By Abigail Ang (18S06B) and Zhu Xiuhua (18S06A)
Calligraphy, songwriting and drama – three entirely different forms of art; how can they possibly integrate seamlessly and culminate in one flawless production? Raffles Institution’s Chinese Language Drama and Cultural Society (CLDCS) answered this in their annual concert held at the school’s Performing Arts Centre last Friday evening. Titled 翠谷回响・四季之约 (A Date with the Four Seasons), this year’s production included a calligraphy showcase, ten original Chinese songs and two dramas that explore various interpersonal relationships.
Numerous Chinese calligraphy pieces were put on display at the front of house – a strategic location that allowed many to admire the works of art before the concert and during intermission. One audience member expressed her appreciation for the different styles of calligraphy writing and commented that ” the texts were very ‘deep’ “. Although often forgotten in this modern era, Chinese calligraphy is an integral element of the traditional Chinese culture. Indeed, the calligraphers invested immeasurable effort and dedication as exemplified by the meticulousness in their works.
The night’s music ranged from bubbly soft-pop to edgy rock songs and powerful ballads. The first song, 冬暖 (Winter Warmth), a jazz piece sung by Tan Hsiao Fang (17S06G), created a relaxed atmosphere, before lively beats of the drum woke the audience from their reverie, as Joshua Ong (17S06C) strode onto the stage to perform his self-composed song Our Way. With supporters at the back cheering eagerly and waving signboards, this performance gave off a strong Campus SuperStar vibe.
The night’s offerings also included acts such as, 不是我的我 (The Me that is Not Me), written and performed by Zhu Ruixi (17S06B), was an edgier rock song about finding oneself, and the pop-rock song 难上加难 (
Vectors/Adding Difficulty to Difficulty) by Loo Rui Jie (17A03A).
Hsiao Fang also returned on stage with the soft-pop song 天空的思念 (Longing), which would not seem out of place on a Rainie Yang album. Xiao Jianzhi (18S02A) – inarguably the MVP of the night – then performed 挚爱 (Beloved), moving the audience with his amazing vocals.
This was followed by 没有你的曾经 (A Past Without You) by Yoong Hui Xuan (17S06M), and 锅上的城堡 (Castle on the Pan) by Zhou Yifan (17S06S). Accompanying his song with engaging hand actions and facial expressions, Yifan pulled off the fresh and bubbly self-composed pop song with flair. The next song was a duet by Sally Yang (18S05A) and Anna Ying (18S06K), titled 追逐 (Pursuit). While the melodious tune and overlapping of sweet vocals was certainly memorable, their unorthodox fashion sense was even more so. When asked, Sally explained that it was to complement the lyrics of their song which used Chinese ink wash paintings as an important metaphor.
Finally, Jianzhi reappeared on stage, this time together with Liu Yanru (17S05A), a guest performer, to perform the song 沙哑 (Hoarse). Jianzhi’s energetic rap overlapped with Yanru’s opera-like vocals to create an interesting and powerful piece, concluding the song segment of the concert well. Liu Chuyue (18S06B) commented, “the song segment was really fun because the songs were quite upbeat. I was expecting, like, opera.”
The first play, titled 过境 (Crossing Borders), was a special performance brought to us by Raffles Girls’ School Chinese Drama which was also presented at this year’s SYF. It follows the stories of three pairs of passengers on an a plane – a pair of friends, a pair of siblings and a mother-daughter pair. As the play progressed, light is shed on their histories – the common point across all of them being the failure to communicate good intentions resulting in fractured relationships. As one party in each pair accuses the other of not being understanding, tensions are heightened, and at the breaking point, the plane coincidentally experiences extreme conditions. The conflicts are ultimately resolved when they finally tried to understand each other’s perspective and put old grievances behind them.
The acting and costumes were en pointe, and the sparse use of sets further contributed to the tense atmosphere.The effective use of lights and sounds also heightened the tension at the peak of the characters’ conflicts. It was professionally executed and without a doubt an impressive play.
Finally, the last performance of the night was the play 冬夏春秋 (Four Seasons), which began with the scene of four children attending their mother’s funeral. The Third Daughter (Zhang Shiyu, 17S06O) – the only one who stayed by Mother’s (Zhu Ruixi) side when struck by muscular dystrophy – is accused by her siblings of murdering Mother for money after a visit by the family doctor who claimed Mother’s death to be unusual.
The play took a surprising turn when the First Daughter (Wu Yongyu, 18S06I), a Police Chief, suddenly collapses onto the floor when the siblings gather to discuss Mother’s death. The Third Daughter then laughs, admitting that she has spiked the First Daughter’s drink, and the other two siblings look on in horror.
Before you wonder if this play ends in bloodbath, the Third Daughter reveals that she had not in fact killed her elder sister; the drug simply left her temporarily paralysed. An audio recording that their late Mother left behind then reveals that she enlisted the Third Daughter’s help in ending her life because it was too tiring to live on. She also left instructions for the Third Daughter to poison the First Daughter, in hopes that her children could understand her pain – and by extension, her actions.
With the theme of euthanasia, as well as flashback scenes of Third Daughter taking care of her rapidly-deteriorating mother, grappling and finally coming to terms with her mother’s decision, the play took on a much darker tone. The theme song, 冬雪 (Winter Snow), sang by Shiyu and Yifan, tugged at the audience’s heartstrings, adding further emotional value to the play. The incorporation of the song into the play was evidence of the meticulous effort put into the integration of the different sections.
However, this author – like many members of the audience – was stumped as to why the mother would leave instructions to paralyse her own daughter. Nonetheless, it was a very touching show – some said to have shed a tear or two during the scenes of the Third Daughter taking care of her dying Mother – interspersed with moments of lighthearted humour that balanced out the certain darker tones of the play.
As the night’s performance concluded with roaring applause from the audience, it was clear that CLDCS has successfully brought together the different Chinese-related arts to create one entertaining production.
With Raffles schools having a reputation among some of being Anglo-centric, this writer was heartened to see a thriving appreciation for Chinese culture and art, both traditional and modern, through the events of the night.
Raffles Press awaits CLDCS’ concert next year and looks forward to another high-quality production.