Monday, March 30, 2009

I am thankful for the blessings of the day

30 Mar 2009:

Here is to share good luck with you. May the sharing of good luck help bring you closer to finding simple delight in the everyday life.

I am thankful for yet having won a pair of tickets to an upcoming Singapore Symphony Orchestra's (SSO) concert. This morning, I was pretty keen to catch a particular SSO concert and when there was a call-in contest on my favourite radio station to win a pair of tickets to the concert, I took my chance and called the hotline number. I was pleasantly delighted when my call got through the very moment that I dialled the phone number of the call-in contest. Many thanks to Symphony 92.4 FM for organising the contest. My thanks to SSO for sponsoring the tickets.

The concert's synopsis start as such "Even in these times of distress and anxiety, there is hope and solace to be found in the power of music."

With this, I wish that all my readers, friends and loved ones will find hope and solace even during the times of distress and anxiety.


At the personal level, today is a day of blessing as I have had the honour to have a meaningful conversation with a cherished friend of mine. In a society with loads of demands and where people appear racing to achieve their goals, I find it a blessing to have the honour and privilege to spend time engaging in a deep and meaningful conversation with a very good friend. Such moments are priceless.

I am thankful for the blessings of the day, and here, I wish to share the joy that I have received from the blessings with you.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Read: Gut Feelings

I rediscovered that it is a joy to read!

Just before my trip to Ipoh, I borrowed Gerd Gigerenzer's Gut Feelings: Short Cuts to Better Decision Making to read. I brought the book along with me to Ipoh, and only managed to complete it a few days after I was back from Ipoh. Nevertheless, it was a rather thoughtful read.

There are some interesting concepts and ideas that I have learnt from reading this book. These are:

- How simple rules of the thumbs, which take advantage of the evolved capacities of the brain, underlies intuition.
- The importance of starting small.
- The interplay between the mind and environment.
- Special gut feelings called social instincts.

It was quite thought-provoking to read about why people seem to have gut feelings to do what they do. I am now hoping to learn more.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

I ask for Help

Perplexed, in deep thoughts,
In constant quest
When the lone force strives
Will it be against the currents
Or going with the flow?

What is the bigger plan?
I have no idea.
Humbly, I ask for guidance
And for enthusiasm
To embrace the challenges ahead

Tests come in the form of adversities
They shall make one stronger and wiser
And before darkness wears the heart
May I ask for Help?

Friday, March 20, 2009

My short trip to Ipoh

I have bought my camera but I must have been so focused on sitting for the Music Theory examinations that I did not take a single photograph while I was in Ipoh.

The journey from Singapore to Ipoh was about seven hours by coach. I took a luxury coach service and the coach came with electronic snoozer seats. That helped me get a bit of rest on the coach. Nevertheless, the journey was a bumpy one, so do expect for a bumpy ride.

My examinations were held at one of the classrooms of one of the schools in Ipoh. The classroom brought about nostalgia. It reminded me of my Secondary School classroom, with its wooden tables and chairs.

After the exams, I had Ipoh Hor Fun for lunch. The rice-noodles (Hor Fun) in Ipoh are more smooth and silky than those that I find in Singapore. I was given recommendations by a few locals that the Ipoh Hor Fun from Tian Jing Cha Shi has one of the best Ipoh Hor Fun in Ipoh, and I am glad that I have tried it.

Much of the rest of my time in Ipoh was spent reading. The weather in the afternoon was rainy and I figured reading would better nourish my mind than anything else.

That's all for my trip to Ipoh. I am thankful for a safe trip home.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Two recitals that I will be attending

It is an exciting week and I will be attending these two recitals. Admission to both recitals is free, so do join me to support.

Senior Recital: Yeo Eun-Ju, Double Bass
18 Mar 2009, Wednesday, 6.30 p.m.
Conservatory Concert Hall, NUS, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music.
Admission is free.


