Botanic Gardens concert first to tap SG50 fund this year

Botanic Gardens concert first to tap SG50 fund this year
More than 2,000 people at the Botanic Gardens yesterday watched the Percussion 101 concert celebrating Singapore’s multiculturalism.

Drumbeats pulsated around a Botanic Gardens lawn yesterday, as an ensemble of musicians came together to perform in this year's first ground-up event backed by a special fund to mark Singapore's 50th birthday celebrations.

The 1½-hour, free, evening concert, titled Percussion 101, was put together by 82 musicians, including five professionals and 38 members of community centre groups, with help from the SG50 Celebration Fund.

The performance, before more than 2,000 spectators, aimed to highlight the nation's multicultural, multi-ethnic identity through music.

Performers ranging in age from 17 to over 60 used Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian percussion instruments to play tunes like Mandarin evergreen The Moon Represents My Heart and National Day classic Home.

More than 100 such projects to mark Singapore's golden jubilee have received grants totalling some $3 million from the fund so far, and another 250 proposals are still being reviewed or refined.

More than 500 ideas have been submitted, and applications remain open until August.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, who heads the SG50 Programme Office, gave these updates to reporters at the concert yesterday.

"We can sense the excitement and enthusiasm among Singaporeans to celebrate our 50th birthday together as a nation," he said.

An initial $5 million has been set aside for the fund, but Mr Wong said the sum can be topped up if more good ideas surface, and encouraged Singaporeans to step forward with their ideas for doing something special this year.

Each project can get up to $50,000, depending on its scale.

Yesterday's concert was conceived by Dr Robert Casteels, 56, a composer and conductor from Belgium who became a Singaporean in 2007, and Mr Ngoh Kheng Seng, 44, a percussionist with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra.

"It's impossible for me to be cold and indifferent to a major event like Singapore's 50th birthday," Dr Casteels told The Straits Times.

"Singapore has contributed to my growth as a person and an artist, and, in turn, I hope I've contributed to its arts scene."

Some projects that received grants aim to help the underprivileged or recognise pioneers' contributions. Others are community-based events in areas such as the arts, sports, food and music.

One is the #SgEatWithUs movement, featuring four pop-up carnivals for Singaporeans to gather and share home-cooked food.

"Food is something that binds Singaporeans, and we hope people can come together to share stories over home-cooked food," said organisers Sandy Lim, 41, and Lee Li Theng, 35, both teachers.

The Genealogy Society of Singapore wants to encourage Singaporeans to trace their family roots via a competition ending on April 30. It hopes to get 4,000 entries.

"We must capture this before senior citizens pass away. Once they are gone, their stories will die with them," said society president Ng Yew Kang, 74.

This article was first published on January 5, 2015.
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