Viet Nam News
Soprano Phạm Thu Hà, winner of the 2013 Devotion Award for Album of the Year, is one of few Vietnamese artists consistently pursuing the classical music genre. She has recently released her first vinyl record titled Đường Em Đi (My Way), featuring eight classical love songs by late composer Phạm Duy. Phạm Thu Hà talks with Hồng Vân about the new album and her plans for the future.
Inner Sanctum: Why did you pick Phạm Duy’s songs for this album?
Phạm Duy’s music has long had a special place in my heart. I love it for a number of reasons. Phạm Duy speaks about love – love for life, romantic love, love for homeland. It’s the folk element in his music that demonstrates his passionate love for the motherland. He has shown this throughout his life and music career.
Phạm Duy left an enormous musical legacy spanning a diverse range. It can be said that the core of his legacy is Vietnamese culture, which is always attached to his music and his soul. To me, it is not only Phạm Duy’s music but his personality, his passion and his dedication that are so worthy of respect.
Inner Sanctum: You have completed a master’s degree in vocal music and are now regarded as a successful singer in this genre of music. Who has been the most influential person in your career?
I have loved music since I was a young girl. When I grew up, my parents sent me to the Hà Nội National Conservatory of Music (now named the Việt Nam National Academy of Music). From here, I was fortunate to have great teachers like soprano Mỹ Bình and tenor Nguyễn Trung Kiên.
Mỹ Bình taught me for two years. I took from her not only academic knowledge but also life lessons. She is one of my idols – from her records to her lessons, how she encouraged us to listen, to read hard and watch performances by classical musicians to ‘absorb’ the music and learn from them.
After two years, I was transferred to the class taught by professor Kiên, who stayed with me for a total of eight years.
These are the two teachers that have had the greatest influence on me and were an inspiration behind my passion for classical music.
Inner Sanctum: Was choosing Phạm Duy’s work a difficult decision for you, given that there are renowned singers that have already performed his music?
I chose Phạm Duy’s songs for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I love his music. I also feel very comfortable with this genre. I was sure that my fans would love to hear me singing Phạm Duy’s love songs. So I sang for myself and my audience.
There was certain pressure when I chose to perform Phạm Duy’s works. Before me, there were big names like Thái Thanh and Thái Hiền who sang Phạm Duy’s songs beautifully and those artists are hard to beat. But I believe that I am part of a new generation to sing these songs, and I hope to bring a breath of fresh air to his music.
Besides, I am also very fortunate that I had opportunity to work with Duy Cường, Phạm Duy’s son. He is such an accomplished artist, who is very meticulous, especially when these were his father’s works. He got the melody and emotions just right. When we were recording the album, he gave me a lot of instructions, he also gave me a lot of inspiration and emotions by telling me the history of each song as well as the feelings of his father when he wrote that song.
When we recorded Cỏ Hồng (Rosy Grass of Love), Duy Cường told me the story behind the song. It came about when Phạm Duy was in Đà Lạt and he caught sight of couples sitting together on a grassy hill. The romantic scene inspired the composer to write Cỏ Hồng. In this song, we are reminded of a wild, untouched and scenic Đà Lạt.
My greatest success in this record was that when we had finished all the preparations and recordings, Cường said to me that he wished that his father was still alive to hear my performance. I was so moved by his words.
Inner Sanctum: What does a singer need to have to be able to sing Phạm Duy’s songs well, besides his/her voice?
They would definitely need to have love for their motherland. Phạm Duy’s music always expresses a deep love for the motherland. When Duy Cường told me the stories behind the music, I appreciate Phạm Duy even more.
Inner Sanctum: ‘My Way’ is a song featured on the album. Is there any specific reason you chose it as the title for the album? ‘My Way’ sounds decisive and independent, is this part of your personality?
The name My Way has several meanings. With this title, I want to affirm that I will pursue my own path. It can be rough but it’s the path I chose and I will be persistent with it as well as pour all my heart and soul into my journey. It is also my personality, being persistent with my decision.
Inner Sanctum: Which song on the album was your favourite, and which was toughest to perform?
On this album, I especially like Chiều Về Trên Sông (Sunset on the River), a song with a beautiful orchestra. When I close my eyes, I can imagine a charming image of a peaceful river in the countryside. I’d say the toughest one may have been Đường Chiều Lá Rụng (Destiny’s Leaves).
Inner Sanctum: What are your plans for the future? Will you target a younger audience?
In the future, I plan to release a music video featuring a song by composer Võ Thiện Thanh, who helped me produce my first chamber music album Classic Meets Chillout. I will also release My Way on CD next year, so younger listeners can enjoy the music too. VNS