Hong Kong veteran Frances Yip raring to sing again after pandemic lock-in Down Under
Veteran Hong Kong singer Frances Yip was stuck in Australia for 27 months during the Covid-19 pandemic, but it turned out to be a bit of a blessing.
The 74-year-old, famed for her enduring hit Shanghai Beach, the theme song of Hong Kong drama The Bund (1980) starring Chow Yun Fat, tells Singapore media over Zoom from London in August that it gave her lots of time to slow down.
“From when I was 16 till now, I’ve never tried sleeping in the same bed for so many days,” says Yip. “I have been singing for 52 years and have very rarely gone through a period of rest this long.”
Unable to travel or perform, Yip and her husband – Briton David Lomax – hunkered down in Sydney in 2020 and 2021 with her son and his family, including Yip’s two grandchildren.
The Cantopop diva says in Mandarin: “It was a good time for me to rest and it forced me to live a life without stress. I never fell sick once in almost three years in Australia, but within one week of flying to London, my husband and I got Covid-19.”
The couple, who are based in Australia, were in London for three months this year to visit family.
Yip, who is vaccinated and boosted, says her bout of the coronavirus was short, with no lingering symptoms. “We were playing golf by day six,” the spry singer remarks.
Golf and family were what got Yip and her husband through the isolation of Covid-19.
She says: “The golf courses in Sydney weren’t closed so we could still play a few times a week. We could play only among ourselves and couldn’t interact with other groups, but that was still very important to us.”
And her grandchildren – Zoe, 14, and George, 12, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour at birth – helped tremendously too.
“My grandson can’t really speak and uses a wheelchair, but I sing to him. I sing to him The Moon Represents My Heart and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and he’ll sing a bit of the end with me,” says Yip.
“My granddaughter would usually travel to school via public transport, but because of the pandemic, we fetched her to and from school and that was our bonding time. I cooked for them too. My granddaughter is a good cook and we learnt Mediterranean and Moroccan cooking together.”
Still, Yip missed performing terribly. She even wondered at one point if she would ever get to do it again.
“I was worried that after the pandemic, perhaps I won’t have a chance to sing in public any more. But I told myself, ‘I have been singing for 50 years, so it’s not bad even if it’s a little sad. I guess I can still sing for friends.’”
Thankfully, the evergreen star is still in demand. Yip performed at a casino in California with fellow Cantopop singers Alice Lau and Elisa Chan in August, boosting her confidence to ease back onto the stage again.
“I couldn’t sleep after performing there. There was a lot of music running through my brain. The audience had an average age of 60 or so, but there were young people who came with their parents too, and they sang with us. It made me feel like I can’t retire yet.”
Indeed, Yip will still be around. She is slated to hold a concert in Singapore on Saturday at the Sands Expo & Convention Centre. She last performed here in 2019 for her 50th anniversary show.
She is looking forward to tucking into a bowl of laksa when she arrives here, and fans can look forward to her belting out old favourites such as Shanghai Beach, which she has sung more times than she can remember.
“Every time I sing it, I’m full of gratitude. Without this song, I wouldn’t still be singing right now. I am never tired of it because once that introduction starts, fans start clapping so loudly. I feel so lucky that anyone who knows Cantonese can sing this. It’s like how in Mandarin, everyone can sing The Moon Represents My Heart.”
While classic hits are undeniable gold, Yip is still releasing new music, with plans to shoot a music video in Hong Kong in November.
Asked how she manages to keep up her health and career even in her 70s, she cites regular exercise – a mix of golf, cycling, walking and pilates – and a good temper as key.
“Don’t scold people if you want to care for your voice. If you talk or sing too loudly, it’ll damage your vocal cords. My husband and I don’t really have a temper any more. When we turned 65, we said, ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff.’ Don’t let trivial things make you unhappy.”
Book It/Frances Yip All For Love 2022
Where: Exhibition Hall F, Sands Expo & Convention Centre, 10 Bayfront Avenue
When: Saturday, 8pm
Admission: Tickets cost $88 to $188 and are available at www.marinabaysands.com