Toddish McWong meets George Sapounidis
George Sapounidis was the one featured performer in the CBC television
special “Gung Haggis Fat Choy” that I hadn't met – until tonight.
He is the Montreal-born Greek Canadian who spends most of his time
working as a statistican in Ottawa, but remarkably has become a popular
Mandarin singer in China.
George arrived in Vancouver this weekend to perform in February 4th
& 5th Spring Festival concerts at Burnaby's Michael J. Fox Theatre
and Simon Fraser University, organized by impressario Lily King.
King, who speaks little English, has taken Canadian performers such as
Sapounidis, Joe McDonald and Brave Waves, and Dr. Jan Walls to China to
show Chinese audiences the musical and cultural diversity of Canadian
performers, as well as how well some of the White Canadians speak and
perform in Chinese.
I arrived at the Michael J. Fox Theatre and immediately found George
Sapounidis standing just outside the hallway to the stage dressing
rooms. “Todd Wong, wow! Finally…” says George.
“George… wow! Finally…” says Todd. I presented him with a
Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team t-shirt. George is
thrilled. After performing in the CBC television special “Gung
Haggis Fat Choy”, and now finally meeting the creator that inspired the
show – it is like George is finally being inducted into the Gung Haggis
Fat Choy club.
We like each other immediately. George speaks
enthusiastically about the concepts of Gung Haggis Fat Choy, crossing
intercultural boundaries. I explain to him the nature of my
families 7 generations in Canada and how my cousin's grandchildren are
now only 1/4 Chinese. “The future of Canada,” I say, ” needs to
celebrate dual and the multi-heritages of their ancestors. Gung
Haggis Fat Choy is a celebration of that inclusivity – where
multiculturalism only celebrates separate cultures… and usually
stereotypes at that. I get to flip the stereotypes.”
George takes me to the dressing rooms to introduce me to Lily King, but
instead I bump into my friends Joe McDonald and Dr. Jan Walls – both of
whom just performed at the January 30th Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner
event at the Floata Restaurant. Both Joe and Jan have told me
about Lily King, as has Opera Soprano Heather Pawsey. Finally…
George finds Lily and we are introduced. We exchange cards.
She speaks little English, and I speak little Chinese. The show is
starting, and Lily must go out to the front.
Meanwhile backstage… I meet more of the English speaking
performers. One is Gabrielle, a former student of Jan's.
She will be singing along with Jan, and others on a traditional Chinese
song that Jan has recently translated into English, called the Dragon's
heir. Joe McDonald will play piano and his Chinese flute. I
also meet Mike, one of Canada's top old time fiddle masters. He
is a surprisingly young 30-something.
We go to the stage wings and watch Joe, Jan and group perform. I
give them each high-5's as they come back stage. Next we wait to
watch the Brazillian dancers. Three women in Canaval costumes –
Wow! This is definitely a multicultural program.
George goes on and cracks jokes about Ottawa – pronouncing it
“Whot-toe-Wah!” – the Chinese equivalent, similar to “Wan-Goh-Wah” as a
Chinese pronounciation of Vancouver. He launches into Da
Ban Cheng de Guniang (Girls from Da Ban Cheng) as a female dancer
accompanies him on stage. After the song concludes, George says
to the audience “This song was featured in a CBC television special and
you can see it performed on Tuesday February 9th. The show is
called “Gung Haggis Fat Choy” and blends together Scottish and Chinese
cultures. (laughter from audience at this point) And it was
created by Todd Wong, also known as “Toddish McWong” and he is
somewhere here in the theatre tonight!”
Wow! Good plug for the CBC television speacial George!
And… he also plugged his upcoming music cd, inviting people to
pre-order. George next performed an orginal song called “I Also
Love You, China” then concluded with a song about the Olympic
experience, as he was both a bearer of the Olympic torch in Montreal,
and a volunteer assistant with the Chinese Athletes in Athens 2004.
During the intermission, George and I take some pictures together –
then some with the Chinese dancers. They all love George… I
will post the pictures as soon as George sends them to me. He has
been regularly reading this website – he will remember – right George?