No concerts because of Covid-19 but 85-year-old Singaporean keeps on singing

Singing enthusiast Zhuo Yuan Long had previously taken part in numerous concerts every year, including concerts in Tianjin, China.
Singing enthusiast Zhuo Yuan Long had previously taken part in numerous concerts every year, including concerts in Tianjin, China.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - Mr Zhuo Yuan Long's love for singing started when he was a child and would sing anything from Hokkien to Malay numbers.

When he was working as a crane driver in the early 1960s, he often sang as he worked, earning him the nickname "Do Re Mi".

Mr Zhuo turned 85 recently, but his love affair with singing has continued unabated.

He had wanted to put up a concert on his birthday on Dec 12 at the Singapore Conference Hall and had even invited guest singers.

But Covid-19 struck.

"As a singer, I love to perform. But I haven't been able to put up any recitals this year because of Covid-19," said Mr Zhuo, who used to run his own crane business but retired in 2000.

The singing enthusiast had previously taken part in numerous concerts every year, including concerts in Tianjin, China.

In an interview with The Straits Times, Mr Zhuo laughed as he recounted his singing skills as a young amateur.

"Back then, I couldn't sing well but I would still sing," he quipped.

Growing up during the Japanese Occupation was difficult for Mr Zhuo. He dropped out of primary school after about a year to become a hawker. He later turned to odd jobs, earning just $1.90 per day.

Yet singing was always on his mind.

He joined choir groups, including the Hokkien Huay Kuan Choir and the now defunct Tong Luo Choral Group.

Mr Zhuo credits his improvement in singing to teachers who have taught him over the past six decades. Some hail from countries such as Australia and England.

He added: "I only became better and learnt the correct singing skills when I started learning from these teachers."

Mr Zhuo struggled initially with singing opera songs, many of which have Italian lyrics that he found difficult to pronounce.

But his Italian improved tremendously after he enrolled in a private school to learn the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).

"My singing teacher at that time even said my Italian pronunciation was better than some Westerners," he said.

While concerts may not be possible for now, Mr Zhuo still practises singing almost every day for two to three hours in the flat he shares with his wife, 68. They have five daughters in their 40s and seven grandchildren aged four to seven.

Sometimes, he said, he rehearses more than 20 songs in a day.

He finds it hard to explain his love for singing.

"I just know that when I sing, I feel very satisfied." he added.

When asked about advice he would give to other elderly people looking to pursue hobbies in the arts, Mr Zhuo has only one thing to say: "Do what makes you happy."