The magical sea of light at Christmas

24 11 2013

Every year for the last three decades, Orchard Road is transformed into an enchanting sea of lights in the lead up to Christmas. This year’s light-up, which features the silver tinged twinkle of stars and sparkle of diamonds against the cool of blue lights taking one magically away from the tropics, was launched last evening at Shaw House’s Urban Plaza with President Tony Tan Keng Yam gracing the occasion as the Guest-of-Honour.

The Orchard Road Christmas Light-up is in its 30th year.

The Orchard Road Christmas Light-up is in its 30th year.

President Tony Tan greeting the guests.

President Tony Tan greeting the guests.

Before the launch, colour and entertainment at the launch ceremony was provided by the Super Trouper Choir and the Dim Sum Dollies. The Super Trouper Choir features 14 students with intellectual disabilities from MINDS Lee Kong Chian Garden School, 11 of whom sang at the event.

The Super Trouper Choir.

The Super Trouper Choir.

The Dim Sum Dollies.

The Dim Sum Dollies.

The Dim Sum Dollies, who were their entertaining selves, included the brand new dolly, Denise Tan. Together they will feature in Dream Academy’s CRAZY CHRISTMAS Ting Tong Belles the cast of which will also include the likes of Kumar, Broadway Beng (Sebastian Tan) and Judee Tan. CRAZY CHRISTMAS Ting Tong Belles will play at Esplanade Theatre from 11 to 22 December 2013.

Selena Tan.

Selena Tan.

Pamela Oei.

Pam Oei.

New dolly, Denise Tan.

New dolly, Denise Tan.

Themed “Christmas on A Great Street”, the light up, which will run from 23 November 2013 to 5 January 2014, is sponsored by Hitachi (for the 23rd year) with Mastercard as the Official Card. The light-up which is organised by the Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA) is also linked with the Community Chest – an association which goes back to the first light-up, serving as a launch-pad for the annual year-end charity drive.

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During the launch ceremony, battery-powered candles were also given out to guests as well as members of the public by 100 student volunteers from the Republic Polytechnic with the ORBA donating $1 for each candle lit in front of ION Orchard.

A lighted candle during the launch ceremony.

A lighted candle during the launch ceremony.

The light-up also sees several malls participating in the Best Dressed Building Contest 2013. The contest runs from 23 November to 8 December 2013 with members of the public voting for their favourite building through a mobile @Orchard app – with the chance to win shopping vouchers – $500 worth for each of the six winners, and $250 worth for each of the three runners-up.

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The very useful @Orchard app which is free and downloadable to mobile devices, also includes a underground navigation function with an ORBA Walking Map which works below ground.

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The period of the light-up also sees performance and activities along Orchard Road to look forward to including a mass carolling event on Christmas Eve and a Grand Christmas Concert on Christmas Day. More information can be found at the Christmas on the Great Street website’s events page.

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Participating Malls for the Best Dressed Building Contest 2013

  1. Forum the Shopping Mall
  2. GrandPark Orchard
  3. ION Orchard
  4. Mandarin Gallery
  5. Ngee Ann City / Takashimaya Shopping Centre
  6. Orchard Central
  7. Paragon
  8. Tanglin Mall

The Jade Bird takes flight

18 05 2012

The latest addition to the portfolio of Singapore’s much celebrated and highly acclaimed composer, Mark Chan, The Flight of the Jade Bird, made its debut at a VIP Preview last evening. Described as “part concert, part opera, part story-telling”, the exclusive viewing of the special commission for the Singapore Arts Festival 2012 for which Chan received a National Arts Council – Arts Creation Fund award, was attended by guests that included His Excellency President Tony Tan Keng Yam; Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs; and Mr Lui Tuck Yew, Minister for Transport and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs.

A view of the stage during a rehearsal session.

“And the Bird said to the Boy, keep this Jade with you and if you are in trouble, rub it and call out my name. I will hear and I will return as fast as the wind can carry me.”

