Singer Tay Kewei takes on challenge of filling Esplanade’s 1,600 seats

A more confident Tay Kewei says she hopes to do better than her performance at the 2009 gig.
A more confident Tay Kewei says she hopes to do better than her performance at the 2009 gig.PHOTO: MATTHIAS HO FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Singapore singer Tay Kewei takes up the challenge of holding a solo concert at the Esplanade Concert Hall

Size matters and the choice of the 1,600-seat Esplanade Concert Hall as Singapore singer Tay Kewei's show venue is giving her the jitters.

"I have nightmares that no one will come and watch," she said at a press conference on Thursday.

Seven years ago, she sang at the 250-seater Esplanade Recital Studio and tickets sold out "pretty quickly". For her next gig, she would have been comfortable in a hall with a capacity of 500 to 800.

But the 32-year-old decided to go for broke. "It's a prestigious venue, an honour and a challenge and milestone for myself. So there's definitely some pressure."

The title of her upcoming show, "Chi", means seven in Chinese. It will be held at the Esplanade Concert Hall on June 17.

Of her 2009 gig, she gave an honest appraisal: "Lan" (Chinese for terrible).

"I didn't have much experience then and I was very nervous. I was seated on a high stool the entire time and maybe the audience got a little bored."

  • BOOK IT / TAY KEWEI "CHI" CONCERT

  • WHERE: Esplanade Concert Hall

    WHEN: June 17, 7.30pm

    ADMISSION: $35 to $55 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg) from April 27

Dressed in a geometric black and white outfit and with streaks of purple in her brown hair, she exuded warmth and confidence at the press conference.

She is determined to put on a good show this time. "I hope to give a sense of surprise with every song, be it some stage effect, something I do or a special musician or instrument."

She has recorded English and Japanese covers and some original material and won the Media's Choice in the Local New Artiste category of the Singapore Hit Awards in 2010.

It is with her last, Mandopop release, Turn Back & Smile (2014), that she has become a full-fledged singer-songwriter. The album incorporates the use of traditional Chinese music instruments and that element will be worked into her concert as well.

She is thinking of asking her father, music teacher Tay Soon Dee, 63, who plays the dizi (bamboo flute) and erhu (stringed Chinese instrument), to play at her gig. Admitting that she used to fall asleep as a kid during his shows, she added: "I think it'll be very heartwarming to perform with him."

As for her singer-husband, Alfred Sim, 34, she said: "He is my pillar of support. We work so closely together, he's definitely involved in the show. But we haven't decided if he's going to be part of it. He might. We might not pay him."

Tay has done back-up for Mandopop stars including JJ Lin, Wang Leehom and David Tao.

Will she be inviting them to her solo gig? She said with a smile: "I haven't thought about it, but I will. If they come, I'll let you know."

Presumably, she would be very stringent when it comes to picking back-up singers.

She says confidently: "I don't have backing vocalists, just a six- piece band. I'll be playing a lot of instruments myself. I really want to make this my own."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 16, 2016, with the headline 'Going for broke with 1,600-seat show venue'. Print Edition | Subscribe