Singing 60s

Singing 60s

An ornately carved and imposingly tall grandfather clock towers over visitors in the reception area of the Eu Yan Sang corporate head office, located in a 103-year-old shophouse in South Bridge Road.

The clock, fittingly, belonged to the grandfather of its current owner. It had chimed the hours in a hallway of what was once one of Singapore's largest private homes, Eu Villa.

Eu Yan Sang CEO realises singing dream

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    The amateur musician, known to sing at charity events and play blues harmonica, launched an album of jazz, blues and rock standards.

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    The CD's title is 66, a nod to his age and the Route in the United States celebrated in popular music.

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    In the liner notes, he thanks everyone who "put in so much effort to help me realise my dream". "This is for the bucket list," he writes.

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    Mr Eu is the frontman on every song in this collection. All but two of the nine tracks feature a band of over a dozen session players, recorded in Paris by Singapore-based French producer Bruno Le Flanchec.

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    Mr Le Flanchec, 53, says he worked with Mr Eu to select and arrange the songs.

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    The titles, which include Big Yellow Taxi (made famous by Joni Mitchell) and Beast Of Burden from The Rolling Stones, were adapted to suit Mr Eu's mellow voice.

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    The album was largely put together at local production house Resonance Audio. Studio co-owners Bryant Hwang (a cousin of Mr Eu's) and Leonard Fong also worked on production.

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    All proceeds from the sale of the CD go to the Rainbow Centre, which runs educational programmes for special needs children, and the Dover Park Hospice.

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    Since its launch at an Academy-organised charity event in May, the first pressing of 2,500 copies has been largely sold, and another run of 2,500 copies is expected to be pressed soon.

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    The disc, priced at $20, is stocked at That CD Shop outlets, the Rainbow Centre and Dover Park Hospice, and also online at www.mylifeinc.me/66.

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    The self-funded project has cost him several tens of thousands. But he reckons that compared with conventional philanthropic methods, such as hosting a one-off dinner or auction - events not without their own high costs of production - a CD is a tangible product with a longer money-earning lifespan.

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    With three cousins, he began a campaign to wrest control of the company back into family hands when the firm was in danger of dissolution.

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    The group chief executive officer of the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) company knows about looking ahead. He joined the business as general manager late in his life in 1989, when he was in his 40s.

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    He helped modernise its products and how it markets and retails them. Since then, the listed company has grown into a brand known across Asia.

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    He spent the early part of his childhood at Eu Villa, under the eye of his parents and amahs. He is the eldest of four children. Brothers David and Geoffrey are, respectively, a doctor and a journalist and sister Helena is a housewife.

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    As a boy, Richard was sneaking listens to pop records while studying at Anglo-Chinese School. After Secondary1, he was sent to the English boarding school of Kent College in Canterbury and, later, he went to the University of London to study law.

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    In London, he was a young man in the right place, at the right time. The British Invasion of the world pop charts was in full flower. He revelled in it, watching as many bands as he could.

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    "Making an album" might now be crossed off Mr Eu's bucket list, but there are goals left to be achieved in business. One milestone yet to be reached: Making Eu Yan Sang a billion-dollar company, he says. He has, however, hit one specific target. He has managed to help keep the business in family hands.

From 1914, the Edwardian Baroque mansion stood on five stately acres on Mount Sophia, its affairs overseen by its owner, businessman and philanthropist Eu Tong Sen.

His grandson, Richard Eu, 66, has the clock now, and is also the chief executive of the company founded by his great- grandfather (and Eu Tong Sen's father) Eu Kong in 1879.

"It's a reminder of our heritage," says Mr Eu of the timepiece, one of the few objects rescued from Eu Villa before it succumbed to the wrecking ball in the 1980s.

The past, like the clock, looms large in the company's present, he says, because "it's really only when you know where you come from that you know where to go".

The group chief executive officer of the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) company knows about looking ahead. He joined the business as general manager late in his life in 1989, when he was in his 40s. With three cousins, he began a campaign to wrest control of the company back into family hands when the firm was in danger of dissolution.

He helped modernise its products and how it markets and retails them. Since then, the listed company has grown into a brand known across Asia.

Two months ago, Mr Eu racked up a different sort of achievement. The amateur musician, known to sing at charity events and play blues harmonica, launched an album of jazz, blues and rock standards. The CD's title is 66, a nod to his age and the Route in the United States celebrated in popular music.

Inside the sleeve, the dedication reads: "This album is dedicated to my father and late mother, who didn't disown me when I thought the point of studying in London during the Swinging Sixties was to be like Mick Jagger."

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