Written by Karen Gwee (12A01C), this article was originally posted on Huffington Post. Karen was the chairperson of Raffles Press in her year and is currently studying journalism at Northwestern University.
By Chew Cheng Yu (16S06L), Michelle Choy (15S05A) and Tan Su (15S07A)
Photos by Deng Yimin (15S03M)
Musicfest: the product of three weeks of practices late into the night and unyielding perseverance by the skilled musicians of every house. This year’s Musicfest had unprecedented popularity amongst the students, which saw the LT packed to the brim by eager students, and latecomers settling for standing at the entrance; it was quite a contrast to last year’s, during which there were enough unfilled seats to have the performers be able to sit down. It was indeed quite the crowd, as our bubbly emcees Lin Sheng Jun (15S05A) and Ryan Chan (15S03I) pointed out. With songs from worldwide stars and bands being featured, all of Raffles was pumped up for this much desired break from the stress of school life, where they could just let their hair down, show their house spirit and rave to the brilliant performances put up.
While Chamber Ensemble was responsible for last year’s Musicfest, this year’s competition was organised by Raffles Rock, and the bar was also raised. Teams had to perform songs from a given artist, a part of which had to be in a given style, with a special requirement, all chosen at random. According to a member of the organising committee, it was initially thought of as a way to generate interest in Musicfest amongst the students, but it also lent a very interesting dynamic to the performance, which truly allowed each house to showcase their creativity and finesse. Restrictions were deliberately flexible to allow teams freedom of interpretation, and to have fun performing on stage. In addition, there was a set minimum of three songs to perform, with an optional fourth song that could be included.
While the technical and musical skills of each house were praiseworthy, those alone were not enough to triumph the competition; audience appeal and popularity were also significant deciding factors. Win over the audience with popular, engaging songs, and you win over audience votes (hopefully enough) to vie for the first place. Judged by our own sound technician Mr. Hazli, Raffles Rock Teacher IC Dr. Lena Liu, and local pop artist turned entrepreneurs duo Jack and Rai, who often performs at various venues and are involved in several music festivals, the event started off on a high note.
Up first was Buckle-Buckley, and their solid arrangement was performed impeccably with a unique addition of beatboxing vocals in the middle of “Bang Bang” by Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj. They finished off with their challenge song, a jazz remix of “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran, which played out smoothly down to the last note. Near the end, guitarist Alexander Leung (16A01A) successfully rallied the crowd to sing the last few verses with them; and as for the last line, house members sitting on the stage held up placards with lyrics on them for a stylish finish, earning the favour of the enthusiastic audience. The passionate House Comm of BB also showed their unending support for their house as they occupied a whole row of seats and gave standing ovations to their house members.
Bayley-Waddle took the stage next. Wowing the audience with their rendition of “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars in particular, the performers were suitably decked out, with the vocal leads dancing along to the song in sunglasses and leis. The passion exuded certainly moved the audience, bringing the excitement to a new level. Their challenge song, “Ain’t It Fun” by Paramore was performed in a capella with some beatboxing thrown in, as well as with a violin and a ukulele. Although they missed out the ‘country’ aspect of the song, it was still clear that they had excellent vocals all around.
Following after was Morrison-Richardson, performing a variety of songs. Their challenge song, which was introduced by guitarist Sun Yi (15S06G) parodying the character Lulu from popular local comedy show “The Noose” with a pink wig to boot, was a mash-up of “Thanks for the Memories” and “Light Em Up” by Fall Out Boy done in a charming oriental style with a rap battle. The musical prowess of the house was demonstrated further in their other songs; “Can’t Hold Us” had original lyrics written to suit MR, and with “Remember the Name” by Fort Minor showed off their rapping skills. The vocals for “Runaway Baby” by Bruno Mars in addition to their challenge song were provided by their talented Esther Chan (15A01D).
Hadley-Hullet charmed the audience easily with their charisma and confidence. Their challenge song, “Safe and Sound” by Taylor Swift, was played in the original key in the first part, before switching to a minor key and going Reggae style. For the difficult and odd combination of Taylor Swift and Reggae, vocalist Edward Yao (16A13A) put in a remarkable effort, sending the crowd roaring when he and his duet partner held each others hands and looked into each others eyes as they sang their hearts out. My Chemical Romance’s “Welcome to the Black Parade”, their last song, was marked by house members doing their signature cheer as the performance went on, in an amazing combination and display of house spirit and affinity coordinated by their House Captain/vocalist, Melissa Tang (15S03Q).
