Adding a heartland touch to NDP 'choir' video

Royston Tan to scout coffee shops for 'talents' to bring out the 'realness'

Singing the National Anthem among fellow Singaporeans with a lump in one's throat and a stirring in one's chest has always been a must-do at the National Day Parade (NDP).

This year, Singaporeans from every walk of life - at least 5,000 of them - will be shown in a video clip, coming together to sing a new 21/2-minute arrangement of the anthem.

Their performance will be unveiled come Aug 9 across a vista of eight screens at the floating platform.

The director behind this choir of the grandest scale: home- grown film-maker Royston Tan.

The rebel film-maker, who shot to infamy with his gangster flick 15, the short film turned movie, said he will visit coffee shops armed with his laptop from today, to get Singaporeans crooning.

Asked why he picked coffee shops to scout for his 'talents', he said that he felt most at home in the heartland, and he wanted to capture real Singaporean faces.

He said: 'My targets are not some high-profile people, but people who have never appeared on National Day before.

'If I can make them feel like they are part of a community, that would be the most magical thing.'

Demonstrating this at a dry run in a coffee shop in Serangoon North Avenue 4 last Friday, he managed to get hawker Calvin Goh, 34, to have a go at the first two stanzas of the anthem - although Mr Goh's memory of the lyrics was shaky.

Mr Eric Ng, 50, who was having lunch with his family at the same coffee shop when they were approached by Mr Tan, said: 'I think it's a good way to celebrate National Day, to get Singaporeans united and proud.'

Mr Tan, who is leading a group of 10 in this project, said he will also set up a mobile booth along Orchard Road to capture some faces and voices there.

Singaporeans who want to be in the clip can record themselves singing at home; they can also visit roving NDP roadshows over the next two months.

Mr Tan, who said he believes he was roped in to bring a raw 'realness' to the final product, has put aside all his major projects, including his work on two movie scripts, to focus on this.

The film-maker said he had wanted to have a part in the NDP since he was four - when he was captivated by the audience flipping flash cards with clockwork precision. He added: 'Singapore is not just about pretty buildings, casinos and all these so-called 'achievements'. Deep down, it's really about the people.'

yanliang@sph.com.sg