The story revolves around an ancient bird, the Jade Bird, who is known by the name Courage. We learn of an inner name, Despair, only because of Facebook and Twitter – trappings of the modern world that like that of the Jade Bird’s world threatens tradition. The bird, the last one of seven ancient birds still left, dwells in a sanctuary – a mythical palace which modern times has use of not as a museum but a theme park. It is in an inner chamber of the palace, that despite there not being WiFi and a fear stemming from the myths he has been told about the place, a young boy meets the Jade Bird. Struck by the innocence and the frankness of the young boy, expertly played by a 14 year old Singaporean boy soprano, Matthew Supramaniam, the Jade Bird develops a friendship with him. He sleeps – for the first time in 7000 years, having been told by the young boy that sleep was needed to be able to dream. Without dreams, the Jade Bird is told, nothing new would be able to enter one’s life.

Boy soprano, Matthew Supramaniam, a 14-year-old Singaporean who currently is based at Eton College during a rehearsal session. Matthew provides the musical voice of the Young Boy.

The tale in itself has the makings of an epic. Incredible as it is, it is a story that attempts to examine the contrast and contradiction of tradition in a modern world – a familiar theme in society today. The contrasts and contradictions do not end there – it is in the telling of the tale where this is especially evident, perhaps in keeping with its theme. The visual discord that is apparent with a musical ensemble seemingly competing for attention with the singers who give a voice to the characters, as well as with a narrator and a dancer who is the Jade Bird does serve to leave the audience confused as to what the performance is about. The music seemingly a harmonious discord of instruments of both eastern and western traditions, adds to the confusion, and for a while I struggle to come to terms with what was on stage both from visual and aural perspective.

Music Director Belinda Foo with the western and eastern string players, Leslie Tan, Tang I Shyan, Wong On Yuen and Sunny Wong at a rehearsal.

As I sat watching the spectacle of coloured lights falling on the stage, I decided to close my eyes and focus on the strains that filled the hall. It was in the light of the darkness that faded the prejudices that comes with seeing, I realised it wasn’t the discord that I had imagined, but a harmony that made use of the contradictions. That perhaps was what the work and the theme of the story was all about and what I needed to appreciate the beauty of work for what it was, described by Mark Chan as a being very much like a “Chinese Shan Shui painting where man is one small figure, existing together with other figures, trumpeting out their own self-importance again and again, loudly and in no uncertain terms”.

Cellists Leslie Tan and Tang I Shyan.

Margie Tong on Percussion.

It was then, that I began to take some pleasure in the performance, listening intently to the powerful narration provided by Kee Thuan Chye, complemented by the haunting yet beautiful strains of the instruments and voices. The music however did seem a little too unsurprising as the performance went on and made the first part, which only drew to a close after some 90 minutes of what was a 120 minute performance, seem all too long. The second part of the performance with the drama of a tussle over the Jade Bird, was certainly much easier to appreciate.

Kee Thuan Chye, the narrator.

Father and son Erhu team Wong On Yuen and Sunny Wong.

The highlight of the performance was for me the beautiful voice of the Young Boy provided by Matthew Supramaniam, a student of Eton College who has been described as the boy with a golden voice. I had the opportunity to meet an exhausted Matthew and his family at the reception after the preview and realised that behind that assured and controlled voice is a teenager that is no different from any teenager. To celebrate Mark Chan’s musical and story-telling genius – and to have a chance to hear the golden voice of Matthew in it certainly is good reason to catch the show which goes on for only two days until tomorrow (19 May 2012). This evening’s performance, includes a dialogue after the show. For more information on the show, do visit

Matthew in a more relaxed mood at the post VIP Preview reception with his proud parents Margaret and Paul, and equally talented brother Timothy.

About The Singapore Arts Festival

The Singapore Arts Festival began in 1977 as a national showcase celebrating the local arts of Singapore’s diverse communities. Over the last three decades, the Festival organised by the National Arts Council, has played a symbiotic and catalytic role in the development of the artistic and cultural life of Singapore. It has influenced the work of artists and generated a growing public demand for the arts, spawning new capital platforms, events and movements that help underpin the lively cultural scene in Singapore.

