GISBORNE’S Meng Foon has never been backwards about coming forwards.
He’ll break into song on pretty much any occasion and, as the city’s te reo Maori-speaking Chinese mayor, he’s even released an album (Tu Mai) of him singing his own compositions.
Despite that, Foon says he has never before given a “paid” performance and, frankly, he’s quaking at the prospect — but he’s going to do it anyway.
The mayor is part of the diverse line-up of artists who will be at the War Memorial Theatre on Saturday to perform a fundraising concert.
“I am actually pretty shy so I’m really sweating about this one,” he says. “I do like to sing but have never done it formally . . . not at an event that people have paid to go to.”
Foon’s performance is not preparation for a post-politics career — rather, it is his way of supporting one of his most beloved pet projects. He has been chairman of Tairawhiti Special Olympics since the group was earlier this year rejuvenated to offer sporting experiences for people with intellectual disabilities or mental illnesses.
“The group has really only just started in Gisborne so we need to get cracking on fundraising so we can do the best job we can,” Foon said. “It has the potential to offer a lot to a lot of people, and that is important to me. My passion to involve as many people as possible in our community activities and offering a forum for people with intellectual disabilities or mental health issues could help to break down barriers between them and the rest of the community.”
Foon has been heavily in training for his semi-professional debut. He’s been exercising his vocal chords in preparation for the set of songs in Maori, English, Chinese and Italian that he plans to deliver. And members of the 2ndNZEF Club have helped the singing mayor to hone his skills on the ukulele, on which he will accompany himself.
But while Foon’s performance will end the variety show, his is not the only name on the bill.
Members of Gisborne Concert Band will welcome guests in the foyer while Concert Band soloists will give a piano/clarinet performance on the main stage. Also on the main stage will be the winners of the 2012 IDEA Services talent show; members of the newly-formed Gisborne Girls’ High School choir show their style; Taha Fitness will be in the house to encourage audience participation; Marama Apelu and her Challenge Trust crew will do some musical numbers; award-winning local bodybuilders Tina Walker and Mat Matenga will strike a few poses, and MC Te Hamua Nikora will provide the between-acts banter.
“We’re grateful to all these performers for donating their time and talent for a very good cause,” Meng Foon said.
“This year Tairawhiti Special Olympics will be getting established but by 2013 we should be in a position to send people away to compete. You never know . . . we could end up with some international athletes from right here in Gisborne.”
■ The Tairawhiti Special Olympics fundraising variety show will be on at the War Memorial Theatre on Saturday (doors open 6pm). Tickets ($10) at the door.