Classical music

Diva Frances Yip thankful for the second chances she has had throughout her life

Singer opens up ahead of her string of four concerts with the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 November, 2017, 8:20pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 November, 2017, 11:29am

There is always a second chance in life and be appreciative of it when you grab one, a top Canto-pop diva has advised.

Frances Yip Lai-yee, 70, a multi-lingual singer with an international career and a breast cancer survivor, has a lot of accolades under her belt in her long career. But nothing mattered more to her than the second chances she had received “with gratitude”.

“Singing wasn’t my first career, it’s my third,” she told the Post ahead of her four concerts with the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra starting tomorrow .

“My son didn’t stay with me since age 3 but I reunited with him when he was 16, and now we are buddies,” she said.

“My grandson, too, had a second chance when he was born with a brain tumour, and now he’s 10 years old.”

The list went on with her second marriage, and the diagnosis of breast cancer some two decades ago.

Long before she appeared in front of the world as a presenter at the handover ceremony on June 30, 1997, a moment she recalled “having very fixed emotions”, Yip was a modest Form 5 student with an outstanding voice and bilingual capability.

“Hong Kong in the mid-1960s had lots of opportunities for young people like me, even without a university degree,” she said.

As a bank clerk aside, Yip sang commercial jingles “as many as five pieces during lunch break” and, from 1968 to 1973, she was an auxiliary police inspector.

Her songs turned international when Cathay Pacific engaged her as a “goodwill ambassador officer” and issued two record albums featuring songs in nine languages.

“My early Cantonese songs started with civic education jingles on hygiene and blood donation, for example. The one that shot me to Canto-pop stardom was the soap opera theme song The Bund,” she said, referring to the 1980 TVB drama series of Old Shanghai gangsters starring actor Chow Yun-fat.

“The 60-sequel series was so popular that the street was empty during its airtime in the evening, I was very lucky,” she said.

The Bund and the jingles will be among the 20 plus titles Yip will sing at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium with the title Happy 70, Frances.

“Those are the songs of my life, including You don’t have to say you love me and Besame Mucho, which are my first songs from the late 1960s,” she said.

“That was the time when there was unity and no bickering, and I miss that.”