Exceptional Talents, Exceptional People: True Colours Festival 2018 (Preview)

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“This is not a pity party,” True Colours Festival Director Ms Audrey Perrera says boldly. “These performers have been handpicked from hundreds of auditions and audition videos, and showcase exceptional talent, not as disabled people, but as people, period.”

And her words ring incredibly true, as the entire audience collectively holds their breath watching blind Filipina singer Alienette Coldfire open her mouth and sing a couple of lines from the French version of ‘I Dreamed A Dream’. “She has the voice of an angel,” marvels emcee Ebi Shankara, and to us, it really comes as no surprise that this small but fiery young woman even made it to the final 3 of the 11th season of La France a un incroyable talent (or France’s Got Talent).

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From left, Mr Ichiro Kabasawa (Nippon Foundation Executive Director), Mr Andrew Liew (VSA Chairman), Ms Audrey Perera (Festival Director), Mr Hossan Leong (Artistic Director) and Mr Sydney Tan (Music Director)

Imagine then, how amazing she sounds in person. Alienette, along with an entire conglomerate of talents from Asia-Pacific and beyond, will be in Singapore this March as part of a massive concert at the inaugural True Colours Festival. Produced by Very Special Arts (VSA) Singapore, and presented by UNESCO and The Nippon Foundation, the first ever True Colours Festival seeks to showcase and celebrates artistes with disabilities from the Asia Pacific region, and has been a real labour of love for the entire organising committee. Said concert Music Director Mr Sydney Tan: “We’re practically working 24/7, working to communicate with these performers from all over the world over Skype in their various timezones and different languages, doing rehearsals and preparing them for the concert.”

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Concert Music Director Sydney Tan

Tan will be working alongside concert artistic director and theatre veteran Hossan Leong. Said Hossan: “When Audrey first brought me on board, I was quite taken aback by the sheer scale of the project. Usually when I direct theatre, I’m just directing all my friends, so it was really refreshing that literally none of these artists actually know me! For me, this show is a chance to sow the seeds of awareness and kindness and reduce prejudice and discrimination, not just against the disabled, but in the community as a whole.” Hossan also teased that he’ll be incorporating the festival’s title into the concert itself rather cheekily, utilizing different coloured lighting in each segment to represent this kaleidoscope of talent, before ending off bathing the cast in a brilliant white light, recreating the visual effect of a spectrum of colours coming together.

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Concert Artistic Director Hossan Leong

Besides Alienette, other talents to look out for during the concert include Australian jazz singer Tony Dee, Canadian violinist Adrian Anatanwan and homegrown pianist Dr Azariah Tan. In a live Skype session conducted during the press conference, Alienette, Tony and Adrian answered media queries, winning us over easily with their earnest personalities and charming answers.

Said Adrian on how he picked the violin: “During music class in primary school, all the students had to learn how to play the recorder. Due to my disability, that was really difficult for me. I could have taken up the trumpet, but my parents didn’t on account of how noisy it’d have been, and I wasn’t born with a good singing voice. Ultimately, we decided on the violin, as my father used to play it, and I got inspired by Itzhak Perlman’s performance on Sesame Street, a violinist with polio.”

“It’s all about changing the framework and perspective, and I hope that I can one day be like Perlman and similarly, inspired a whole generation to achieve their dreams.”

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Festival Director Audrey Perera

The concert itself isn’t the only thing to be looking forward to at the festival. Taking place concurrently are the many activities at the surrounding Festival Village at OCBC Square, free of charge to enter. Visitors will have a chance to take part in immersive and interactive activities such as the chance to experience a day in the life of a blind person with Dialogue in the Dark, and even a Reddit-type ‘Ask Me Anything’, where visitors are encouraged to come in and ask the most unexpected and burning questions they have to a panel of people with disabilities, walking away wiser and with a better understanding of them.

Said Audrey Perera: “Prior to this, throughout my entire life, I’ve never really had people with disabilities within my family or close to me. In a way, I’ve been very sheltered, and taking on this project has been both a steep learning curve and a really eye opening experience. This is such a large scale festival, and I’m really glad stakeholders and sponsors like DBS and SIA have come onboard to support us so earnestly from the moment we proposed the idea to them.”

Perera continued: “Ultimately, we want the festival to act as a means to turn the needle and change people’s perceptions of disabilities, and gain a newfound respect for all these amazing talents present throughout the community.”

Like Audrey, we were blown away by the sheer amount of diverse abilities and talents these artistes showcase, and can’t wait to see them perform live and experience it in person. Come with family and friends, and discover the countless talents that Asia Pacific has to showcase this March when you see and hear for yourself the fervent music and art these unforgettable artistes have to present as you fully immerse yourself in the first ever True Colours Festival.

True Colours Festival 2018 takes place at the Singapore Indoor Stadium from 22nd – 25th March, while the concert itself takes place from 23rd – 25th March. Tickets available from SportshubTix. For more information, visit their website here

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