Attending a performance by Teresa Carpio is like watching a living review of musical history – past, present and future. She will dip into the past to sing songs from our own youth, or from a time when our parents were young – songs of another age and time. Then she will soar into the music of the Eighties and Nineties, performing soulful Cantonese melodies or wrenching ballads in a voice that is always powerful yet never over-powering. Today's music gets a similar treatment, where she takes songs and makes them her own.
Since winning Hong Kong’s First Talent Quest at the age of 6, Teresa Carpio was on a fast track to the top. By 11 she was hosting her own shows in Tahiti. At 14 she was the youngest performer ever on television in Japan, and at 18 she was a household name all over Asia.
She honed her talent and popularity by performing in live clubs in Hong Kong and all round the region, so that each album she released with EMI went gold - singing songs such as We May Never Love Like This Again, Could We Start Again Please, and When Will I See You Again; all done with a style and energy that was immediately recognisable as Teresa Carpio.
When Cantopop hit Hong Kong and began dominating the airwaves, Teresa was easily able to make the switch. She released a series of Cantonese-language albums, each of which contained songs that are now considered among the classics of the genre: 假如 (If), an aching ballad to lost love; the late night anthem for the broken-hearted 真愛 (True Love); the Cantonese cover of Kyu Sakamoto’s worldwide hit song Sukiyaki, 眉頭不再猛皺; the hit song penned by popular singing partner George Lam Chi Cheung 仍然記得嗰一次 (I Still Remember The Time); and the uplifting 何必放棄 (Why Give Up), among many, many others.
In addition, Teresa hosted her own musical variety show for three years on HKTVB; starred in the award-winning original musical City Of Broken Promises in San Jose, California and kicked off the trend to mega-concerts at the 12,000-seat Hong Kong Coliseum.
She took time to raise a family, still keeping herself in the public eye with the occasional performance and movie role, until featuring in the 67-night musical I Have A Date With Spring. Her role as the brash nightclub singer stole the show, in particular her rendition of Carmen which brought the house down night after night.
Stopping only to set up her first school - Teresa Carpio International School of Performing Arts - in Toronto, Teresa returned to Hong Kong again to hold a triumphant series of six concerts with the Hong Kong Philharmonic in Christmas 2002. Entitled simply DIVA, the performances brought the classical and pop worlds together in a way no one else could have done. With the exception of three of her classic Cantonese songs, the entire show was in English, and the resulting CD/DVD was the hit of 2003, outselling almost everything that year.
Teresa then followed up with two years’ later with two nights at the 12,000-seat Hong Kong Coliseum, a venue she herself had opened over twenty years previously. And then three years later, she sold out four nights at the same venue; this time with singing partner from thirty years ago George Lam Chi Cheung.
The song the two recorded especially for the concerts, 常在我心中 (Always in My Heart), won the 2007 Best Collaboration with Vocals at the 30th CASH Golden Sail Music Awards, a well-deserved acknowledgement for these two veterans singers abilities.
Still more was to come for Teresa though: at the RTHK 30th Top Ten Chinese Music Awards in 2008 she received the Golden Needle - an honour that is only given to those artists who have made an exceptional contribution to the Hong Kong music industry.
She also released a number of CDs and DVDs: Best Of Times, a Chinese language CD in 2005, then the CD and DVD from the True Love concerts, plus those from the Lam And Teresa concerts, a Christmas CD titled Teresa Carpio: A Family Christmas Album; an all English CD recorded, mixed and mastered in Los Angeles called Hello, and then an HDCD two disc set I Still Remember, featuring a lush re-recording of several of her old hits, in 2010.
Most recently, she recorded Time After Time, a duets CD with evergreen superstar Alan Tam, which then lead to a 9 show stadium series in Hong Kong and, of course, CD, DVD and Blu-ray release.
After five decades in the music business, partly thanks to her strong live beginnings that strengthened her voice, and later her vocal teaching experience which taught her how to care for her voice, she is still as dynamic and powerful a presence as ever, and shows no signs of slowing down.
She is a unique voice in Asia: someone who has a deep understanding of what music is all about, who gains the respect and admiration of all those around her.
Hong Kong is truly blessed to count such an artist as one of its own.