Kids for a cause

Children who got an arts education from ChildAid will be performing at this year's concert

It will be their first time performing in front of more than 4,000 people but sisters Claire and Cheryl Heng are not fazed. 'We are very excited and not nervous,' says Cheryl, nine, a pupil at Eunos Primary School.

Together with her sister Claire, 10, and CHIJ Kellock's Natalie Wong, 10, and Nurin Syahmina, 11, from Stamford Primary School, the budding ballerinas will be dancing at this year's ChildAid concert, together with another 126 children who will showcase their talent in various forms of the arts.

The charity concert, on from Thursday to next Saturday is organised by The Straits Times and The Business Times.

Now in its seventh year, ChildAid raises money for The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, which assists children from low-income families with their school-related expenses, and The Business Times Budding Artists Fund, which helps give underprivileged youngsters an education in the arts.

The four girls are members of the Little Arts Academy Ballerinas. The Little Arts Academy is the outreach and education initiative by The Arts House created to ensure that beneficiaries of The Business Times Budding Artists Fund have access to a sustained and systematic education in the arts.

The girls will be dancing to the Spring concerto from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons. The girls had learnt the dance steps just two days before Life! met them during their rehearsal at SPH Media Centre in Genting Lane on Wednesday. There will be more rehearsals daily leading up to the concert. 'Sometimes, I feel so tired that I can even sleep while standing on the MRT,' says Natalie.

Despite the long hours of practice, Nurin says she loves ballet because 'it is very graceful'.

As beneficiaries of the Budding Artist Fund, the girls attend weekly ballet lessons for free.

'It is nice that we can enjoy our ballet class without worrying about the money,' says Claire.

Another group of students who have benefited from the Budding Artist Fund and who are also performing at this year's ChildAid is pop youth choir, Happy Mondays.

It is made up of youths aged between 11 and 16 who have shown an aptitude for singing and dancing. Happy Mondays aspires to be the next Glee club that can sing and choreograph its own dance moves.

Seven of the 10 members will be singing two numbers at the concert's finale.

Happy Mondays also performed at last year's ChildAid concert. The seven girls, aged 11 to 13, and from different primary and secondary schools, meet each Saturday for singing lessons. 'We sing pop songs, jazz numbers and even Beatles hits,' says Sophia Gabrielle, 13, from Canossa Convent Primary School.

Her schoolmate Dominique Aluquin, 12, says that as there are so many of them in the group, 'we have to listen to one another's voices, so that we will be in harmony'.

And if they go out of tune while performing, Sophia says, 'we will just go on, so that the audience wouldn't notice our mistakes'.

Northland Secondary School student Susmitha Pillay, 13, says, 'We feel blessed to be able to use our talent to help raise funds for charity.'

Like professional singers, the girls are taking extra care of their voices as the concert approaches. They have been reminded by their parents and teacher not to eat too much chocolate, to drink more water and to have enough sleep.

'But we are looking forward to going to McDonald's, Pizza Hut or KFC after the concerts,' says Susmitha.

Organisers hope to raise $1.7 million for this year's concert. The main sponsors of the show are Citibank and HSBC Bank. The official venue partner is the National University of Singapore's Centre For the Arts.

taysc@sph.com.sg


Guest violinist from Japan


'I read this book when I am unhappy... This book encourages me to create the future myself and to make more effort'

Asami Wada on how she once contemplated giving up the violin, until she read the book As A Man Thinketh by British philosophical writer James Allen

-- PHOTO: MASANOBU YAMANOUE

Joining the performers from Singapore on stage for this year's ChildAid will be a guest violinist from Japan.

Asami Wada, 13, will be flying to Singapore tomorrow and joining other performers for rehearsals in the days leading up to the three-day concert.

Since the fourth edition of ChildAid in 2008, overseas performers - from countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Japan - have featured in the line-up.

But Wada, who has been playing the violin since she was two and has won awards for it in Japan, has a ChildAid connection even before she performs here.

She took part in the first overseas spin-off of the ChildAid concert staged in Tokyo in January this year. ChildAid Asia 2011 was held by non-profit organisation Little Creators from Tokyo to help underprivileged Japanese children.

Then, it had been a low point in her life. Before the concert, her father's company went bankrupt. He left the family and her parents divorced.

She thought of giving up the violin due to the cost of taking lessons from well-known teachers in Japan but decided to continue after reading the book As A Man Thinketh by British philosophical writer James Allen.

The book promoted the idea that people are what their thoughts make them.

In an e-mail interview translated by Little Creators director Kyoko Hasegawa, Wada said: 'I read this book when I am unhappy... This book encourages me to create the future myself and to make more effort.'

It also helped her stay strong when she found out two months ago that her father had died. She lives with her mother and two elder brothers.