Senior Recital: Koh Pei Shan Emily, composition
19 March 2009, Thursday, 8 p.m.
Conservatory Concert Hall, NUS, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music.
Admission is free.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

8 Feb 2009: Thaipusam

It must have been due to novelty and the enthusiasm to do a simple coverage of Thaipusam to share with my friends such that I could bring myself to wake up early in the morning of 8 Feb 2009 even though I had slept terribly late at close to 2 a.m. after returning home from the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple past midnight.

I figured that the best way to travel to the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple, which is the start of the Thaipusam procession, would be by the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT). This proved to be a good choice. The morning sun was already pretty bright. I did not mind that because that meant brighter colours in the photographs that I would take for the day.

I spent about two hours in the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple watching the various religious ceremonies and the preparation for the Thaipusam procession that took place there. I shall let the photographs tell some of the stories.

Lemon lamps.

Milk pots and garlands.

The offerings made.

These are the tools used for the spike kavadi.

Outside the temple, devotees can be seen making their way from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple to Sri Thendayuthapani Temple. Most of the devotees did so barefooted. As I watched the devotees in the Thaipusam procession making their journey of faith to their destination, I felt a sense of awe and respect for their devotion and strong faith.

Here is a video that I had taken along Serangoon Road.

Musicians form an important part of the festival even though they are not the bearers of the kavadis. As I witness the procession, I think the music played by the musicians have an encouraging and positive effect on the bearers of the kavadis. It was not an easy journey of 4 kilometres to make from the starting point to the destination. The music, I would think, had in some ways cheered the bearers along when the signs of exhaustion and physical discomforts set in.

I think it is noteworthy to mention the volunteers and sponsors who had set up make-shift tents that gave out free food and drinks to the devotees and members of the public who were taking part in the Thaipusam festival. I thought such gestures were like sharing good blessings with others, particularly those who may not be able to afford a square meal. The provision of free drinks also came helpful to the devotees who were walking their journey of faith to Tank Road as it was possibly refreshing to have a sip of water when one's body gets dehydrated due to the hot sunny weather.

I surprised myself by following the route of the devotees all the way to Sri Thendayuthapani Temple. When I reached Tank Road, the queue to enter the temple was very long. I had wanted to leave the queue, but when I enquired, the only legitimate exit out of the queue was to follow the queue all the way to the temple, and then one could find the exit once one is in the main hall of the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple. That queue from the start of Tank Road to the exit of Sri Thendayuthapani Temple took me about an hour of patient wait.

I was in the queue outside the temple with the devotees.

Finally, I was inside the temple.

Here is where the kavadis are being dismantled.

By the time that I had taken the exit out of Sri Thendayuthapani Temple, my legs were aching. Having gone through the experience of aching legs, I would now strongly recommend that anyone who wishes to join the Thaipusam procession and the journey of 4 kilometres to please start off wth some warm-up exercises before embarking on the long journey. I realised it not only takes physical energy but also a lot of mental discipline to have the determination and faith to walk that long 4 kilometres journey. It was already quite a challenge for yours truly even though I was not carrying a kavadi, and I was walking with shoes on. I am deeply moved by the devotees' strong faith and devotion.

I am glad that I had set aside time to witness the Thaipusam festival for it reminded me that with faith and discipline, what may seem impossible can be achievable.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Yesterday's concert

Yesterday's concert was a success. Many thanks to those who have made it possible. My thanks to my friends who have made time to lend their support and presence. I greatly appreciate their sincere support.

The concert yesterday was a special one. Firstly, it was the 30th anniversary concert of the NUS Symphony Orchestra. There was actually a presentation of a montage of photographs of the orchestra over the years. It was presented during the intermission.

Secondly, our guest-of-honour was Mr Paul Abisheganaden who established the NUS Concert Orchestra in 1979. I felt very touched when our current Resident Conductor dedicate Dvorak's Slavonic Dance to Mr Paul Abisheganaden to round up the concert.

Thirdly, it was special because the orchestra was playing a commissioned work, About E.C.O. written by one of my friends, Emily Koh. It was my second time playing Emily's works. The first was when I played her work, Suicidal Tendencies. It was exciting to play her work and to witness how her works have matured over time. Great work Emily! I am now looking forward to attend Emily's Senior Recital that showcases some of her compositions.

