Thursday, May 20, 2010

Getting To Know Me

Thanks for checking out the 2 Voices 10 Fingers blog! I'm really happy to see so many of you out here.

I also realized that quite a few of you are coming from JJ's side of this project. Hence, you know very little about me. So, here's a trailer of some of my cabaret work. Enjoy!

I look forward to meeting all of you in Singapore next month! And to all of my US friends and followers, thanks for tagging along.

BTW, has anyone noticed that I often play with song titles or lyrics in my blog titles? I'm wondering who can figure out the songs I've played with on today's 2 posts. Leave me a comment with your guesses!

A Whole New Language

At least for me!

Jiu Jian (is it okay if I call him JJ after this post? And you'll all remember that?) writes and sings primarily in Mandarin. Being Singaporean, he does speak English, extremely well. I could have just relied on JJ's English skills for this project, but no! Not me! Why make it easy on yourself when you can raise the bar? So, I decided I would attempt to learn at least a little bit of Mandarin AND I would sing in Mandarin.

Seriously, I enjoy learning new languages, even though I rarely reach fluency. And even more seriously, I think it is a sign of respect for another country and culture to at least attempt to learn some of their language. In addition, it is great for my brain. Yours too. Try it.

JJ seemed pretty happy that I wanted to do this, so off I went. I've been studying Mandarin on and off since September using the Rosetta Stone software. Expensive, but I highly recommend it. And then, sometime last month, JJ sent me the lyrics to two songs that we will be singing on the 2V10F Soiree. One is a Mandarin translation of All For One from High School Musical 2. I'll be singing that with the kids. The other is an absolutely beautiful trio from a Mandarin musical written by one of JJ's colleagues. Yup, that means I dragged Richard (that's my husband and frequent singing partner) into this as well. After all these years, I think he's getting used to my crazy ideas.

So, here's part of what I received from JJ:

身边人影 左右褪尽

所有声音 渐渐停息

天地之大 我的眼眸中只有她

有没有人懂我 心中也有一朵


I then took these lyrics to and transliterated them into Pinyin. Pinyin uses the Roman alphabet (in case you forgot, that's the one we native English speakers and most western languages use). So then I ended up with this:

身边人影 左右褪尽
shēn biān rén yǐng zuǒ yòu tùi jìn

所有声音 渐渐停息
suǒ yǒu shēng yīn jiàn jiàn tíng xī

天地之大 我的眼眸中只有她
tiān dì zhī dà wǒ de yǎn móu zhōng zhǐ yǒu tā

有没有人懂我 心中也有一朵
yǒu méi yǒu rén dǒng wǒ xīn zhōng yě yǒu yī duǒ

sòng bù chū qù de huā?

JJ also sent me a recording of the song, so now I could start practicing. I did send the lyrics back to JJ to make sure they were correct; he only had to make one or two changes.

So now, every day (okay, I took yesterday off!), I am either just saying the syllables or singing along with JJ. Tuesday I found I was getting stuck on 2 syllables. It felt like a total tongue twister to say: xīn zhōng. A simple English translation would be shin jong, and that's really simple. So, I wrote the words on a post-it note and stuck it next to me on the piano. Since I was teaching and practicing quite a bit that day, I would just say them throughout the day. By 4:00 pm, I could say it without stumbling.

Probably by the end of next week, I'm planning on posting a clip of me working on this. I think it will be interesting for all of you to hear me at work!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Going To The Other Side Of The Planet

And not staying for a while would be rather silly, don't you think?

That's why there will be more to this trip than just 2 Voices+10 Fingers. When my work ends on June 27, Richard, Nick and I will take off for a little over 2 weeks of personal travel throughout SE Asia. Our itinerary includes Borneo, Thailand (more on THAT later), Cambodia and Vietnam. Vietnam will be of particular interest for us, as Richard served there in the US Army during the Vietnam War/Conflict. He hasn't been back since.

I don't plan to blog during that part of the trip, at least not on a regular basis. As much as I enjoy keeping in touch with all of you, I think I might need some time unplugged from the world. Being on vacation in SE Asia should give me a good opportunity for that, don't you think?

I've planned many of our previous international trips, but early on in the planning for this one I realized there was no way I could coordinate a trip this complicated. We're all leaving the US at different times, we're visiting 5 different countries, etc. We were fortunate to find Roe at Escapes Unlimited (, a travel agency that specializes in SE Asia. Roe has been fabulous at helping us plan this trip and actually get all of the flights, hotels and tours booked. Thanks Roe!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My Singaporean Colleague, Jiu Jian Kenn

Since most of you are reading from the Heidi side of this project, you don't know very much, if anything about Jiu Jian Kenn. Here's a very brief bio and photo.

Jiu Jian: Producer/Musical Director/Lead Performer

A renowned singer/song writer/artiste/producer/educator, Jiu Jian has received many accolades for his singing and song writing talents, winning the 1990 Xin Yao Best Music Award and the Taiwan Song Writer Society 1999 Best Singles. He has since penned songs for Jacky Cheung, Ronald Chen, Andy Xu and other well-known stars from Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well written theme music for many MediaCorp Chinese drama serials.

As much as he enjoyed singing and song writing, his biggest creative passion came from his stage performances. His stage credits include a Mandarin version of “Private Part” in 1994 , the first local Mandarin musical “December Rain” in 1996, Dance Musical Drama “M. Butterfly” in 1997, “Chase” musical in 2000 , “Love On Stage” Dance Musical Drama in 2008 and this year’s Dance Musical Drama “Butterfly Dreams” – which is the third collaboration he’s done with Dance Ensemble Singapore.

In 2008, Jiu Jian celebrated his 20th years in the music scene with his own concert and produced a fundraising song for the Si Chuan earthquake victims that involved more than 60 local music talents. And in 2009, he founded Ko-nen Creative Ltd, a non-profit company dedicated to promoting Mandarin multi-disciplinary performances and creative events that involves art, music, theatre and lifestyle fashion, where he sits as Artistic Director.

I'm going to ask Jiu Jian for a link to some of his music. I'll post that later this week. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How It All Started

Sometimes unexpected opportunities present themselves. That's what happened to me in July of 2009. I went to teach my beloved musical theatre class at Walnut St. Theatre one Tuesday evening and was asked by the office if someone could observe my class. "Of course!" was my response. The observer turned out to be Jiu Jian Kenn, who is now my collaborator on the upcoming 2Voices10Fingers Soiree and workshops.

Jiu Jian, an extremely talented native of Singapore, was in the US with the Dance Ensemble Singapore. He enjoyed the class so much he asked if he could have a private lesson with me. By the end of the following week, some lessons and a great deal of conversation had transpired, and we started preliminary discussions for collaboration in Singapore.

The photo you see at the top of this post is from one of Jiu Jian's lessons last summer. As you can see, we both had a great time in these lessons. It was fascinating for me to work with a singer coming from a very different culture. I think Jiu Jian was excited about the vocal ideas and the progress he made in a few lessons.

It was a remarkable experience to find another person from the other side of the planet with so many similar ideas about the power of music. Modern life is so taken with technology, facts, data, the black and white. Music takes data (pitches, rhythms, and in the case of singers, words) and turns it into a medium for human emotion. To find someone else with a similar attitude - I can't tell you how invigorating that was for me. When Jiu Jian suggested that I come to Singapore, how could I say anything but yes?

So, I'm leaving for Singapore in 5 weeks. I'll be there for 10 days, teaching and singing. I'll try to blog at least once a week before I leave and hopefully every day when I am there. Join me on this opportunity of a lifetime!