By Ernest Lee (17A01A), Kaushik Rangaraj (17S06P), photos by Matthew Ang (17S06H)
Chinese New Year: a time for the home, health and hope. The new year brings with it many events, such as house visits (拜年) and spring cleaning (大扫除), and on the 27th of January Raffles Institution celebrated their own New Year tradition. Students and staff alike were gathered to celebrate this joyous occasion as a family, with the annual festive concert being the main event of the day.
Morning assembly was a departure from the usual sea of white-clad students, with red t-shirts and excited chatter giving the parade square an ambience of liveliness. Eagle-eyed Rafflesians may have spotted the adorable children of a few staff members decked out in traditional clothing, who were encouraged to bring their family to partake in the occasion as well.
The first order of the day was that of judgment. Civics and assembly on the day before had been set aside to decorate classrooms as well as create a lantern — no limitations given, and roving teachers set out to investigate the aftermath. These embellishments took on various forms: year head Mr. Tan Mian Ou would make repeated reference later to a specific lantern that ‘looked like a spaceship’, while other classes even displayed original calligraphy.
17A01A. “If Ms Lye asks, we can just totally make things more purposeful in retrospect; like oh, the 2 lines can also mean having the world at our fingertips, that’s why we put it next to the map”.
Following this short session, the Year 6s proceeded to the hall for the concert. Principal Mr. Chan, dressed in a pink gingham shirt, delivered his a short but succinct speech, emphasizing that Chinese New Year was an opportune moment to show gratitude to our elders, and connect with friends. On this note, the concert started proper.
The Raffles Institution Chinese Orchestra (RICO) opened with the crowd favorite “拜年”. Involving a repertoire of familiar instruments, it was evident that RICO, plus some guests, had toiled long and hard. The endless hours of blood, sweat and tears that RICO has put into performing this masterful renditions seemed to have paid off. The traditional tune was greatly received by all, but when the thunderous applause died down it was evident that something new was to unfold.
The double bassist reached down to trade his instrument for an electric bass. Their second song was to be “senbonzakura” from Vocaloid, with a rich bassline evident. The musicians of RICO seemed to play overtime, incorporating a more futuristic element into their rendition of the song. The writers regret that words can convey only so much, but there was no doubt about it: it was a great set.
Emcees Christopher Tan (17S06J) and Zheng Ya Xuan (17S02A) hosted a short karaoke session, with prizes up for grabs. They called on the crowd to deliver short performances of Chinese New Year songs, with a stagehand roaming around to assist. The students responded. Heartfelt snippets of well-loved songs were delivered, ranging from the Hokkien 我问天 (I Ask Heaven) to an onomatopoeic rendition of “dongchiangdongchiangdongchiangdongchiang”. And on that note, the next performing had set up: it was time for another skit from the Chinese Literacy Drama Cultural Society (CLDCS). After their dazzling performance last year during the National Day concert, this writer was expecting another similarly stunning act.
And I wasn’t to be disappointed. Opening with the struggles of a blind violin player, struggling to make ends meet, students watched with bated breath. In the hallmark of CLDCS, their deliberate, comedic overacting was meticulously synchronized to prerecorded dialogue and a backing track. This made the live violin music all the more a pleasant surprise, and the plot development of the theft of his violin more weighty.
In a manner reminiscent of Chinese comprehension passages, good-hearted onlookers pitched in to help him purchase a new instrument, but this would be no moralistic fable. The twist ending, characteristic of CLDCS’ penchant for humor, reveal the thief and busker to actually be colluding to fleece the onlookers, had the whole hall in stitches.
The final performance of the day was sure to turn heads. A Big Headed Buddha, clad in blue robes, was accompanied by a female dancer. Their short dance quickly set the stage for the arrival of two lions. Awesome in blue and purple, their energetic movements captivated teachers and students alike as they thrashed about the stage.
Against the clashing of cymbals and beat of the drums, these two lions could not be contained on the small stage. They leapt down, shooting sweets and other goodies to their lively, enthralled audience. Especially impressive was the numerous tricks performed. The ‘head’ of the lion would leap onto the ‘tail’, extending the lion to majestic heights even as they continued to sway with the beat.
It surely was impressive for those who were exposed to the Raffles Institution Lion Dance Troupe for the first time. This would in fact be the 5th year of the troupe’s operation, and accordingly they would host a lucky draw for those supporting their instagram page (@raffles_liondance).
Finally, the concert ended with an appearance by Year Head Mr. Tan Mian Ou. He briefly talked about the ‘positive vibes’ of Chinese New Year, expressing delight at the sheer quality and creativity of the classes — including a particularly amusing, ‘spaceship-looking’ specimen. Ms Reavley was then present to award enormous snack hampers to classes who had particularly outstanding decorations and the best lanterns.
It was just around 10 that the concert drew to a close. The eve of the Chinese New Year had seen Rafflesians grow close, enjoy each other’s company and have fun: in true spirit, celebrated with family indeed.
Raffles Press wishes all readers a happy Chinese New Year!