Come for the music, stay for the stories

By True Colors Festival Team

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November 04, 2022

Music is the reason why people laugh and people cry. Sing and dance and clap their hands. It’s how the whole world understands, understands that we are one. It makes no difference what you’ve done or where you live under the sun.”

– Dr Sydney Tan, Creative & Music Director of THE CONCERT 2022, quoting lyrics by one of his favorite artists, Raul Midón.

Carefully dividing his time between treating patients and creating concert magic, Dr Sydney Tan is a renaissance man who keeps very busy indeed.

Having created the first international concert for True Colors Festival – Singapore, 2018 – Sydney was commissioned to produce and direct two music videos, one at the height of the global pandemic in 2020 (Stand By Me), and then a second in 2021 (You Gotta Be). To date, the music videos have enjoyed a collective viewership of more than 3.6 million. His creative work for True Colors Festival (TCF) projects has been so powerful and well-received that he was the natural choice when it was time for TCF to stage its global concert. Sydney was invited to be the Creative & Music Director of THE CONCERT 2022 and the rest is history.

It has not been easy. Firstly, the lineup is stacked – more than 90 artists including luminaries and friends of TCF such as Raul Midón, Mandy Harvey, Tony Dee, Rachel Starritt and Kenta Kambara. Global pop superstar Katy Perry came on board as Special Guest. More recently, Japanese sensation Kyary Pamyu Pamyu joined the line-up. No pressure, Sydney.

Secondly, since the artists are based around the world, all the creative discussions about song choices, collaborations, notes, adjustments and even just getting to know and understand each other as professionals have had to take place online.

And it won’t be until mid-November that Sydney and his team, and all the artists, will get to meet face-to-face in Tokyo, Japan, to rehearse together, just days before the concert on November 19 and 20.

Thirdly – and this is a challenge that Sydney put himself up to – he envisioned a concert that would not just catch the eye, but open hearts and change minds. Some of the artists have disabilities, so their life journeys have been somewhat different and unconventional, and rich in stories. Sydney’s aim is that these stories are told through original pre-performance videos and the concert’s narrative flow.

Since THE CONCERT 2022 is about life stories, he and his team made it a point to enlist the artists in the creative process. So naturally, he has a bank of priceless anecdotes.

“We could talk about the collaborative sessions working with Sparsh and his mom, Jigs, on the arrangement for his song, “This Is Me”. We kept going with idea after idea filling the room with inventiveness and excitement: ‘Let’s try the tabla, sitar’, ‘Let’s try all these things’. I stopped and asked myself, ‘Is this the same boy who was told at birth, you only have 48 hours to live?’,” Sydney muses.

Another example would be the pianist Rachel Starritt who agreed to perform Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude Opus 10, a piece that’s considered very challenging from the perspective of technique and musicality (“It usually takes anything from four to six months to learn this piece,” explains Sydney). Rachel, who is blind, needed to learn it by listening and memorizing – she did it in three weeks!

In working so closely with each artist, Sydney learnt a great deal about them, and also some things about himself.

“It’s about my limitations – that I need to look past any perception of limits, and instead to see and to be amazed by incredible levels of talent and ability,” he says.

“It’s no fun communicating, rehearsing, and recording over Zoom and WhatsApp. Multiple time zones throughout the day. The morning for Brazil, afternoon with Japan and night-time with Europe, US and Canada. Then using Google Translate for real-time translations. Portuguese and Japanese to English. Doing all this in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. It was incredibly challenging.”

But…not unlike Life, the experience hasn’t been just one thing. “This journey has been all at once incredibly challenging,” he says, “but then I think about Rachel, Johnatha, Husnain, Sparsh, Federico, Tony and I think, this isn’t work. This is hanging out, and meeting friends, and then it becomes exciting and inspiring.”

We invite you to watch the lights, music and stories unfold onstage at THE CONCERT 2022 on November 19 and 20 at the Tokyo Garden Theater.

Get your tickets here. Can’t join us in person? Livestream the concert – subscribe to our YouTube and you’ll be notified when we go live!

You might be interested in the following article:
7 Reasons to catch True Colors Festival THE CONCERT 2022

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True Colors Festival

TCF is a long-running international festival of performing arts. We celebrate diversity and inclusion, and embrace the fact that we are One World, One Family. We choose the arts as our platform, for its power to move, inspire and heal.

As a festival, TCF brings people together to generate exchanges, innovation and creativity; and transform the way we relate to each other.

Presented by The Nippon Foundation, TCF brings diverse artists and audiences together through concerts, documentaries, music videos, film screenings, children's programs, musicals, workshops and other activities. Since 2006, festivals have been organized in Southeast Asia and Japan, with more than 1,200 artists from more than 30 countries connecting with a global audience in more than 80 countries.

TCF invites you to journey with us, to enjoy, experience, share and spread our consciousness of being One World, One Family.

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