For veteran singer, pianist and composer Royston Sta Maria, performing before a big crowd seldom causes him to have butterflies in the stomach.
But, a recent reunion show with former singing partner Francissca Peter in his hometown Malacca saw the usually cool and witty Roy feel a little jittery.
It was the first time in 32 years that the duo was coming back together for a “Roy & Fran” dinner show since they parted ways as Fran went on to pursue a solo career.
Dubbed by many as “The Carpenters Of Malaysia”, Roy & Fran were arguably the country’s most charming and admired duo act in the 1980s. In the five glorious years as a team, they released two albums – Siapa Dia Sebelum Daku (1982) and Bersama Pertemuan Ini (1983).
They first teamed up in 1979 when Fran was just 17 and performed mostly hotel gigs, including their longest within the Merlin Hotel chain in the country.
Roy, who migrated to Perth, Australia in 1988 to join his family, said he did not want to disappoint his fans at the reunion, which was incidentally organised by his alma mater, St Francis Institution primary school in Malacca.
“In 2004, Fran and I performed our song, Tak Kenal Maka Tak Cinta with Nurul and Ajai at the Anugerah Bintang Popular 2003. Later in 2011, Fran invited me to perform a few songs at her 33rd anniversary concert in Istana Budaya. But, this is our first Roy & Fran show after over three decades,” he said feeling nostalgic as he gazed upon a giant billboard featuring their photos to promote the Roy & Fran And Friends charity show at Hotel Equatorial Malacca.
Roy said he was a nervous wreck before the show, noting that he had sleepless nights after coming down with throat infection a week before flying into Malacca, only to be choked by haze.
He also picked up a “stomach bug” a few days before travelling to Malacca and was running a fever on the night of the concert.
“My mother Edith, who is 89 and 10 other family members travelled with me from Perth just for this show. Besides, the dinner was to raise funds for my old school to equip its newly built RM2mil Community Chest Academic Block. So, I set the bar quite high for myself as I did not want to let down Fran, our fans, my family, my former schoolmates and friends.
“But, thank God, once the music started, we went out and gave it our best. And, I am glad the crowd responded well. It was my proudest moment performing for my home crowd and my former school. And, I’m grateful for the opportunity to relive a very special and treasured night in my life,” said Roy, who breathed a heavy sigh of relief after the show.
Together with a host of old boys, local bands and solo performers, the dinner, which was attended by over 600 people, saw a total of RM228,000 raised for the school.
Roy also composed a heart-warming song, Lift A Hand, Light A Heart specially for the fundraiser, which was performed by his brother Trevor (who wrote the lyrics) and Gillian Rajasingham. They gave out CDs of the single to the guests.
Together with Gillian, Trevor also performed Roy’s superhit composition, Mulanya Di Sini, which was originally recorded by the band, Freedom.
Co-incidentally, the melody of Mulanya Di Sini is currently being popularised by McDonald’s for a television commercial. A similar tune was also once used by Malaysia Airlines as one of its jingles.
Roy & Fran kicked off their 40-minute performance with Tak Kenal Maka Tak Cinta, then later belted out Bersama Pertemuan Ini, before capping it with their megahit, Siapa Dia Sebelum Daku, where they also got the audience to sing along.
Fran, who looked radiant in the three costumes that she wore throughout the night, melted the heart of the audience with a slower arrangement of her signature song, Sekadar Di Pinggiran.
She also sang Tomorrow, a song she co-wrote with her sister Bibiana for World Vision Malaysia, Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody and an a capella version of Teresa Teng’s What Do You Have To Say (Ni Zen Me Shou).
Roy also played the piano and sang his solo hit, Berakhir Kemarau Nan Panjang as young girls dressed as fairies accompanied with dainty ballet steps.
Roy & Fran, whose evergreen vocals have matured through the years, aptly delivered the Peaches & Herb number, Reunited, as encore.
Following the overwhelming crowd response, they both expressed keenest in doing more shows together, as they believed they still had some following out there.
“It’s no longer about the fame. We just feel blessed and satisfied to be able to bring joy to people and to touch their lives with our music. Our songs were recorded over 30 years ago, but people still seem to love them. That is truly amazing,” said Roy, who has composed about 25 songs to date, including those recorded by other singers.
Roy, who now plays in a three-piece group up to five times a week at different venues in Perth, said he still actively composed songs as demos for budding singers.
“Hopefully, somebody will get a hit song through me. My compositions are simple and easy to sing. Most of them are ballads as I am quite a sentimental guy. I grew up listening to the likes of Barry Manilow, The Bee Gees and The Beatles,” he added.
Asked if he may consider composing songs for Fran and him to record in the near future, Roy said: “I would love to do that. Fans are always waiting for new songs.”
Fran, who is based in Kuala Lumpur and has over 30 albums to her name, said she would love to do hotel gigs especially in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, adding that Roy too was willing to travel from Perth for Roy & Fran special shows, provided there were sponsors.
“Roy keeps in touch with me and Bibiana, whom he fondly calls Bubbles. Each time he is back, he will buy us gifts and we will catch up on the latest. Ironically, people still come up to me and ask how Roy is doing. Likewise, Roy tells me that fans would ask him how I am doing. Many people thought we would end up marrying each other. But, we are very much like brother and sister, and he will always have a special place in my heart,” quipped Fran.