Low Cher Yong
Under Low Cher Yong’s adept training, the 1,500-strong Ukulele PAssionArts Contingent in Chingay 2013 gave a rousing performance despite mostly not having any prior music training. They even broke the Singapore Book of Records.
Music In His Blood
Low Cher Yong’s musical accomplishments and experience carry several titles - educator, musician, conductor and music director. Born in a family of musical talents, the 46-year-old was immersed in various music groups since his Primary school days. There, he learned Western percussion and the electric organ and was part of the school’s military band. He gained exposure to Chinese music when he was in Secondary school and excelled to win a distinction award as a Banhu soloist in the 1991 Singapore Youth Festival.
Rising To The Beat
When he was approached to organise a Ukulele PAssionArts Contingent for Chingay 2013, Cher Yong readily stepped up without missing a beat. It was the first time he had managed such a big scale performance, but Cher Yong was unfazed. With an almost unstoppable energy fuelled by his passion for music, he set off from scratch on a wide array of tasks including recruitment, data-entry and logistics, and sometimes tapping on his students to lend that extra pair of hands for the tasks.
Cher Yong leveraged on social media to recruit participants for this Ukulele contingent and succeeded with a haul of 1,500 participants. Of these, however, only 400 knew how to play the Ukulele. The rest of the 1,100 participants had never been musically trained.
To support Cher Yong on his biggest project then, his wife and four children aged from 9 to 12 also signed up as participants in the contingent. This gave wings to Cher Yong on the project. It also allowed the family to bond and gave the children the opportunity to see how he managed the contingent to put the entire performance together. “They were so proud of their papa”, Cher Yong gushed.
Different Generations, One Performance
The contingent comprised a varied profile of people. There were members across the generations, as young as four, up to 92 years of age. Majority of them did not have any prior music training. For these participants, Cher Yong taught them simple music theory so they could read music scores and then introduced them to the different strumming patterns of the Ukulele.
He created his own training materials, mindful to use simple and easy-to-learn techniques so that the lessons would be easy and enjoyable and the participants would stay motivated. Over five training days, Cher Yong taught them a total of seven songs for the performance.
There were many memorable moments for Cher Yong putting the entire performance together from scratch and training the contingent. What really moved him was the “tremendous amount of love, care and appreciation” he received from the participants.
For Cher Yong, this event was also an affirmation that music can be a powerful tool to bring the community together. Within the contingent were families across three generations, as well as friends and neighbours who shared that their participation gave them invaluable opportunities to bond and also make new friends.
Breaking A Record
The feature in the cap for all the performers was having the contingent break the Singapore Book of Records for the largest ukulele ensemble.
For Cher Yong, the greatest sense of achievement was simply to see the smiles on the happy faces of the participants learning music and playing an instrument. To him, that was the best reward!
Hopes and Dreams For Chingay
Cher Yong hopes that Chingay will continue to innovate to attract more and younger participants to the show. His dream is for Chingay to draw on the creative talents and passion within the community, waiting to be unleashed.