Friday 20 June 2014

NDP 2014 to honour pioneers and other Singaporeans

Photos, videos paying tribute to them will be screened in parade segment
By Lee Jian Xuan, The Straits Times, 19 Jun 2014

SINGAPOREANS who have toiled long and hard to build the country will be recognised and celebrated in video and photo montages screened at this year's National Day Parade (NDP), event organisers said yesterday.

The Heartbeat montages will pay tribute to groups like the pioneer generation, and will be screened during the parade and ceremony segment, the first time it will have such a backdrop.

Traditionally, this segment, which consists of civil and military contingents forming up and marching, is formal and orderly, led by commands issued by the parade commander and sergeant-major.

But this year's parade is "a parade with heart", said Senior Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Tan, who chairs the NDP's parade and ceremony committee. "We want to recognise Singaporeans from all walks of life, past and present, coming together to celebrate what it means to be Singaporean."

Speaking at a media preview yesterday, he noted: "We want to pay tribute to our pioneers, to recognise their struggles... and our caring families and communities that give us strength."

The contingents will lead the 30,000-strong audience to sing along to a medley of familiar songs, such as One People, One Nation, One Singapore and We Will Get There, to welcome President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who traditionally arrives during the parade segment.

Close to 2,000 participants will be marching - the most since the event has been held at The Float @ Marina Bay.

It will be the seventh and possibly last time that the show will be staged in front of the city skyline. A potential venue for Singapore's 50th anniversary next year is the new Sports Hub in Kallang.

Parade participants will include eight marching for the first time from the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore. The eight, who are aged between 24 and 48, will also play drums in the seven-minute-long military band display that opens the parade.

Five out of the 14 civilian contingents will be taking part for the first time. They will join 21 other military and uniformed contingents marching this year.

The segment will wrap up with a display of military vehicles from the army, air force, navy, police and civil defence force.

Following it will be the show segment of the parade, which will be directed this year by singer-songwriter Dick Lee.

The parade will be commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Wong Pui Pin, 36, who is the brigade second-in-command of the 54th Singapore Armoured Brigade.

Undergraduate Derrick Sim, 25, who could not get tickets to the parade in the ballot, still intends to catch it on television.

"It is nice to see everyone gathering together. I can't wait for next year when Singapore celebrates its 50th birthday, as there has been so much hype," he said.

Hossan's turn as NDP host
By Lim Yi Han, My Paper, 25 Jul 2014

HE HAS hosted many shows and concerts but the big one eluded him.

Now, after 20 years in show business, comedian Hossan Leong will finally get his biggest stage and audience at the National Day Parade (NDP) on Aug 9.

The 45-year-old told My Paper: "I've always wanted to host it, (but) it's not something you put up your hand to say you want to do.

"Gurmit (Singh has) been doing a wonderful job, and he's been a wonderful host. But I'm glad I'm doing it this year. I really hope that I will host next year's as well."

When asked if he knew why he was finally chosen, he credited NDP 2014's creative director Dick Lee, who had noticed his talents when he hosted Singapore Day in Sydney last October.

"He said, 'I didn't realise you could host an open-air event with 5,000 people and everyone's having fun.' I'm like, 'I've been in the business 20 years leh, Dick. You don't know me ah?' " said Leong with a laugh.

He will be one of the five emcees in charge of getting audience members on their feet and cheering.

The other emcees are actress Siti Khalijah, actor Ebi Shankara, and radio DJs Jean Danker and Joakim Gomez. All four have hosted the NDP before.

For Leong, this does not mean additional pressure, because "ultimately it's all about teamwork" and he always tells himself that he has to be "perfect".

"I always do my best. I believe you're only as good as your last show. If you screw up this show, you will never be hired again," he explained.

Hosting the NDP is also very different for the theatre veteran because it is "so intense".

"With the theatre, it's a controlled environment. This is open air, and it's so technically heavy. It's all about being on your feet, on your toes," he said.

While this may be his first time hosting the NDP, he already has loftier ambitions - to be its creative director one day.

He said: "Every year, I get this little bird going, 'They never ask you to direct?' I say, 'Slowly, I can (do it) step by step, host first.'

"It would be a great honour to direct the National Day Parade one day; it's amazing to see how things work behind the scenes."

Aug 9 'baby' is parade's voice again
By Lim Yi Han, My Paper, 25 Jul 2014

THIS year's National Day Parade (NDP) will be a perfect 10 for parade announcer William Xavier.

It will be the 10th time the 54-year-old local radio DJ makes announcements as planes whizz past and marching contingents take centre stage.

