Many singers celebrate the number of years they've been performing, but pop veteran Elisa Chan Kit-ling rejoices in the fact that she can still belt out a tune.
'I treasure every opportunity to perform. Perhaps I can sing today, but I don't know if I still can in 10,
20 years,' she said. 'I am blessed that I can still perform on stage.'
Chan (left) will appear next week in a restaging of the Cantonese musical A Love Story About Sam & Sally, with singer-songwriter Louis Cheung Kai-chung and music producer Anthony Lun Wing-leung, at the Academy for Performing Arts.
A fun production that brings together many Cantonese hits from the past three decades, Sam & Sally drew warm responses during its first run last year. Chan's performance in the production also won her a nomination for best actress at the 17th Hong Kong Drama Awards.
The results will be announced on April 16.
Despite more than 30 years' experience in show business, including stints in musicals such as
I Have a Date With Spring, Chan is still anxious about acting. 'I'm very confident singing, but acting is still very alien for me. I'm still trying to find my balance in acting,' she said. 'In the past, when I tried to play a certain role, I always told myself I could do it. But that can be a very dangerous thing. The more that I want to impress audiences, the easier it is to exaggerate a character without noticing it.
'As a singer, a stage performer and a person, I'm always trying my best to learn, every day is a new chapter for me. I will quit show business the day I can no longer improve.'
Despite being offered a limited salary, Chan accepted the challenge of playing five roles in Sam & Sally. 'If it was just for the money, I wouldn't have taken this job. But it was the happiest cheque I ever received because I enjoyed every minute of it,' she said. 'The satisfaction was priceless.'
One of Chan's most memorable performances, however, was when she sang at the televised memorial service for comedienne 'Fei Fei' Lydia Sum Tin-ha. Her rendition of the Deannie Yip Tak-han hit, Shining Star, moved many who were watching the event live around world, but Chan said her mind was 'completely blank' during the performance.
'My voice is only a tool to bring back each person's memory of Fei Fei, that's it. Honestly, if you asked how I think I did at the service, I can tell you I was way too nervous. But all I wanted was to present my last gift to her,' Chan said.
Chan has had to perform at memorial services of several showbiz friends in recent years, including singer Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing and lyricist Richard Lam Chun-keung, and said it was always tough.
'It's not a time to show off your voice. You can't be too dramatic because it will not suit the occasion, but you also can't underplay the emotion behind the song either. It's a very difficult thing to grasp.'
On Tuesday, she will join Jacky Cheung Hok-yau at a charity concert at the Coliseum to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Leslie Cheung's death. Cheung, who appeared in the Wong Kar-wai movie Happy Together, leaped to his death from the Mandarin Oriental hotel on April 1, 2003.
'He was such an adorable guy,' she said. 'I was very sad at the time. It took me about six months to get over the grief. I like to think of Leslie as a friend who has just moved to live in another country. He has gone but what he achieved remains, so we should treasure his works instead.'
She still missed Cheung, but said it was better to learn from the late singer than to keep mourning. 'Every performer has their own pressure. But through Leslie's tragedy, I learned how to handle crises and to quickly forget things that would distress me. I know I will not take the same path as Leslie.
'All of my friends who passed away, each had their own special quality. As an entertainer, I want to learn from them. I cherish the time we spent together. And as a public figure, it's my mission to use the power of positive thinking to influence others.'