Last but not least, Moor-Tarbet stepped up to meet the bar set by the other houses with their song choice and incredible vocals; Stefanus Phan (15A01A), one of the best male voice leads that night, started slow with “I See Fire” by Ed Sheeran, but followed with their quick challenge song; a mash-up of a few Maroon 5 songs including “Payphone” and “She Will Be Loved”, done in an indie style. Qiu Biqing (15S06J), their bassist, commented that ‘We decided on something more chill and laid back, yet memorable because there are a lot of Maroon 5 mash-ups out there! We are very glad to receive positive feedbacks on our final performance’ a testament of how much they wowed the crowd.”
As the last song by MT finished, votes were then opened for the audience. While voting went on, Jack and Rai went on stage to perform “Some Nights” by Fun with only acoustic guitars and drums, and their very own original “Tryin’ ”. Raffles Rock followed on with their covers of “Creep” by Radiohead, “Pompeii” by Bastille and “Monster” by Paramore, performed by their own talented members. By then, it was almost 10.00p.m., and the excited crowd was getting impatient for the results. An impromptu rap battle then begun between a BB rapper and one of the lights and sounds crew, entertaining the audience even as the air-conditioning turned off. Finally, the results were released:
According to Dr. Lena Lui, all the judges agreed that both BB and MT put up slightly better performances, due to their seamless transition of songs and overall quality of performance (i.e. vocals, effectiveness of performances etc.). The other houses were fantastic as well, but lost out by a close margin in terms of certain performances or segments being a little sluggish or messy. She quoted that: “I have to firstly say that every house did very well for Musicfest… All of the houses performed exceptionally with each having their own strengths and weaknesses, and judging was not an easy task to do…. It definitely was a tough call and all houses put up an amazing show.”
The short three-week duration that each team had from auditions to the actual event proved to be a challenge, but each house emerged and performed all their four pieces with finesse and technical skill. The performers from each house played, sang and danced passionately, engrossed in their own music, giving off a rare and exquisite appeal that rocked the audience. As the talented drummer of BB, Jonathon Pong (15S03G), commented, this new style definitely ‘appealed to different musical tastes, and different challenges,’ making it more enjoyable for everyone involved. Vice-Chairman of Raffles Rock, Mark Ho (15S06Q), said, “From Taylor Swift with Reggae to Paramore with Country, I think teams interpreted the challenge very well.”. Even the guest judges, Jack and Rai, who were thoroughly impressed with the groups, commented that ‘There is definitely no lack of talent in Raffles Institution.’
Reflecting on the organisation of Musicfest this year, Mark expressed that “Musicfeste was an event that took weeks of planning to pull off. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. There were problems with venues and such, of course, and I admit we weren’t able to pull it off as spectacularly as we’d hope to. But we’ll take it in our stride, to learn from this experience and do a better job next year if Rock organises it again.” Ultimately, the standings didn’t seem to matter as much as the whole school (or at least those that could squeeze into LT2) coming together and having a blast, regardless of being an onlooker, performer, or audience.
By Kang Yi Xi (15S03N)
The more altruistic amongst us often dream of changing others’ lives for the better – of serving and succeeding, of alleviating people’s suffering. As is to be expected, many of them sign up for programmes like the International Service Learning Elective, more commonly abbreviated as ISLE. In this highly sought-after enrichment programme, teams of students are tasked with planning and executing a service learning project in a South-East Asian developing country. Despite the significant cuts in the programme’s intake (only one team will be heading over this year), it is still a good time for us to reflect on some of the questions that have been plaguing development aid as of late, specifically in the context of ISLE. Numerous articles critical of international service have been published in recent months, and our home-grown enrichment programme has brought similar doubts to the forefront. For one, who winds up benefitting more – the servers, or the served? More importantly, is the latter inadvertently harmed by the efforts of the former?
By Joyce Er (15A01A)
Photos courtesy of Gabrielle Jeyaseelan (15S06A)
Considering its proximity to the likes of Habitat Coffee and Old School Delights, I was surprised to realise that we hadn’t already done a review of One Man Coffee. Conveniently located along Upper Thomson Road, it’s a great place to get your coffee fix after school without burning a hole in your pocket.
