Lam tells fans to hug a tree
You can learn a great deal about a city and its people by looking at the trees, said singer-songwriter Chet Lam Yat-fung, who asked his fans to e-mail him pictures of their favourite trees to feature in his upcoming concert.
Next month's The Storyteller Concert revolves around the theme of trees as Lam wants to remind people of their important role in our lives.
'Trees are a quiet and forceful presence. They are witness to time as well as stories [that happen around them],' says Lam, who has been fascinated by trees since he read the 1964 children's book The Giving Tree - by American poet and songwriter Shel Silverstein - in secondary school.
The tale concerns the relationship between a young boy and a tree that is a loyal witness to his life.
'Hong Kong people are very busy, and we only realise the importance of things that we normally neglect once they are gone, such as the Star Ferry clock tower,' said Lam.
'These things [trees and the clock tower] are what I refer to as a quiet presence. Their presence doesn't necessarily serve any practical purposes, but they are there to remind us of the things that are related to us spiritually.'
Lam said during the concert he would project a collage of the tree pictures that he has taken over the years or receives from fans onto a screen to turn the concert venue into a forest. 'It will be like putting many life stories together,' said the singer, who has received hundreds of fan photos.
Spending much of last year performing on the mainland and in North America, Lam said trees taught him a lot about the places he visited.
His favourite trees are those he saw in Canada when he travelled north from Toronto. 'They are rich in colours and although they grow in the wild, there's order in the chaos.'
On the other hand, the plight of trees in the newly developed mainland cities saddened him: 'Mainland cities that are rapidly developing don't care about trees as their attitude is to leave the past behind. It's very sad.'
Compared with its mainland counterparts, Lam said Hong Kong still has a number of towering trees such as banyans - his favourite - that remind us of our past. 'Some of the most remarkable trees are in Central, and they pop up in the most unexpected places,' said Lam, adding that there are some old and amazing banyans in the area around the Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences.
'I guess Hong Kong people are actually quite nostalgic and compassionate, although at the same time they are very practical.'
In addition to staging The Storyteller Concert, Lam's Travelogue, three - an album of new Cantonese songs - is out on January 31.
He said the album, which is divided into three sections - the past, the present and the future - is his new perspective on the city after being on the road for most of the past few years.
'You have to leave a place to see it [more clearly].'
The Storyteller Concert, Feb 12-14, Hitec. Inquiries: 3128 8288 or visit www.chetlam.com