City Weekend

Summer of singing in Singapore hits right note with Hong Kong youngsters

Budding young vocalists head to the city state to entertain elderly and intellectually disabled audiences, as well as get a taste of Lion City life

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 April, 2018, 3:03pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 April, 2018, 4:01pm

With the school holidays fast approaching, most Hong Kong children are gearing up for a summer of fun, and for the more studious, homework and research projects.

But at SDM-Chatsworth International School pupils are busy tuning their vocal cords in preparation for a trip to Singapore, where they will sing for the country’s elderly and intellectually disabled.

The school is working with one of Hong Kong’s best-known singing academies to train the youngsters ahead of their big outing, which organisers are describing as “one for the books”.

School supervisor Joyce Chun wants the children’s experiences with the elderly and disabled to be an eye-opener offering them a new perspective on life.

“We would like them to see that those born with an illness may be different but they’re loveable,” the mother of three explains.

Horace Mui Wai-hon, director and conductor at the Red Vocal Academy, says the performances will be a confidence-building exercise.

“Happiness is a universal language, and by performing, the children can learn to spread happiness through music,” he says.

Mui already has in mind a number of songs.

“Something catchy and joyful, like the well-known old school nursery rhyme Old MacDonald had a Farm, to break the ice – something everyone is familiar with. I will also choreograph some dance moves to enlighten the show,” Mui says.

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Chun adds that it was important for children to have fun after a busy academic year.

“They’re studying hard all year, it’s time for them to play during the summer months,” she says.

“My best memories of summer were, and always will be, the days spent with my choir buddies, going around different places to perform.”

And that was exactly how she met Mui.

“We first met at a joint singing programme when we were both in secondary school. It was so much fun to train and work together for the shows with different schools,” Chun says.

“I was taught to be independent, work as a team ... because it’s not all about you.”

Those good times are still stuck in the minds of Chun and Mui more than 10 years on as they pass their passion to the next generation of budding singers.

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The children on the Singapore singing exchange workshop are only between the ages of three and six. Titled the World Kids Programme, it will span four days and is the second edition after last year’s trip.

The participants will also get to experience daily life in the Lion City.

“For two and a half days, a school in Singapore will take the students under its wing, giving them a taste of life there. There will be visits to local charity centres and museums,” Mui says.

The programme is also open to the wider public. Interested Hongkongers can sign up for three months of singing training every Saturday before the trip south.

“And there is no drilling of any kind,” Chun says jokingly, referring to the repetitive study exercises issued to many children in Hong Kong.

The trip is not all about Singapore and singing. The youngsters will also be taught about Hong Kong’s own culture and rich history.

“We want them to become little ambassadors of the city when they are overseas. Maybe they can introduce the variety of food here and tell others about our wonderful Hong Kong,” Mui says.

The idea is to improve their communication skills, he explains.

Each child must be accompanied by a parent, who will also have some fun lined up.

“We want them to enjoy the getaway as much as the children, so have planned for them to go on tours of different schools while their kids are busy,” Chun says.

The programme is now recruiting and so far at least 15 children have signed up. The students and parents will set off for Singapore between July 25 and 27.