Special-needs musicians to perform

Some of the musicians in Purple Symphony cannot see, some cannot hear, and some suffer from autism. See how they overcome their challenges in order to put up a show at this year's National Day Parade.
Among the 24 The Purple Symphony musicians is percussionist Lily Goh, who is deaf. Ms Goh helped to choreograph the song's hand signs, which will be performed by 400 Henry Park Primary pupils.
Among the 24 The Purple Symphony musicians is percussionist Lily Goh, who is deaf. Ms Goh helped to choreograph the song's hand signs, which will be performed by 400 Henry Park Primary pupils.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

For the first time ever, this year's National Day Parade (NDP) will feature musicians with different types of disabilities performing together, to promote a caring spirit and to highlight the message of inclusivity.

The Purple Symphony - Singapore's largest disability-inclusive orchestra, which includes a choir - will have 24 of its 90 members perform We Will Get There, the NDP 2002 theme song. The orchestra will be led by its assistant conductor, Ms Liong Kit Yeng.

Among the 24 musicians, 20 have special needs, including intellectual and physical disabilities. Percussionist Lily Goh, who is deaf, will play the marimba. Ms Goh, 37, also helped to choreograph the song's hand signs, which will be performed by 400 Henry Park Primary pupils.

The Purple Symphony - so named as purple symbolises solidarity for people with special needs - was set up in 2015.

It makes its NDP debut this year, and the 25,000 people seated at The Float @ Marina Bay will be its largest audience.

Other NDPs in recent years have highlighted a message of inclusivity, too. Performers from the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore played the drums and marched in NDP 2014.

 

Ms Goh, who lost most of her hearing from the age of two, keeps to the beat by following visual cues from the conductor and her sign language interpreter.

Performing on the floating platform poses unique challenges, as there are more vibrations and she can hear loud music from the speakers, she said.

"I'll need to be very focused on the conductor's visual cues and remember what the tempo and mood of the song should be," she said.

Other orchestra members are also excited about the NDP show.

Luke Kang, 13, who has autism and plays the zhongruan, a Chinese string instrument, said: "I feel confident, and scared too, as the whole of Singapore would be watching us."

About one-third of the orchestra does not have disabilities, including music undergraduate Emilea Teo, 20, who also plays the zhongruan.

Ms Teo said she enjoys performing with musicians with special needs.

"I love what this orchestra stands for - that musicians with special needs are not that different from the rest of us - and I can't wait to share that with everyone," she said.

Priscilla Goy

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2017, with the headline 'Special-needs musicians to perform'. Print Edition | Subscribe