Limehouse Blues

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Limehouse Blues
A choral performance by Tommy Ting, in collaboration with Force Majeure
Sailor’s Place, 680 Commercial Road

Limehouse Blues is a new operatic composition by Open School East associate Tommy Ting that draws upon the history of the Chinese diaspora in Britain. In particular, the piece looks at popular depictions of the Chinese in the early the 20th century.

Chinese sailors started settling in Limehouse from the late 1800s, and a Chinatown was established. The area was described to be dangerous and ‘sinful’ and was notorious for opium dens and gambling saloons. Limehouse Chinatown inspired many popular works such as the 1916 short story collection Limehouse Nights and 1922 jazz song Limehouse Blues. The song was famously performed by actors Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer in the 1934 movie musical Zeigfeld Follies while both dressed up as Chinese caricatures. Stories of the Chinese people always ended in tragedy, which was typical of the racist sentiment of the time. In addition to this historical research, the piece is also influenced by the continuation of Chinese folk music practices such as self-organised Cantonese opera groups in today’s Chinese diasporic communities in the UK.

Limehouse Blues is collaboration with Mary Cork (Force Majeure) and composer Peter Lam. It will be performed by a choir of 11 amateur singers and conducted by composer/performer Stef Conner.

The performance will be held at Sailor’s Palace, 680 Commercial Road, Limehouse, E14 7HA.

This event is supported by Arts Council England and the British Columbia Arts Council.