Dick Lee is Back on Stage and Ready to Connect with His Audience
Like most musicians, the only entertaining Dick Lee did last year was virtually. He led thousands of Singapore residents in a singalong of Home in April and held the Dick Lee Life Story Online Live Concert in May, just to name a few.
So you can imagine how the veteran entertainer is raring to perform on stage in front of a live audience. “Having a live audience, seeing their faces (even though they will be wearing their masks) and hearing their response and applause—that just changes the whole game. When you do a virtual show, you’re playing at home by yourself and there’s no response at all—you don’t feel it. The thing about live performances is that the audience and performer feed off each other in terms of their emotion and energy—and that feeds my performance. It’s all about the feeling,” he says.
Lee makes a return to the stage this month with The More Further Adventures of Dick Lee, a fundraising concert series in aid of the Singapore Repertory Theatre. He shares how the past year has been for him, why he’s itching to get back on stage and how the time at home has rekindled his passion for songwriting.
Tell us more about The More Further Adventures of Dick Lee.
Dick Lee (DL) The More Further Adventures of Dick Lee is the sequel to my earlier show, The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman, which is based on my 1989 album, The Mad Chinaman. That album changed my life and identified me as a Singaporean musician working in Asia, so it’s very important to me. All my previous shows were about the journey that led to that album. This show continues that journey and what happened after the album came out, mainly in the 1990s.
What defined the 1990s for you?
DL One of the most defining moments for me as a Singaporean in the ’90s was when I wrote Home in 1997. That sense of being Singaporean became clearer to me after 20 years of searching.
You led thousands of Singapore residents in an online singalong of Home in April last year. What was the experience like?
DL It was a great moment of unity and so incredible the way Singaporeans came together to show their appreciation for our frontline workers. I could not have hoped for anything better than the fact that the song was chosen to represent our feelings and our gratitude not only to the frontliners but to Singapore as our home. Words cannot describe how I felt.
How has the past year been like for you being away from the stage? What did you discover about yourself during this time?
DL I came to the conclusion last year to take things one day at a time. Of course, I haven’t given up on my dreams but I don’t want to waste my energy on wishing and hoping. I want to let things evolve. I run a company called Dick Lee Asia and we still have to think of ways to survive and remain creative. We are working on a few projects outside of Singapore, and they are all in development, including one or two on social media.
How has the pandemic inspired your music?
DL For the first time in years, I started writing songs last year. I haven’t really written songs, just for the sake of writing. But because I had so much time at home, I went back to playing the piano and that led to writing songs. It really reminded me of how music is such a big part of my life. When I first started out in the ’70s, I was writing songs just like a diary. I just wrote what I felt and I have lots and lots of songbooks. Last year, I donated all my written materials and archives to the National Library. So fingers crossed, we’ll be having some kind of exhibition by the end of the year. I’m still writing songs and will be recording them, and hopefully release an EP this year.
The concert is the first in a fundraising concert series in aid of Singapore Repertory Theatre. Why is it important to support the arts and especially theatre through these tough times?
DL I am an associate artistic director of the Singapore Repertory Theatre. This fundraising concert is my way of helping to keep the company going. We do whatever we can to try and raise funds. One of the main reasons why I decided to do this show is because I felt like I haven’t done anything for the whole of last year. So it’s just to practise my art—I think all of us artists are all itching to get to back to work.
The More Further Adventures of Dick Lee runs from January 19 to 24, at the KC Arts Centre – Home of SRT.
Tickets for the opening night (Stalls: $200 and Circle: $180) are still available and includes a show programme autographed by Dick Lee and a Tatler VIP gift bag.