Curtain call and curtain raiser

My Dear Rotarians and friends, in particular my Action Presidents,

I took a look at the notice outside Hong Kong Cultural Centre Grand Theatre. It said something like there would be no interval in the two and a half hours performance, which sounded like a warning that one should visit the bath room. We did. Indeed, a queue had formed outside the Ladies’ and a very helpful usher was asking people in the queue to use the facilities on other floors if they did not want to miss the opening number.

Rosita and I went to see the last performance by Nana Mouskouri. It was time well spent. We enjoyed her performance very much. The songstress sang throughout, only pausing for short chats and sips of water. Nana was accompanied by seven musicians, six men and one young lady whom Nana introduced as her niece. They are all very accomplished artistes, all of them, and at least three were French. At first glance, it appeared to be a predominantly strings and percussion group, but as the evening went by, the musicians whisked out woodwinds and brass instruments and played them very beautifully. For example, there was one Frenchmen who played a keyboard, saxophone and flute, all very proficiently; and it appeared that everyone could sing.

It was Nana’s first visit to Hong Kong. She was to have come here last year during the Arts Festival. We could not go because we were going to Anaheim. As it turned out, she had an accident and could not come here last year. To say that Nana Mouskouri is legendary is probably an understatement. The programme notes said that she had over 450 albums recorded in ten languages, ten world tours, more than 350 platinum or gold records, and over 35 consecutive years as an international star. She said that she had sang for 40 years, first in Greece and recently in Europe, mainly in France, her declared adopted country.

I first heard Nana’s records in the sixties. I found her music and singing soothing and relaxing, and besides, many of my good friends liked her. For me, it was a period of growing up and relationship building. Many of her songs would invariably bring back old memories. My children have also taken to like her singing, and Rosita pointed out that our family of four owns three identical copies of her signature CD – Nana Mouskouri Passport.

The evening was therefore like going down memory lane, and I do not think we are alone. The audience was simply captivated and mesmerized after the first two bars of music. And those songs – Plasir d’amour, Power of love, Bridge over troubled water, Smoke gets into your eyes, Over the rainbow, Autumn leaves, Both sides now – were so potent and powerful one wonders why the world needs explosives and dynamites.

Both sides now, in particular, sent me back over 30 years. I recall that the words of the song were on the mind during my first flight out of Hong Kong to Tokyo. I remember looking out of the window, watching the clouds, savouring the words, and always ending with the same, “I really don’t know life, at all.”

She has certainly developed a much wider and more international repertoire since Both sides now. She talked about her childhood days and her father being a projectionist of an open-air theatre – not to be confused with a drive-in, she stressed – and how she picked up singing. Since 1992, she has been Goodwill Ambassador and Special Representative for UNICEF, and I think she has developed themes in her songs about children, their needs, their hopes, their fears and their dreams.

The evening ended on a high note with Nana singing Ode to Joy in at least three languages, backed by her seven friends. At curtain call and after prolonged applause, she brought up a song sheet and began singing in Cantonese Moonlight Lullaby, to even more applause and a standing ovation.

Nana has written about herself being a singer and stressed that this was all she ever wanted to be and hope to always be. She said she is proud to be a singer. She also wrote, “What we become in life is not predestined. It is what we choose to be; the choice takes us through many tolls, dangers, joys, and laughter on the way to destiny.”

I would like to believe that we have all become Rotarians because this is what we choose to be. I hope we all are proud to be Rotarians and will always want to be remain to be so.

Last week, DGE Johnson Chu came back from Anaheim after attending the International Assembly. But even before he touched down, we all knew that President-elect Richard King has chosen “Mankind is Our Business” for the Rotary theme for his year, 2001-2002. President-elect Rick has set ambitious membership goals for his team next year. His goal is that each Rotary club will bring in one qualified new member per month next year, with a minimum gain of five new members per club at the end of the year. Each district will also form a minimum of three new clubs. No doubt, we would be hearing from Governor-elect Johnson very soon, beginning next weekend at the training for Assistant Governors, his curtain raiser.

Talk to you soon.

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