The Festival saw its turning point in 2010 as it embarked on a new phase of development under the leadership of Low Kee Hong. Key changes and initiatives include turning this international arts platform into a Creation and People’s Festival with a vital year-long participation programme, com.mune to sustain the Festival’s engagement with the public beyond individual shows staged during the Festival period. The commune events and activities are tailored for four groups: new audiences — people who may not have encountered the arts; arts lovers — people who buy tickets to performances; arts makers — artists and teachers who inspire their students through the arts; and arts volunteers — people who have the heart to make a difference.

The Singapore Arts Festival has now become an international showcase of ideas, art and discourse with a distinctive Asian flavour, known for its bold and innovative discussions between vernacular and contemporary art.

Singapore Arts Festival 2012: Our Lost Poems

The 2012 Festival will be held from 18 May – 2 June 2012. This edition of the Festival completes the trilogy of themes set out two editions ago – Between You and Me (2010), I Want to Remember (2011), Our Lost Poems (2012). Over these 16 days, the city comes alive with an infusion of performances at the Festival’s hub – the Festival Village @ Esplanade Park and other key venues. There is something for everyone this year, from ages 1 to 100.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam visits the Journey of Possibilities

2 05 2012

URA Press Release

URA establishes Rail Corridor Partnership to explore and promote community activities along Rail Corridor

2 May 2012 – The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) announced today the formation of a Rail Corridor Partnership to look into the programming and promotion of community activities along the Rail Corridor. The Partnership is an expansion of the Rail Corridor Consultation Group, which was formed last July to provide input to the government on charting the future development plans for the Rail Corridor.

With the re-opening of the Rail Corridor on 9 January 2012, the Partnership will look for opportunities to promote community use of the space that spans the entire width of the island from north to south. Representatives from agencies such as the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, Singapore Sports Council, and People’s Association will join the Partnership to further foster public-people sector collaboration along the Rail Corridor.

Collaborative effort to promote activities on the Rail Corridor

President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who visited the ‘Journey of Possibilities’ exhibition at the URA Centre, said, “I am very encouraged that many groups and individuals are taking a keen interest in the Rail Corridor and are actively contributing their ideas and suggestions on the development and uses of the Rail Corridor. I am also glad that URA is stepping up engagements with Singaporeans to develop the Rail Corridor into a unique feature of our urban landscape that can be enjoyed by all Singaporeans.”

Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin, who chairs the Partnership, highlighted the collaborative nature of the group. He said, “The expanded role of the Rail Corridor Partnership will see a stronger collaboration between public sector agencies, interest groups, and individuals to promote and support suitable activities and events along the Rail Corridor. I hope that our engagement will continue to be constructive and fruitful going forward.”

The URA will work closely with partner agencies to assess the range of possible community uses and events as well as the necessary infrastructural requirements needed to support these activities along the Rail Corridor. The Rail Corridor Partnership will also provide advice on the public engagement efforts and proposed activities for the Rail Corridor. Such activities could span from community level events to national events that utilise the entire Rail Corridor. The feedback gathered from these events would be used by URA to draw up the design specifications and requirements that will form part of the brief for the Rail Corridor Master Plan and Design Competition that is being considered at the moment.

President met with winners of Ideas Competition

During his visit to the ‘Journey of Possibilities’ exhibition, President Tony Tan met with some of the winners of the Ideas Competition who shared with him their ideas for the Rail Corridor. The President was also introduced to members of the Rail Corridor Partnership and jury members of the Ideas Competition.

The ‘Journey of Possibilities’ exhibition features about 80 entries comprising 18 winning ideas, 19 honourable mentions, as well as other innovative entries received for the Ideas Competition. The exhibition also showcases some of the interesting feedback and suggestions received on URA’s Rail Corridor website since its launch in July last year. The exhibition ends on 11 May 2012.

The URA launched the Ideas Competition on 30 November 2011 to draw innovative and fresh new ideas from the public in addressing some of the key challenges and issues in planning for the future use of the Rail Corridor. The Ideas Competition attracted more than 200 submissions from both local and overseas participants. The URA will study the ideas and concepts from all these entries and distil from them suitable design principles and parameters that can form part of the brief for the Rail Corridor Master Plan and Design Competition that may be held in the future.