Asked what ChildAid means to her, she said: 'I want to show that music or art is a universal language.

'For me to join ChildAid means that I overcame poverty, sorrow and hardship, that I love the violin, that life is precious and that is something we can never purchase with money.'

She would be playing Zigeunerweisen here, the same piece that she played at the ChildAid Asia concert in January.

Ang Yiying


Violinist chooses concert over competition


'It was fun. You get to know other violinists and performers from another country'

Wu Shuang (above) on playing in ChildAid Asia 2011

-- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

A young, international prize-winning violinist has forsaken competing at a national contest to perform at ChildAid instead.

Wu Shuang, 10, a Singaporean pupil at CHIJ (Kellock), won second prize in the category for children aged 10 and below at the 53rd Kocian Violin Competition in the Czech Republic in May this year.

Such a talented young musician would be keen to take part in the upcoming National Piano and Violin Competition. The violin competition segment is from Tuesday to Friday.

However, this clashes with the rehearsal and performance dates of ChildAid. For Wu, the charity concert comes first for her.

On taking part in ChildAid, she says: 'I think it's rather good. It should help the less fortunate.'

Her father Goh Pek Loke, a 57-year-old retiree, said that performing in ChildAid would be a different experience for his only child - her surname Wu is the hanyu pinyin of the dialect surname Goh - from taking part in a competition. Her mother Lim Siew Eng, 47, is a bank dealer.

'I want her to understand that the most important part about playing music is that you must have a heart,' he said.

Indeed, Wu was also among 19 violinists from her school who in January flew to Tokyo to perform at ChildAid Asia 2011, alongside Japanese performers. ChildAid Asia is a spin-off of the annual ChildAid concert here, and was held by non-profit organisation Little Creators from Tokyo to help underprivileged Japanese children.

Wu recalls: 'It was fun. You get to know other violinists and performers from another country.'

She has been playing the violin since she was three, when her parents noticed her interest in the instrument while watching a performance on TV. So they enrolled her for violin classes.

Her violin teacher, Darin Varbanov, says being in ChildAid accompanied by an orchestra would hone her performing skill: 'It's not easy to play a difficult piece for three consecutive nights, even for an accomplished violinist.'

Wu, who is among four solo instrumentalists performing at ChildAid, will be playing Symphonie Espagnole, First Movement, one of her competition pieces this year.

Ang Yiying



'It was difficult for my school as no one is allowed to miss exams, so it was a special concession and I am very grateful to them.'

Matthew Supramaniam (above) on being allowed to miss his examinations at Eton College in England, where he is studying

-- PHOTO: ETON COLLEGE

Skipping exams for show

While his peers will be taking their examinations at Eton College in England, Matthew Supramaniam, 13, will be rehearsing and performing for ChildAid.

The Singaporean is one of two solo vocalists for the concert. The other is 15-year-old Deepti Varathan from the Singapore American School.

Supramaniam was a chorister with St John's College Choir in Cambridge, England, for 11/2 years before joining Britain's prestigious private school of Eton College and its college chapel choir this year.

He will touch down in Singapore on Tuesday to prepare for ChildAid, having been granted an exemption from his examinations which start the next day.

He told Life! that he wished he had a clone so he could do both things, adding: 'It was difficult for my school as no one is allowed to miss exams, so it was a special concession and I am very grateful to them.'

Eton College's headmaster Anthony Little said: 'Eton College is very happy to support one of our boys whose musical skill will help to raise money for underprivileged children in Singapore.'

The end-of-term internal examinations is for the 11 subjects that Supramaniam is taking at Eton.

The boy soprano, who studied at Anglo-Chinese School Junior here until Primary 5, had wanted to attend Eton as it was the alma mater of his maternal ancestors. He attended St John's first to get a taste of English public school life.

Since becoming a chorister, he has sung solos live on BBC Radio 3 and performed in countries such as Denmark and the United States as part of choir tours.

He also sung a farewell tribute to then-President S R Nathan, who was the guest of honour at an Institute of Southeast Asian Studies event in August.

For ChildAid, he will be singing the well-known hymn All Things Bright And Beautiful, with music accompaniment by the National University of Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

Supramaniam, who will also miss out on performing at two carol services in Eton and a charity concert in England during the ChildAid concert period, will be staying on in Singapore with his family here after the concert until the start of his new school term next month.

Other than catching up with his family - his father, a corporate lawyer, his mother, who heads the human resource department in the same law firm, and an elder brother who is 18 - and friends, he will be doing revision for the examinations he will miss. His report card will be based on his tests and continual assessments, but he wants to make sure he is prepared for the new term.

Does he feel the trip is worth it among his many commitments?

He said: 'ChildAid is a way of giving back to society. Since I was chosen, it is almost a responsibility to come back for it.'

Ang Yiying