The fourth reason to make the concert a special one to yours truly was that I get to play Vivaldi's Winter which was one of the favourite piece of music of a good friend of mine. I have not expected that I had the opportunity to do play for her on stage during the concert itself, yet I did. My heartfelt appreciation to her for attending and supporting the concert. It meant a lot to me for I cherish her friendship. She is possibly one of the few good friends I have known for more than a decade. She is also probably one of those few friends who would have heard how elementary my playing on the double bass had sound when I had first started out playing the double bass more than a decade ago. There is comfort and joy to know that my playing has improved over the years.

The fifth reason was that the ticket sales for the concert was a commendable success. Three weeks ago, we had only 100 confirmed tickets sold. At the day of the concert, we have got more than 900 seats sold. Once again, many thanks to the audience for their support. Last but not the least, thank you for sharing our joy of celebrating the orchestra's 30th anniversary, certainly a New Season.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Today's the day

The NUS Symphony Orchestra Presents
A New Season

(part of the NUS Arts Festival 2009)
Saturday, 14 March 2009, 8pm,
University Cultural Centre Concert Hall
Tickets at $15 and $18 (includes Sistic charge)

Yours truly will be performing in this concert later the day. I hope you may lend us your support.

Friday, March 13, 2009

This weekend and more

Once again, the concert is drawing near. The NUS Symphony Orchestra will be presenting its 30th anniversary concert on 14 Mar 2009. Emily will have one of her compositions premiered in this concert. Yours truly will be performing. If you are keen to support, tickets are available from SISTICS.

The NUS Symphony Orchestra Presents
A New Season

(part of the NUS Arts Festival 2009)
Saturday, 14 March 2009, 8pm,
University Cultural Centre Concert Hall
Tickets at $15 and $18 (includes Sistic charge)

The night after the concert, I will be taking a bus-ride to Ipoh, Malaysia, to sit for the ABRSM Grade 8 Music Theory exams. The ABRSM Grade 8 Music Theory exams in Singapore clashes with the rehearsal for the concert on 14 Mar 2009, so I decided to take the exams in nearby Malaysia since the music exams in Malaysia will be held on 16 Mar 2009.

Please wish me a safe journey to Ipoh and back to Singapore. Hopefully good luck and good health will shine on me for the exams. I will be arriving Ipoh at about 5 a.m. on 16 Mar 2009, and then take the exams at 9 a.m. I should be in safe hands. I wish I would be in a state of clear-mind when I sit for the exams.

For the week of 15 Mar 2009 to 21 Mar 2009, it is officially declared a week of break from playing the double bass.


Since I will be working on the concert, preparing for music theory exams and will be in Ipoh for a short while, this blog will run automatically on its own without the presence of its blog author. Most of the posts that you would see after 13 Mar 2009 would have been scheduled posts. In fact, this post was written on 7 Mar 2009 and will be scheduled to be published on 13 Mar 2009.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

People to be grateful for. Part 8

When it comes to friends whom I am grateful for, often it is not about the very big things that they do, but it is about the many simple things that they do to show that they care. I am grateful to have found a friend in Goldilocks (JY).

JY and I had studied in the same secondary school, the same junior college and the same faculty in the university. Interestingly, we probably got to know each other as friends only from our university years.

Her kindness has touched my heart. Admittedly, my years as an undergraduate were possibly one of the most depressive times in my life. Yet, it was friends like her who have helped make each of those past days more bearable. I vaguely remember one occasion when I was an undergraduate having an extremely bad day and feeling awfully low. I met JY by chance when heading to the Arts Canteen. She said hello to me and initiated a lunch together. It was a simple gesture of kindness, that helped bring a lot of comfort to yours truly who was having a gloomy day.

I thank her for lending her time generously to be one of my first participants when I needed to practise administering the MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator). The MBTI and Type theories just got me so excited that I could not help but want to have my hands on administering it. She impressed me by going for the accreditation course in MBTI thereafter and administering the indicator to more people than I did.

I am very thankful for JY's companionship. There were many, if not countless times, that she offered her time and companionship. Be it to watch a drama production, a lunch together at the faculty, to lend her listening ears when I needed to sort through some issues close to my heart, and simply a company.

