Get set for an 'inclusive, epic' NDP

After working through several drafts over four months, singer-songwriter Dick Lee thinks he may have hit the right note with this year's much-anticipated National Day Parade theme song to celebrate SG50.

The 57-year-old has not only penned Our Singapore, but will also sing it with home-grown Mandopop superstar JJ Lin at the parade.

The song was released online last night on the NDP website.

Among those who may sing along with them at the Padang on Aug 9 will be regional heads of state - the first foreign leaders to attend an NDP since 1969.

Lee, who wrote four other songs before settling on the ballad in December, said: "It just felt right. I was looking at all the SG50 plans and realised there is a lot of focus on the past and not really enough on the future. I thought, 'Why not write a song about the next step?' So the lyrics came."

The heat has been on Lee to write an NDP song to surpass his 1998 anthem, Home - one of the best-loved NDP songs that is sung at every parade.

"I didn't want people to compare whatever I will write to Home," said Lee. "There was a lot of pressure... The more that was put on me, the more stressed and more hesitant I was."

Last year, NDP organisers broke tradition and did not have a new song after criticism of past efforts. Noting that NDP theme songs have been "hit and miss", Brigadier-General Melvyn Ong, coordinator of this year's show, said: "We thought there must be a song for Singapore at 50."

BG Ong also gave more details of the parade, which he described as "inclusive" and "epic". It will be themed Majulah Singapura - "Onward Singapore" - after the National Anthem.

There will be 7,000 participants, about 2,000 more than previous years, who will take part in a parade over six chapters, tracing the progress of Singapore over the past 50 years and looking to a better future.

Kicking off the hour-long show will be a segment to pay tribute to Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who died aged 91 on March 23.

Besides keeping a seat empty in his honour, there will be a video clip remembering his life and achievements. The Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF) aerobatics display team the Black Knights will fly in a "five-star" formation in an aerial salute to him.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said the five stars represent "the ideals that Mr Lee spent his life pushing for - democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality."

Other highlights will include:

An aerial display by 50 RSAF warplanes forming the number 50;

Two fireworks show at Marina Bay and Marina Barrage;

A convoy of more than 160 war machines; and

A vintage segment showcasing participants in the army's old Temasek green uniforms and the now-defunct Singapore Fire Brigade's helmets.

The main show will be at the Padang, with 26,000 seats available, and there will also be a bayside show at The Float @ Marina Bay with a 25,000 capacity.

Together, the venues will double the number of seats up for grabs to Singaporeans and permanent residents this year.

BG Ong said many people volunteered to take part, adding: "They don't just want to watch. They want to be a part of it."

Retired army officer Swee Boon Chai rounded up more than 50 other military veterans to take part in the vintage parade. The 68-year-old said: "We may be old soldiers but we want our drills to look sharp and smart."

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