The Bishan North Horn Club was conceptualised in August 2017, with robust support from Bishan North Community Club Management Committee (CCMC) and Bishan North Community Arts and Culture Club (CACC).
The Band Post speaks to Tania Fong and Joyanne Ong about the idea that drives the Horn Club, and its role in Singapore’s horn community and beyond.
There are barely any horn ensembles or horn clubs in Singapore, is this where BNHC intends to fill the gap?
Instrumental or chamber ensembles have always been in existence in Singapore. However, most of the musicians only get together on a project or gig basis. This has pretty much been the model for most instrumental ensembles.
BNHC’s existence stems from a ground up initiative by horn enthusiasts, as well as community leaders. We do not seek to fill any gap in the already vibrant music scene, but to provide a platform for horn enthusiasts to gather and encourage each other for a lifelong playing of the horn, regardless of performance opportunities.
What is BNHC all about? Is it just an ensemble, or more like an interest group?
Every year, due to the promulgation of the Singapore Band Movement by the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, we see the establishment of 145 (latest count) secondary school bands.
Conservatively, if we were to do a simple arithmetic calculation, assuming each cohort has only 1 horn player per level (which is unlikely), the Singapore Band Movement has enabled 4380 students to play the horn for the past 30 years.
The burning question is: Where are these horn players now?
The late Dr Tay Eng Soon, then Senior Minister of State for Education, had the same question. At the opening of the first school band directors’ convention on 29th August 1990, it was estimated 20,000 students would have gone through the 25 years of band programme.
Fast forward to 2018, that number would have exceeded 40,000. It was also estimated 10% of the 20,000 students would continue to play music in tertiary institutions music groups, armed forces bands, and People’s Association community groups.
He had the same burning question: What happened to the 90%?
He continued to add that perhaps the best way to remedy this waste is for the Community Centres to start band groups such as concert bands, ensembles, small orchestras, etc.
The formation of BNHC is not unlike the vision of the late Dr Tay Eng Soon.
Under the support of Bishan North CCMC, as an interest group of the division, BNHC seeks to achieve the following:
- Engage the community by conducting music and non-music related event on a regular basis;
- Build social cohesion through engagement with Bishan-Toa Payoh residents;
- Provide an inclusive community platform for school leavers and working adults to continue their passion for music making in a non stressful environment;
- Develop the Singapore horn playing community by spearheading the horn as an accessible instrument of choice.
In essence, we want to support adults in the lifelong playing of the horn, to the best of their ability.
How does the club intend to outreach to non-horn players or even the general public that do not understand music?
During our first community engagement in January 2018 at Bishan Active Park, there were members of the public whom commented “I didn’t know horn can play music” or “the trombone sounds nice”, etc.
There is a definitely a lot that can be done to educate the general public. When we use the term general public, we do not just refer to active audiences who would attend performances at the Esplanade or various concert halls around Singapore.
Technology has enabled us to reach out to audiences worldwide, anytime, anywhere. Our first community engagement saw 200 views on Facebook Live, in addition to the live audiences at Bishan Active Park.
YouTube has always been a popular platform to reach out to audiences. The Philharmonic Winds “Mayday Medley” video received 239,806 views, coupled with more than 100 comments from various countries. Outreach efforts should definitely leverage on technology to be effective.
In the future, BNHC will also organise learning, performing as well as experimental platforms to engage residents of Bishan North. Programmes for preschoolers, special needs children, families, working adults and senior citizens will be curated and conducted as part of our annual work-plan.
What are some of the activities for BNHC on a regular basis?
On a regular basis, we will hold regular mass horn choir reading sessions at our club venue for members of the club. We will continue to provide an all-inclusive and encouraging (no stress) platform for horn players of any proficiency level to gather, learn, develop and perform.
You only need to have a horn (any working horn, single, double, triple, descant, etc..), have the experience of producing a sound on the horn, 18 years old and above, and willing to commit to bi-weekly meetups.
At the end of the day, we just hope to encourage people to keep tooting their horns for as long as they can, and that is all that matters.
What are the projects coming up?