Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st;
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
I’m not a huge fan of singing in Mandarin. The language does not seem to want to come naturally to me, and it never has to be honest. Such is the peril of growing up in an English-speaking household who enjoyed ‘Allo ‘Allo more than Under One Roof. In fact, it was so much less daunting singing in Hainanese, as I just had to learn it phonetically.
I sang my first Mandarin song in 2013. In 2015, as part of our SG50 Lieder Festival, we commissioned Kit Yeng to compose a set of songs for us. I’ve always admired her works. My choirs have performed her choral pieces several times, and I’ve enjoyed them tremendously, and so have my students. For that concert, she created two contrasting, and very lovely, works for us, in Mandarin. 🙂
There is a freshness and ease to her musical language that no one else seems to use, and it reminds me so much of our xinyao movement. I don’t value her style for purely nostalgic reasons of course; I think it takes great courage to compose the way she does in this day and age. There is no pretense, the music is immediate and very effective, and wholly very beautiful.
Kit Yeng’s new work for us is a setting of this most iconic of Shakespeare sonnets, but she has chosen to use a translation of the text in, trust my luck, Mandarin. She’s created something really gorgeous, and her vision is sweeping, lyrical, and very sophisticated. As much as this is a great challenge for me to sing, I do have to say I enjoy it immensely.
When I sang my first Mandarin song in 2013, a friend said that it sounded French (well, I appreciate his honesty). I hope 3 Mandarin songs later, my language ability has improved 😉 I’ve been told this particular translation is a very good one and extremely poetic, which scares me a bit. I hope I do this work justice, and I hope everyone will enjoy this song as much as I have.