual, natural beauty rather than acoustic attractiveness. The idea of hosting a concert in our lovable yet quaint town centre does seem a little far-fetched. A few technical difficulties come to mind, the most apparent simply being the lack of space to hold a large show for big audiences.
This supposed handicap, however, may also have been this event’s strength.
In a typical large-scale concert, you’d have to deal with the rather onerous tasks of stage set-up, ticketing, crowd management and whatnot. Not to mention if they’d attempted to put together a sizable stage in the middle of town for the opening-ceremony-slash-concert of the Sai Kung District Music Festival, they would have a riot on their hands for being in the way. At least, whatever protest the people could muster late on a Saturday afternoon.
As it happened, that scenario was not to be. In the square outside the local temple a low, red-canopied stage had popped up. A few rows of plastic chairs filled more of the ground space, and the square was ringed by several flags proudly announcing the show that was about to commence. Or they would, if there was any breeze to help them flutter.
Right on time, a bubbly MC appeared to greet the gathered. Due to this being a district-run event, the proceedings were mainly carried out in Cantonese. Various VIPs were introduced, as was the programme. This evening was the aforementioned opening ceremony for this festival, which comprises of many music, arts, and cultural events and workshops from this month all the way to March, taking place in Sai Kung and Tseung Kwan O. Concerts will include genres such as Cantopop, contemporary, Chinese-Western fusions, classic and ‘modern’ Cantonese opera, amongst others.
But we’re focusing on the opening, the theme of which was nostalgia and the golden oldies, quote unquote. So after the formalities were completed, and the confetti poppers were all popped out ( I might mention that, to my great disappointment, mine did not release a flurry of coloured paper strips due to a technical issue that left it intact and unused. ) the first guest, Anders Nelsson, a veteran of the Hong Kong music scene, dived straight into song, with renditions of classics like Sweet Caroline and local ballad Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xing, or The Moon Represents My Heart.
Now’s a good time to return to the small stage and why it was great. Mr. Nelsson, and the other performers whom I will get to shortly, were not confined to the elevated floor as they would be at a larger show, but instead walked among the audience, encouraging them to join in, with mini-contests like “Do the Twist”, something from before my own time but fun to watch anyway. These things gave the evening a level of intimacy not often seen in a city sometimes too busy delving into its corporate, material enterprises to really take a moment to slow down and have a laugh with strangers who, at least for one evening, become your friends. There was not one second when there wasn’t someone dancing and – if this is the correct phrase for the occasion – swinging to the heavy bass rhythms characteristic of eighties feel-good songs.
Anders was joined on-stage and in-crowd by the likes of Rowena Cortes and her husband Perry Martin, Joe Junior and others, many of whom have, along with Nelsson, been in the music industry locally for many years. There were duets, party tunes, a great cover of Country Road by Mr. and Mrs. Martin, and more.
The singers were joined by an audience about two hundred strong, of all ages, seniors, children, parents…and a surprising amount of security. Kids had room to play, adults had space to enjoy the humble yet thoroughly cheerful and entertaining lineup.
The casual, interactive set-up provided a comfortable location for all, and a new ( or not so new ) soundtrack for this mid-autumn Sai Kung night, alongside the friendly chatter and occasional seabird that have made their home in the neighbourhood soundscape, and brought even more life to our evening scene.