I am also grateful that on one occasion when I needed help to carry the double bass stool for a music-exams rehearsal, she generously gave her time to help me with it. I badly needed help with it for there was no way I could carry a stool with a double bass in my hands.

JY has been a very supportive friend when it comes to my pursuit of playing music in an orchestra. I deeply appreciate her support in attending a number of the concerts that I have played in. It matters a lot to me for I feel a sense of comfort that there are people who do wish to share the joy of music-making. Thanks JY.

JY is a pretty witty lady if one can get to know her better. Well, it can often be an interesting exchange to just communicate with her via writing. I recalled having to communicate with her via ICQ years ago and at times on MSN, and it was a delightful experience interacting with her via writing.

Before I end this post, I would also like to thank her for the many post-cards she has been giving me when she goes overseas. These postcards are like windows to the world that I have yet to see, and they warm my heart that someone cares enough to share the delight of this beautiful world with me. Thank you JY.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The recital to support: Emily's Senior Recital

Emily will be showcasing her senior recital soon. This is a recital to support since Emily is one of our local composers. I will be attending. See you there.

Who will be attending?

Senior Recital: Koh Pei Shan Emily, composition
19 March 2009, Thursday, 8pm
Conservatory Concert Hall, NUS, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music.
Admission is free.

Emily's Senior Composition Recital - "Life, Death and the In-Between"

Please join Emily and her friends for an evening of new works, as they explore the human psyche through quotes from the beginnings of western philosophy to modern japanese death poetry.

The colours for the night are pink and black. Please come dressed in these colours.


PROGRAM (Updated)

Si fallor, sum (2008)
for solo piano
~ Khoo Hui Ling, piano

The foundations of Western philosophy can be seen in ‘Cogito, ergo sum’ (‘I think, therefore I am’), a philosophical statement used by René Descartes in his Discourse on Method (1637). Although the idea expressed in ‘Cogito, ergo sum’ is widely attributed to Descartes, many predecessors offer similar arguments — particularly St. Augustine of Hippo in De Civitate Dei: ‘Si […] fallor, sum’ (‘If I am mistaken, I am’) (book XI, 26).

“For if I am mistaken, I am. For one who does not exist cannot be mistaken either.” - St. Augustine of Hippo

Si fallor, sum is written as a concert-opening piece with its brash opening chords that wakes the audiences’ ears. These chords cast the foundations of the harmonic language and melodic motives to follow in the piece. Si fallor, sum is like a smorgasbord of sounds, created by the organic, spontaneous and continuous development of the opening gesture; like ‘Si […] fallor, sum’ had developed into what we see as Western philosophical thought today.


The Outside (2007)
for violin and cello
~ Qiang Xiao Xiao, violin
~ Ekachai Maskulrat, cello

The Outside was written with the imagery of oneself being imprisoned in a locked room while looking at his/her clone living out life through a closed window, while the clone leads the outside life with absolutely no idea of past, present and future, just like a machine in a human’s body.

This fictional scenario raises important questions about humanity with regards to power, freedom, societal influences surrounding environments, mind, body and soul. These questions are then explored by the violin and cello, who personify are oneself and the clone – same but different, one but not.


Last Words (2009)
for double bass and electronics
~ Emily Koh, double bass

Written as another musical eulogy for oneself, Last Words explores the human psyche through the last words of a myriad of dead people from different backgrounds and times such as, French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte to in famous Casablanca actor Humphrey Bogart.

As the psyche refers to forces in a human being that influence thought, behavior and personality, Last Words is really a circum-retrospect of one’s concept of self at the very last living moment.