He was the parade announcer from 2003 to 2008 and from 2010 to 2012. He has also hosted the NDP at least twice.

Calling it the "biggest show in the country", he said: "Not many people have this privilege... It's an honour to be asked, it's an affirmation of your ability."

When asked about the challenges he has faced as an announcer, he replied: "Based on the number of times I've done this, it's most likely that I've overcome those challenges. The thing is that, having done this job a long time... I think I've come to define the job.

"That thing when you hear me drag my voice, the 'Here they come' bit, nobody did that before.

"That's kind of a patented thing. In the years when I didn't do this, apparently whoever took my place attempted that as well - with mixed results, I'm told."

After so many years, he said it is hard to pick out the most memorable moment. But his favourite part of the NDP is the aerial flypast.

He said: "The one I like the most is the one I'm good at, which is bringing the planes in."

And, to top if off, he will also be turning 55 on Aug 9. "I like to celebrate my birthday in public - I am an Aug 9 baby, why not celebrate in a big way?"

First NDP performance for MINDS beneficiaries
Intellectually disabled will play drums, march, as part of a more inclusive National Day Parade
By Yeo Sam Jo, The Sunday Times, 27 Jul 2014

Thirteen Singaporeans with intellectual disabilities will take part in their first ever National Day Parade this year, in performances that include drumming and marching.

During the third National Education Show yesterday, eight beneficiaries of the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) beat taiko drums as part of a military band and precision drill squad display which will open next week's parade.

The preview for Primary 5 pupils at the Marina Bay floating platform was attended by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, who was there as the reviewing officer.

Twelve of the representatives from MINDS, who are between the early 20s and mid-40s, also marched in a contingent with, a national body focused on promoting racial and religious harmony.

"The caregivers are very proud (of them)," said Mr Keh Eng Song, chief executive of Minds, a voluntary welfare organisation.

"The guys are also very proud because since they are exempted from national service, for them, it's a chance to march and salute. To them, it's something very thrilling."

Mr Keh said that the idea to involve MINDS in the parade arose after he learnt from parade and ceremony committee chairman, Colonel Joseph Tan, that inclusiveness was a key message in this year's celebration.

"We really want to show that they are also capable, that they also have some talent of their own," said Mr Keh. "This group of people is as able as any one of us."

The participants are no strangers to a stage. As part of the MINDS performing group, they have made numerous public appearances, including one at the Chingay parade in 2006.

MINDS training officer Ramlan Rasidi, 51, who trains the performing group, believes that its members have benefited greatly from performing.

"Before, they were very quiet and kept to themselves," said Mr Ramlan. "But now they have become more verbal, more inquisitive and independent."

Yet, for some of them, the real reward is the simple thrill of being watched on Aug 9 after nearly four months of training.

"I'm excited to be on TV. My family can see me on Suria," said 36-year-old Khairullizam Omar, beaming. "I like marching. I like waving the flag. I feel happy."

'If Dec means Xmas, Aug means NDP'
By Jermyn Chow, My Paper, 8 Aug 2014

WHEN you think of December, you think of Christmas. And when it comes to August, singer-songwriter Dick Lee feels that National Day should occupy a similar perch.

More specifically, he is talking about the National Day Parade (NDP) on Aug 9.

"NDP has become a Singapore tradition. I can't imagine August without NDP," said the 57-year-old, who is providing the creative direction for tomorrow's show at the The Float @ Marina Bay.

And to produce a show that resonates with Singaporeans, Mr Lee, who has directed the 2002 and 2010 NDP shows, suggests that tradition is as important in August as it is in December.

"You do something else, like have a Christmas tree that is (made of) metal, it just does not feel right."

Similarly, with NDP, it will be back to basics - no musicals or abstract light displays. Instead, Mr Lee wants the hour-long NDP show to be a colourful song-and-dance session to celebrate the nation's 49th.

While there is no NDP theme song, one of the hallmarks of Singapore's birthday celebrations, spectators can still expect to sing along to past Singapore songs, which have been given a new spin in remixes and mash-ups that take on a pop feel, like One People, One Nation, One Singapore and Where I Belong.

The song that Mr Lee penned in 1996, Big Island, has already got many singing and tapping their feet at NDP rehearsals over the last few weeks.

Even Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen put up a short video clip of the song on his Facebook page earlier this week, saying it had an "infectious beat".

Providing the soundtrack for the show is music director Sydney Tan, who said he wanted the NDP music to be relevant to both young and old.

"It is about taking these songs and reinterpreting them in a way in which they (young and old) all can get it...I mash it all up, the vocabulary, the styles of then and now, to bring the familiar to you in a different way," said Dr Tan, who also provided the music score for the 2009 show.

