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A chance to shine - Thank you Mr Ng

Updated: May 28, 2023

"There is nothing in life which you'll learn, and never have a chance to use and apply.

It's just a matter of time and opportunity."

- Mr Ng

This was first written and shared on Blogger - February 2017.

I was clearing some old books when one of them dropped off the shelf. I knelt down and picked it up. A single photograph fell out from one of the pages of the book. It was slightly crinkled, possibly taken more than 10 years ago, while I was still a chubby little girl with my fringe in center-parting. Squatting right beside me to accommodate my height, was my Primary School Chinese Orchestra Conductor, Mr Ng.

I recalled that the photograph was taken during one of my first performance with the orchestra - the Mid Autumn Festival performance, in 2003. I was only in Primary 3 then. For a shy and timid girl, it was indeed a big thing to perform in front of a huge crowd. I remembered clearly how hard I practised for that performance. "Faster! Hurry up!" screamed Mr Ng. It was already his fourth time yelling at us. In less than an hour's time, it will be our first outdoor Mid Autumn Festival performance, held at West Coast Park. It was not exactly a big event with specially invited guests who will grace the occasion, but it was our school's annual celebration.

Mr Ng always had high expectations of his Orchestra, but somehow we just weren't exactly cooperative that day. I vaguely remembered that I was even scolded by him for messing up one of the pieces when I came in a few beats earlier during the final rehearsal. Thankfully, everything turned out fine during the performance.

I recalled how my mother "threatened" Mr Ng into taking a picture with me. She could have cited that it was my very first performance, thus the picture to record the moment would be special. However, she shocked me when she jokingly mentioned, "When she grows up, she will look at this picture and remember that she was scolded so badly by you just for this performance today."

Anyway, Mr Ng graciously accepted and smiled for the picture - a picture so precious, today.

Here's a picture of us in 2003 (left) and a picture of us on 3 February 2013 (right). He's the teacher that introduced this beautiful instrument to me. Time flies. I guess, I grew up much bigger in size already. HAHAHAA. He's still the happy Mr Ng that I knew more than 10 years ago. :)


Mr Ng passed away peacefully on 15th September 2016, just days before the Mid Autumn Festival performance which he specially took the trouble to text me if I was free to guest perform together with his Orchestra. It was supposedly a day of reunion... but I rejected him as I was busy with work. I could sense his disappointment from the text. However, I never expected that would be my last text from him.

The last time I saw him, it was during 2015's SG50 performance in June. That was the first time he contacted me to perform ever since I graduated from Primary School in 2006.

When I first received his call, I was surprised and shocked. Graduation meant that I was busy adapting to Secondary School life and gradually, I lost contact with him.

However, he knew. He knew I was silently still working hard for the love of the instrument. If he didn't insist that I learn ErHu when I first joined Chinese Orchestra in Primary 2, I would have never continued for all these years. It's already been 15 years... It was a mistake, yet a really beautiful one.

A tear rolled down from my cheeks uncontrollably.

I guess I wouldn't even make the mark to be one of his outstanding students, but he never really cared how well I could play when he first asked me to be the concert master for that SG50 performance. He just wanted me to be there, to be present and play this instrument under his baton, once again.

A good four years were spent together with him whilst I was in Primary School. Mr Ng taught me many things in life, not only music. The patience to learn new things, the perseverance through difficult moments, the attentiveness to little details, the love for beats and rhythms... These values and attitudes were seeded by Mr Ng.

(Picture Credits: Gek Poh CC Facebook Page)

It was such an irony when I was scrolling through Facebook and saw the news of his death. It was painful. And a part of me, which I can never describe, just hurts. And I missed the chance to thank him for all he has taught during my growing up years.


Today, with a heavy heart, I just wanted to say:

Happy Birthday, Mr Ng. (26 February 1958 - 15th September 2016)

You will probably be turning 59 years old, in less than two weeks time. The picture of us which I found in between the old books today, reminded me that your birthday was fast approaching. I was thankful I managed to visit you at your wake the very next day I saw the news on Facebook, to see you for one last time. It was painful. I cried when I saw you lying inside the coffin. I am sorry I wasn't able to perform under your baton once more. I'll remember your words of advice. I'll remember them. Thank you for all the memories.

(Found this old picture of us when I flipped through the albums today - 8 November 2018)

Thank you Mr Ng.

// Sharing this post here today - 26 February 2022. It has been 20 years since I started to learn erhu.

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