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Harmony for Hope – Hitting all the right notes

I remember walking out on stage for my first public performance. Full confession: I was terrified! I was no older than 6 years old and learning to play the piano –something I was forced to take up at a young age by stereotypical ‘kiasu’ Singaporean parents. The concert didn’t go exactly as planned, mistakes were made, but I survived (barely). I could have never imagined how I transitioned from that traumatic experience to walking out on stage nearly 30 years later feeling a mixture of nerves, pride and excitement.

I’ve been working at NCCS for over 4 years. During this time, I’ve unfortunately met friends in the outpatient clinics and even been on my own journey as a caregiver to my mum who was treated for cancer here. My mum passed on this year after a long and brave fight. During the last leg of her journey, some days were really dark. It’s hard to describe this state of mind and emotions to someone who hasn’t been through a similar journey. So I was incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to volunteer with the Recital of Joy music interest group. That opportunity gave me the chance to see patients, caregivers, survivors and staff members letting go of all problems and just enjoying the process of making music for a couple of hours. Their pure, innocent, unrestrained joy inspired me and helped me fall in love with music again. When the opportunity came to support the concert and perform two items, I jumped at the chance.

ATU Nurse Xiao Yulian performs a chinese dance with the ROJ Jam Band

Fast forward to the Harmony for Hope concert held on 3rd November at the National Library Drama Centre Theatre. All the performers were huddled backstage before the concert started coping with nerves in our own way. Naturally, some of the young guest performers from Bedok Green Secondary School were still recovering from being star struck by Special Guest Performer Benjamin Kheng.

What struck me most about the concert was how each item was deeply personal for the performers. It wasn’t necessarily about the talent – after all, we weren’t professionals – but the pure joy of sharing a piece of their hearts with others. The evening began with a wonderful medley of cheery songs by the Recital of Joy music interest group. These songs were personal requests from some of the members and you could see the pride at performing age-old favourites like “Stand by Me” and “Ja Jambo”.

Cayden Chang shared his personal cancer journey and an original song performance. Then it was my turn to perform as part of the band. I was greatly moved by an original song composed by Yvonne – who sang about her personal journey.  It resonated with my late mother’s journey. 

The multi-talented Benjamin Kheng wowed the audience with three songs in memory of his late mother who he lost to cancer when he was just 12 years old.  He showcased his music talent and soulful vocals, performing acoustic covers of “What A Feeling” from the movie Flashdance and “Can’t Stop The Feeling”. He ended with an exclusive sneak preview performance of his latest single “Wicked”. 

The ROJ Jam Band consisting of (clockwise from top left): Steven Ong on Acoustic Guitar, myself on Bass Guitar, Steven John on Percussion, Dr Larry Francis Hilarian on Electric Guitar, Priscilla Fok on Violin and Joy Khau on Keyboards.

Not to be outdone, I trotted out with the plucky NCCS staff band to perform a medley of Mandarin, Malay and English songs. We ended the performance with NCCS’ Medical Director leading “Fight Song”, to send an encouraging message to patients and caregivers to fight on. 

From L-R: Steven and I from NCCS, accompanied by vocal percussionist Gerald Lee

I felt pride walking out on stage. This journey made me rediscover how music can be such a balm for the soul – something that I can’t thank the recital of joy music interest group enough for. This wonderful group is filled with encouragement, laughter and inspiration and I’m grateful to be one of them. Until the next concert!

NCCS would like to thank the following partners and sponsors for their support for Harmony for Hope 2019.
Harmony for Hope was organised by National Cancer Centre Singapore and Supported by Music Solutions.

Organising Committee

Music Directors: Joy Khau and Derrick Kam
Ukelele Trainer: Joy Khau
Vocal Coach: Derrick Kam
Stage Manager: Mabel Leong
Music Interest Group Facilitators: Flora Yong, Ng Yong Hao and Angie Liu
Official Caterer: Delihub Catering
Official Makeup: Makeup Course Singapore
Official Printer: Naili Print Media Pte Ltd
Emcee: Karen Lim
Dancer: Xiao Yulian
Special Guests: Benjamin Kheng
Cayden Chang
Vox Brilliance
Special Thanks to Bedok Green Secondary School
Dr Larry Francis Hilarian
Impact Audio Visual Services Ltd
Julie’s Manufacturing Sdn Bhd.
MOMA Marketing Pte Ltd
Music Solutions
Neo Garden Group
Priscilla Fok
Qingo Singapore
Recital of Joy Music Interest Group
Selfiprint Singapore Pte Ltd
Tokunaga Isa
Volunteers and helpers