At the End of the End (2008)
a chamber opera
for mezzo soprano and ensemble
~ Khor Ai Ming (mezzo soprano solo)
~ Rhoda Wong (soprano)
~ Michelle Yeoh (alto)
~ Gerald Tan (tenor)
~ Harris Ang (bass)
~ Sun Yi (percussion 1)
~ Su Shu (percussion 2)
~ Sun Cheng (percussion 3)
~ Ekachai Maskulrat (cello)
~ Low Shao Suan (piano/electronic organ)
~ Thatchatham Silsupan (electronist)
~ Jun Wong (conductor)

At the End of the End is a fictional account that tells the journey of the main protagonist, She (solo mezzo-soprano) in ‘The In-Between’ – the period of time and space between the end of one’s physical ‘life’ (commonly referred to as ‘death’) and the conclusion of one’s metaphysical being (whereby one ceases to exist anymore).

In At the End of the End, when a human being dies and loses physical form, the metaphysical self of the dead travels to a place called ‘The In-Between’. When She first arrives in ‘The In-Between’, she, with the other people in ‘The In-Between’ are confused and disorientated (I. Who’s There/Someone New). She wanders around her new surroundings and eventually realizes that she has visited this place before, in her dreams, and knows that her being there was because she needed to seek the true meaning of life, now that life has ended for her (II. I’m Here) in the ‘The In-Between’ (III. The In-Between).

While meeting with others, she gets acquainted with different ideas of the meaning of life between different philosophies (SATB Quartet) and different religions (electronics) (IV. The Meaning). Eventually, she meets with a higher power, The Voice (solo mezzo-soprano), oblivious to the fact that The Voice is actually another manifestation of herself. At the end, she realizes who The Voice is and understands that there is no higher power than one’s own being. With this, she becomes (V. Now I have Become), and leaves ‘The In-Between’.

Credit: Image taken from

Friday, March 06, 2009

Catching glimpses of Thaipusam at night

After the Chariot procession on 7 Feb 2009, I took some moments of rest before heading to Serangoon Road. The MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) became my most reliable mode of transport for 7 and 8 Feb 2009. There was a number of traffic redirection that day and slow traffic was expected along the stretch of Serangoon Road because of the Thaipusam festival.

By the time when I reached the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple, it was about 11.15 p.m. There was a crowd inside the temple already. I was pretty tired from the long day. I had woke up pretty early that day for a work-related event and after that, I was travelling from Tank Road to Serangoon Road to Chinatown area, then back to Tank Road and then to Serangoon Road. I was already pleased that I managed to have the motivations to carry myself to the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple that night. My original plans were to keep myself awake till 2 a.m. to see the first group of the spike kavadi carriers start their procession from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple. However, by 12 midnight, I realised that I was too exhausted from the day, and had to make some changes to my original plans.

There was such a crowd inside the crowd that I decided to just watch groups of devotees who were carrying milk pots on their head start their procession from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple to the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple in Tank Road. While I was watching the procession from the outskirts of the temple, I started conversations with a few Indians. I found out that a suitable time to visit the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple would be in the morning of the next day since the temple would be relatively less crowded by then, and it would be brighter at that time of the day.

Interestingly, I had found out much later that fellow blog-friend, Eastcoastlife, was actually in Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple to do a coverage of the Thaipusam festival. If I had known that she was inside, I might have attempted to overcome my fears for crowds and visit the temple. Meantime, please do read the Thaipusam-related posts that were written by Eastcoastlife:
Thaipusam Festival 2009 - WS
Love - RT

Please do read her posts to get a glimpse of what goes on inside the temple that very night.

Meantime, in order to catch a bus home, yours truly walked from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple to Selegie Road that night. It was a relatively peaceful walk. The route to Selegie Road was also the route that devotees would take to reach Tank Road. As such, I had the privilege to observe groups of devotees making their walk of faith to Tank Road. The volunteers and personnel who regulated the traffic that night deserved a note of thanks to ensuring that the roads were safe for the devotees to travel on.

This is not the end of my Thaipusam related posts. Please stay tuned to find out more.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Music worth listening to

Last week, I had won a pair of tickets to Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Fantasies and Confessions. I thank Candy for taking time to catch the concert with me.

In general, it takes some time for me to appreciate contemporary music, especially when I hear a piece of contemporary music for the first time. However, during the concert Fantasies and Confessions, I was particularly drawn to James MacMillan's The Confession of Isobel Gowdie. I can't fully describe what makes the music moved me. It just did so!

