>Choir in Chinese and English

>I went to my first choir rehearsal last night with the City University staff choir.

Let me first describe a theory I heard over the weekend. A business man told me that the explanation he had heard for why Hong Kong employees were not very creative, but just good at very regimented tasks was as follows: Cantonese has 9 tones and so when children are learning to speak they are corrected–you cannot be flexible. There is a right and wrong “tone” and it is very precise. This has led to black and white thinkers.

I am leary of that explanation. Back to choir.

The choir rehearsal was generally in English. The director, originally from Taiwan, understands Cantonese, but does not speak it well. English is thus the medium. Everyone else spoke English and Cantonese, except me who only spoke English. The first song we worked on was in English–no problem for anyone. The second song was in Chinese. A short discussion ensued as to whether is should be sung in Cantonese or Manderin (the writing being the same). They quickly agreed on Manderin (a more beautiful language) and moved on to sorting out how to say and sing each of the words. Someone took my music and wrote down the Pinyin version of Manderin for me for the first verse so I could make sense of the sounds. This was a Cantonese speaker who could tanslate into Manderin and then use their roman alphabet system to write it out for me. Would you call this inflexible and black and white thinking?

After singing through the song several times, I finally remembered to ask what in the world the song was about–honoring and loving your mother. Mmmmm. When I got home that evening and told Karis about this she was quite leary of my information. She thought I had made it up to get some attention. I had nothing I could use to prove it.

Several people near the end of rehearsal pointed out the good news–the other Chinese song that we will practice next week has mainly one character for the altos–and that character is sung as “la, la, la, la, la.” I can do that, but don’t ask me to write it out in Chinese.

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