Tuesday, July 07, 2015

rehearsal for life


For me, there will never be another book like this.

It will be the first (and probably the only) book I have the honour of writing together with a Cultural Medallion winner, a woman who terrifies and inspires me at the same time, and whose hanyu pinyin name happens to be the same as mine (Shimian).

It will be the first book where my name is actually on the cover. (Most times publishers don’t put my name in and even if they do it’s a small line buried with the rest of the fine print on ISBN and copyrights and what not)

It will be the first book where I am featured on the inside flap.


I get to write an introduction, which comes with photograph.


On the day of the book launch – in conjunction with a concert - there’s a proper sales booth. This is the first book I have written which people will have to pay for (ie not given out at a commemorative dinner or launch)


* Kids with the banner

People ask me for my autograph.

The people whom I write about send me Thank You notes and one said he nearly cried.

My face is everywhere. During the concert, I flip open the programme book and close it right back out of shock.


Conductor and co-author Ms Vivien Goh calls me on stage after the concert, to talk about the book.

XYO Concert-195
* Pix by Gilbert Chan

It’s all very surreal and I know, years down the line when I am still plodding along in the dreary world of corporate writing, that I will look back on this with pride; as a moment in time when one woman, Ms Goh, appreciated, valued and respected my work even more than I did.

(because, you know, I tend to be really shy about what I do and I must say I enjoyed being in the limelight for a while!)

How did it happen?

Funnily enough, this blog had something to do with it.

The background is that the pioneer members of the Singapore Youth Orchestra (the one I used to join) were getting together on their own (with no money and no backing) to organize a SYO 35th anniversary concert. It was an incredible undertaking.

One of those members happens to read (and I think, enjoys!) this blog. 

* There she is! On my left with brown hair!

So when talk turned to the publication of a commemorative book, she turned to me. So I was given the opportunity to write about something I love (music), something I was a part of (the SYO), and people I know (friends).

It was truly a labour of love. A book of this nature, which is usually worked on by an entire committee (more than 10), came down to me and Ms Goh. Ms Goh paid for the publication of the book, I worked for free.

But it was also joyful. Never has a book been so easy to write. No one gave me any trouble, no troublesome clients to please. I wrote past midnight, the words flowed easily, Ms Goh corrected my work in the early morning. The process was so seamless we didn’t even have each other’s mobile phone numbers (never needed to call).

Of course the other joyful part was the 5 July concert itself, titled "XYO - Our Musical Journey" (XYO meaning Ex-SYO)

XYO at VCH Rehearsal-34
* XYO members in their Musical Home, Victoria Concert Hall (Pix by Gilbert Chan)

That, was another labour of love. Players who stopped playing music to earn money and raise families dusted off their old instruments and practiced for the concert.  Some had not played for decades. Ms Goh herself had not conducted an orchestra since she 'retired' from the rostrum in 1990.

Rehearsals started at the end of last year. No one was paid.

XYO at VCH Rehearsal-100
* Me in XYO (Pix by Gilbert Chan)

Did we sound good? We weren’t perfect, that’s for sure. But that wasn’t the point. What got the audience roaring and cheering was the fact that ours was a unique orchestra of old friends playing their hearts out for one last song.

(Yes I know my same grin appears too many times here, and yes I always pose the same way with hands clasped in front. But it is also true that my face isn't going to appear in this blog for the rest of the year.)


Anonymous said...

great to read this post again after nearly 2 years!


Sher said...

ya i just went back to scan thru the book again.... good memories eh. i enjoy it more on 2nd reading!

Anonymous said...

I remember holding the book and thinking about how heavy it was, loaded with all our memories.