The music is inspired by this story: In 1662, Isobel Gowdie, from Nairn in Scotland, was strangled at the stake and burned in pitch after having confessed to being a witch and consorting with the devil.

For me, it is hard to understand how people can grant themselves the power to judge others and assert pressure to get others to make absurb confessions. If she was killed in the end, it could be as good as murder. A murder that mistakenly appeared justified.

Overall, James MacMillan's The Confession of Isobel Gowdie has left a powerful impression in me. Out of my usual self, when I was listening to this work, I actually found myself loving dissonance!

Do listen to this BBC programme where the composer, James MacMillan, speaks of the work The Confession of Isobel Gowdie:

Also see the composer's notes here:

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Chariot procession

This post continues from my previous post on my participation in Thaipusam 2009 as an observer. I visited the Thaipusam Heritage Corner when I was in Serangoon area and learnt quite a bit about the festival of Thaipusam.

Thanks to the information that I had gotten from the Hindu Endowment Board's website, I have learnt that there was a Silver Chariot Procession that would take place at 6 p.m. from the Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple along Keong Saik Road. The most convenient way to reach Keong Saik Road on 7 Feb 2009 was by the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit). It was also the fastest way to get to Chinatown since there were a number of road closures taking place on 7 Feb 2009 because of the Chinatown lights-up events and the Thaipusam festival.

7 Feb 2009. It was the first time in my life that I witnessed a Silver Chariot Procession. Prior to the event, I mustered enough courage to mingle with the devotees to learn more about the festival. I saw devotees carrying trays containing coconuts, banana and grapes. I was told that these items are offerings to the Gods. The coconut and the banana both symbolise purity.

Outside the temple, I was lucky to witness a part of the rituals that were to take place before the Silver Chariot Procession. Devotees were waiting outside the entrance/exit of the Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple waiting for the idol of Lord Murugan to leave the temple. An observer can easily sense the devotees' strong sense of devotion to their God.

Video taken just outside the temple.

While I was waiting for the chariot procession to start, I noticed that there were men carrying kavadis on their shoulder. I had learnt from the Thaipusam Heritage Corner that I had visited much earlier the day that kavadis can come in various shapes and sizes. Some devotees actually carry their offerings of milk for Lord Muragan with their kavadis. Many of the devotees, if not most, were barefooted. I think that it will require much perseverance and strength in the devotees to carry and walk long distances with their kavadis.

I learnt a bit about a group of Indians known as the Chettiars and their close association with the Thaipusam festival while I was conversing with a few of the Indian devotees. The Chettiars are Tamils who originate from South India. This group of Tamils migrated to Singapore in the early 19th century and many became money-lenders here. I went to do some research and found that the temples which were both the starting points and the ending points of 7 Feb 2009 evening's Thaipusam Silver Chariot procession were both under the management of the Chettiars' Temple Society. Both temples were built by the Chettiars.

Meantime, while I was waiting for the Silver Chariot Procession to start, it was interesting to reflect on how Thaipusam has progressed with times. A few decades ago, the chariot was pulled by animals. Today, a vehicle would be used to pull the chariot.

When the chariot procession started, I followed it from Keong Saik Road to Maxwell Food Centre. Along the way, my ears were tuning in to the songs and music that were sang and played throughout the procession.

The start of the procession.

The Chariot procession was actually heading for the Bank of India along Robinson Road and D'Almedia Street. Eventually, it would be scheduled to reach Sri Thendayuthapani Temple by 9 p.m. I realised I needed a break, so I left the procession and headed to Chinatown area for a refreshment break. Afterwhich, I walked all the way from Chinatown area to Tank Road.

When it was close to 9 p.m., I was luck to spot the Chariot procession heading back to Sri Thendayuthapani Temple. It was an inspiring sight to see how much reverence that the devotees have of Lord Murugan, as I watched the procession. If you would like a glimpse of the procession, please view the humble video-recordings that I had taken that night.

After catching the Chariot procession reaching its destination, I took an hour's rest nearby Clarke Quay before heading to Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple along Serangoon Road. I am glad that I had made time to have a first hand experience of Thaipusam.