Holding his hand

Autistic pianist Clarence Kang will perform with his relative a song which his mother was inspired to write

As a child, Clarence Kang started playing the piano on his own without formal lessons because he did not allow someone else to touch the instrument while he was playing it.

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He has come a long way since. Now 14, he will be performing at this year's ChildAid concert. The audience will also hear a song composed by the autistic Malaysian boy's mother and sung by his relative Tricia Teo, 14, who brought him to the attention of ChildAid organisers at the auditions in June.

For her audition piece, Tricia, a St Margaret's Secondary School student, sang Hold My Hand, which was inspired by Clarence and written by his mother Joyce Lim. Madam Lim is Tricia's grandaunt.

Says ChildAid artistic director Iskandar Ismail, 56, one of the judges at the auditions: "It was touching... We didn't know it's an original composition. It was a coincidence that we asked about the background of the song."

Tricia then showed a clip of Clarence playing the piano, which impressed the panel of judges who invited him to perform at the concert.

Says Iskandar: "He can play the piano very well. This shows everyone that talent has no boundaries."

At ChildAid, Clarence will play Flight Of The Bumblebee and also accompany Tricia in her performance of Hold My Hand on the piano, along with strings from the orchestra.

Tricia says: "It's really awesome. Clarence can play really well. I've always wanted to perform with him."

Madam Lim, 48, recalls that Clarence, the youngest of her three children, liked to hold on to her hand since he was young, even when she was driving.

Says the owner and principal of a music centre with three branches in Kuala Lumpur: "I could feel his insecurity."

Part of the lyrics of her song go: "Can you hear? Do you care?/To hold my hand and walk with me to lead my way/Close my eyes, I can feel/With all your love to fill my heart you make me strong."

Madam Lim explains: "This is supposed to be the inner voice of autistic kids. I hope the public will understand them because they do have a lot of feelings, but it's difficult for them to express them verbally."

The song has been performed by the National Autism Society of Malaysia (Nasom) Maestros, a choir of autistic children which Clarence is part of.

She also hopes the song will encourage parents of autistic children to find out their strengths and support them.

According to her, Clarence's affinity for music was apparent when he was two years old. He liked to sit around the digital piano, later learning to play it on his own, playing by memory and improvising songs.

His refusal to let someone else touch the piano when he was playing it meant that it was difficult to give him formal guidance. Only at 10 did he finally receive formal training.

Since then, he has staged a piano recital last December at PJLA Jaya One theatre in Kuala Lumpur, where he played 15 songs from memory and his mother sang Hold My Hand, and also at charity events.

Madam Lim says she tries to let Clarence accept as many invitations to perform at charity events as he can manage.

"I feel it's meaningful to let society know about special children, to understand, to care and to give them more opportunities."

Other ChildAid acts this year include pop song-and-dance items, performances by budding classical musicians and dance pieces in genres from ballet to hip-hop.

Proceeds from ChildAid will go to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, which helps children from low-income families with their school-related expenses, and The Business Times Budding Artists Fund, a programme under The Old Parliament House which gives an arts education to underprivileged but artistically gifted kids.


For more information on ChildAid, go to www.facebook.com/ChildAid

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Sisters Nur Shaheen Zainudin (right), 12, and Maya Raisha Zainudin (left), 10

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Sisters Amni Musfirah Abdul Rashid (right), 18, and Izyan Nadirah Abdul Rashid (left), 16

Amni sang at ChildAid in 2008 and 2009. In 2009, Izyan also participated in ChildAid as part of a group dance performance.

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Siblings Lieu Kah Yen (left), 15, and Lieu May Yen, 13, and their cousin Samuel Lieu (right), 14

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