Remembering Nancy and Albert Yeoh

As they say, savour every moment of life, appreciate daily blessings that come to us in different ways… some may be in the form of a beautiful butterfly flitting past at the most unexpected of times, and mostly, in the form of dear friends, near or far, but always in each other’s hearts.

Well, one such friend has recently returned to the Lord, very suddenly, I might add, but as someone pointed out, she was blessed with a painless exit from the stage that highlighted her life, as one of the last icons of Penang’s heritage.

That lady was our dear Nancy Yeoh of the ‘Albert and Nancy of E&O hotel fame.  The kind of fame that was synonymous with the crème de la crème of society in the hotel’s early hey days, when Nancy joined her husband, Albert Yeoh and his Band, to entertain at the hotel, for at least four decades.

In her inimitable style, Nancy’s mellow contralto voice kept an international audience entertained with a wide repertoire of songs in English, French, German, Maori, Tagalog, Polish and Chinese (and perhaps a few more languages), accompanied by Albert’s perfect tinkling on the ivories.

The couple became an institution in the Penang entertainment scene. Our family and friends treasure fond memories of many joyous weekend evenings toe-tapping to the Yeohs’ old-world musical style at the then 1885 Lounge of the E&O Hotel.

Their special friendship will remain with us for always – from shared travel adventures to regular afternoon tea banter and being there for each other during the good and not-so-good times.

Albert and Nancy never failed to help entertain friends at our private social gatherings. Even though Albert had joined the choir of angels in heaven a few years ago, Nancy continued to sing alone at our birthdays and anniversary parties (the show must go on..), with or without any musical accompaniment.

The last time our group of friends saw Nancy bring the audience to their feet and join in the singing, was in August this year, at Suzanne’s 88th birthday gathering. It was all the more memorable an evening, thanks to Nancy’s expert coaxing of the party mood to joyous notes of unabashed stage performances.

Always clad in long shimmery dresses, many of which she stitched herself, Nancy had a vast collection of chandelier earrings, which she treasured.  She probably had one or more for each day of the year and wore them with sheer delight.

On a closing note, we will miss Nancy’s kindness, sincere friendship and her cheeky rendition of the Cantonese song “Why I love you so” (Thim Kai Ngor Choeng Yi Lei)…not forgetting her very thoughtful creation of special songs, dedicated to us on different occasions.

We have lost a friend on this earth, but gained a new angel by our side!

God Bless us all.

Tony

The Shanghai Tailor….

Suzanne with some of her many cheongsams…

From as far back as the mid 1940s when I started to wear cheongsams (or qipaos), I was made to understand that the most experienced and skilled tailors were from Shanghai.

I soon found this to be true when I discovered this Shanghai gentleman who tailored for the customers of the then Seremban Silk Store. A truly rare and precious find (especially in Malaysia, in those days).

The store stocked beautiful fabric from brocades to silk, and laces of all types and textures, probably from Switzerland and France. I remember the Shanghai tailor as a rather lean and quiet man with graying hair, who spoke Cantonese with an interesting accent.

He only popped out from the back of the store to measure the lady customers for their outfits or to bring the clothes out for fittings. As I made only cheongsams, he would take down the measurements with each order – just to be sure the outfit was perfectly fitted when made. Oh – it has to be emphasized that it took a good few weeks before the first fitting – as he stitched everything by hand. As to be expected, the cheongsams fit like a glove, and one could never find a fault anywhere. He hardly looked up or smiled, except when the customer praised and thanked him for his perfect stitching.

That was my first encounter with a truly skilled Shanghai tailor. Decades later, when we visited Beijing, we were told of a fantastic husband and wife team who tailored beautifully. The husband had the best hand for drawing the paper pattern and cutting – and of course, they hailed from Shanghai. When asked how many Shanghainese were amongst their team of tailoring assistants, she replied that they were ALL from the surrounds of Shanghai, as the skill seemed to be dying down amongst the Shanghainese. That was in the 90s.

A few years later, we befriended a gentle but good tailor in Shanghai (who moved there from another province). The polite, clean cut Mr Zhu soon became our favourite tailor across the miles for the longest time. He made most of the cheongsams in my batik collection.

Today, Shanghai is still well-known for tailoring and here are tips on the best qipao or cheongsam tailors there….. please click onto cnngo.com’s article here.

To read more about how the cheongsam is appreciated in China and Malaysia, click onto the following links: The return of the cheongsam, Cheongsam culture booms in Shanghai and Decades of the cheongsam.

Thank the good Lord for tailors…from Shanghai or otherwise!