By Joyce Er (15A01A)
Photos courtesy of Gabrielle Jeyaseelan (15S06A)
One of the most important things I heard last year was, “People don’t want to be led by leaders. They want to be led by people.” Having spent the past five years of my Singaporean education in the hallowed and (some say) idealised Raffles system, this saying hit me with a great deal of force. After all, we students, too, frequently question the rather aspirational school mission of moulding ‘Thinkers, Leaders, Pioneers’. What does leadership entail? Why are Rafflesians alone taught to believe that they are entitled to lead, and others, to follow? Can leadership be taught in the first place?
As a Y5 sizing up the myriad enrichment programmes and other opportunities for personal development up for offer, these are undoubtedly some of the worthy questions on your mind. The Leaders for a Better Age (LBA) enrichment programme is better at raising questions than at providing answers, but as LBA teacher-in-charge Mr Kuak Nam Jin told me, if there’s one thing the programme tries to do, it’s to catalyse the development of self-awareness – understanding one’s strengths, weaknesses and preferences in various situations. Only when you are comfortable with who you are, can you venture outside yourself to help others.
The programme, now entering its third year of implementation, is structured to facilitate this personal understanding and self-improvement. Each batch of eligible applicants (possessing any prior leadership experience) is whittled down to a team of 20, give or take. You are then catapulted into the packed LBA calendar, which comprises activities and projects aimed at inculcating reflection and self-awareness, personal effectiveness, and ethical leadership. Be prepared for Monday mornings dedicated to journaling and introspection along the MacRitchie reservoir, presentations by eminent guest speakers who are leaders in their own varied ways, and weekend hikes at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.
In term 3, you’ll also be given the chance to plan and execute a small-scale service learning project. My batch was involved in the Home Improvement Project (HIP) in the Sin Ming area, where we worked with families living in one-room flats to refurbish their homes. The experience was deeply humbling for all of us, and taught us the importance of knowing our beneficiaries’ needs when shaping our vision and determining the changes we wanted to see. It was also a chance to develop our organisational skills, and ultimately showed us the importance of leadership with a social responsibility.
All this culminates in the highly-anticipated year-end hike, which involves a nine-day trek across the beautiful Australian Alpine National Park to reach the summit of Mount Bogong. Out there, it really is just you, your backpack, your tent, and your teammates. Your days are spent walking up to 15km carrying 20kg backpacks loaded with food, equipment and clothes, and evenings are when you pitch your tents, send people out to collect water from the nearest water source, cook a hearty dinner, and mend your injuries. If you’re alarmed by how physically daunting it sounds, be assured that my batchmates, though of varying physical aptitude, all pulled through just fine.
Besides which, you’ll find that mental strength counts for much more than physical fitness in the great outdoors. Rukmini Roy, who plays centre for Raffles Netball, observed while we were in Australia, “Hiking requires a different kind of fitness, and being a sportsperson doesn’t mean you’ll have an easy time.” Even the fittest sports-person might not be prepared for extreme weather conditions. My teammates were caught in an unexpected hailstorm on the fifth day of our hike and had to flee to the nearest hut, leaving all but our most valuable possessions behind. But such times of adversity also created fond moments for us, and through the smallest of gestures – a glove lent to a friend in subzero weather, taking over washup duty from an exhausted teammate, a word of encouragement – our team grew stronger as the hike progressed. As student councillor Bernard Boey said during one of our hikes, ‘May we learn to find joy in adversity!’ Nobody is immune to injury, and we safely completed our journey only with our strong teamwork, concern, sacrifice and fortifying resilience.
In deciding whether to take up LBA as your enrichment programme, I’d like to borrow the words of Photographic Society chairperson Gabrielle Jeyaseelan: instead of thinking about what LBA can offer you, you should think about how much you’re willing to give and invest. This attitude holds true for all other enrichment programmes or, for that matter, opportunities you apply for in RI. After all, LBA isn’t a subject with a fixed curriculum, nor are there particular learning objectives to take away. If you’re hoping to get out of your comfort zone, build lasting relationships and reevaluate your concept of being a leader and (more importantly) a person, LBA may be just the thing you’re looking for.