But show organisers are not playing it all safe with feel-good songs and displays.

This year, there will be a segment of the show to illustrate the fears, anxieties and uncertainty that Singaporeans face today.

There will also be five short films, showcasing characters like a disabled boy and a former convict who face challenges in society.

Film director Boo Junfeng, who is behind the short films and multimedia effects, said that the clips will strike a chord with the wider public who can empathise with the circumstances.

While the films strike a sombre tone, they also celebrate the "can-do" spirit of every Singaporean, said Mr Boo.

Besides these reflective moments, show organisers still promise the familiar dazzling mass and fireworks displays tomorrow.

Mr Lee, who is also celebrating 40 years in the entertainment industry, said: "A lot of people like what NDP represents and the way it is presented...It has become part of our calendar and our lives.

"Maybe in the not-too-distant future, we may not even need an NDP and people will just celebrate National Day automatically...after all, the Government does not have to organise a show for us to celebrate Christmas."

His idea floats beautifully, time after time
'Crazy proposal' to stage NDP over water has endured over the years
By Jermyn Chow, The Straits Times, 9 Aug 2014

IN 2004, the army's then-chief engineer officer Teo Jing Siong was asked to find a new venue for the National Day Parade (NDP), in place of the National Stadium which had to be torn down for the Singapore Sports Hub.

When he suggested staging the parade over water, some civil servants thought he was crazy.

"The idea could have been killed off anytime... They were worried if performers will be sea-sick, whether the structure will float or be washed away by a storm," said Brigadier-General (NS) Teo. As flimsy as the idea might have seemed then, the floating platform, formally known as The Float@Marina Bay, has become a permanent feature on Singapore's skyline, and the local social and sporting calendar since it hosted its first NDP in 2007.

The bayside venue has since become the official Aug 9 "party central". It has also hosted 200 events, from the 2010 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) opening and closing ceremonies to the F1 Singapore Grand Prix.

Today, NDP spectators and performers will bid farewell for now to the floating platform, as the parade will move to the Padang for next year's Golden Jubilee celebrations and most likely the Sports Hub the year after.

Back then, BG (NS) Teo and his team could have opted for Jalan Besar Stadium, the Turf Club at Kranji or the field in Marina South, where the Gardens by the Bay now sits. But an idea hit BG (NS) Teo when he was driving up Benjamin Sheares Bridge, which overlooked Marina Bay. "We thought if we could put a few barges on the bay and have performances there, we could involve a lot more people in the celebrations."

While there were detractors, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who was then defence minister, and former defence chief Ng Yat Chung gave the go-ahead.

The militarymen teamed up with urban planners and sports administrators from the then-Singapore Sports Council. Defence engineers and Sembcorp Marine's shipbuilders hunkered down to design and build the platform within two years.They had to ensure the platform, the size of a 120m by 83m rugby field, would not wobble or vibrate under the weight of 7,000 people or 200 tonnes.

Besides being an engineering feat, the bayside platform has also changed the look and feel of NDP.

Drawing inspiration from shows in France, Austria and Tokyo's DisneySea theme park, organisers used the water body to erect water screens and create sea displays with speed boats from the navy and police coast guard.

The army engineers' creativity won praise from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who said the 2007 NDP was "a better show, better place" and that there was "better involvement of the audience all around the stage".

Subsequent organisers also put a new spin on parade favourites, by having the presidential 21-gun salute over water for instance.

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone was so impressed with the location that he asked that the F1 track run near the platform.

To Mr Oon Jin Teik, head of the then-Singapore Sports Council, the floating platform also helped Singapore win the rights to host the inaugural YOG in 2010. "(The International Olympic Committee has) not seen anything like ours, (staged) over water, surrounded by city skyscrapers and Marina Bay scenery."

Dick Lee, 57, the NDP creative director for this year, said he did not have to rely on a flashy stage to wow spectators, given the glittering skyline in the background.

He said: "The skyline is a stunning visual that showcases the Singapore so well and that alone will move people."

Veteran parade announcer William Xavier, who will be perched at the top of the seating gallery for his 10th NDP today, said he gets the best view when fighter jets whizz past overhead or assault boats skim across the bay.

While the floating platform takes a hiatus for the next few years, parade goers like Richard Lim, 46, hope it will resurface as one of the regular NDP venues.

The accounts manager said: "The bay is the best place to enjoy the fireworks. You don't only get to celebrate with people in the seating gallery but also feel the atmosphere with thousands across the bay, offices and hotels."

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