The power of passion is undeniable, and it’s what gets people to push past their limits, to reach their goals.
William Chan, 71, has such a passion. He loves music and takes every opportunity to enjoy it, whether listening to his favourite tunes or playing the guitar, despite being unable to read his music scores due to his visual impairment.
“In my free time, I listen to all kinds of music — folk, rock, all of them,” he says. “I sing, too, but my guitar skills are rusty. But it doesn’t stop me from enjoying music.”
William is a regular at an Active Ageing Centre (AAC) near his home, Home Nursing Foundation Wellness Club@Buangkok, where he’s been going for the past three years. One of the activities he takes part in is the angklung sessions. “I joined the angklung ensemble because I wanted to learn to play the instrument. It’s not often that the centre has music lessons, so I wanted to try it out.”
Being in the angklung ensemble
The angklung is an ideal instrument for seniors to learn according to Cynthia Chow, 59, the volunteer who leads the ensemble. “Because it is so light and easy to carry, the seniors wouldn’t have much trouble holding them for long periods of time,” she says. “It’s also easy for seniors like Uncle William to get the hang of it since you just have to hold and shake it at the right time for the sounds to be made.”
Apart from learning a new instrument, William also cherishes the experience of being part of a group.
“It’s a very community-based thing. You need more than one person to play the different notes together, unlike the guitar,” he says. “It feels like we’re coming together to play music, creating something just for us. It’s really fun.”
The only challenge he faces is the fact that he cannot see the score, but Cynthia has provided a solution that works for everyone: She runs through the score and when it reaches William’s part, someone in the group taps him on the shoulder, a motion for him to start playing.
“I don’t see playing it as much of a challenge though, but that’s because everyone has been very friendly and helpful. They would always help me,” he says.
Under Cynthia’s leadership, the ensemble has had several public performances already, including a recent event at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, which William is very proud of.
William is not the only one who feels this way. Since the beginning of Cynthia’s volunteer experience two-and-a-half years ago, the angklung ensemble group has gone from strength to strength, and the group of about 20 seniors meet weekly to practise the instrument together.
“When we started, I was worried that not many seniors would want to participate. But the number of seniors who wanted to join the angklung programme increased — I even had to go to Bandung to buy more angklung sets to accommodate everyone,” Cynthia says. “I’ve been very blessed to have had this chance to teach everyone.”
His AAC experience
William makes it a point to come down to the centre Mondays to Thursdays for more than just his angklung practice sessions.
“Before joining the centre three years ago, I had nothing much to do. A neighbour told the then-centre supervisor that I was blind and stayed home because of it. So, she visited me and invited me to join them so that I wouldn’t be spending time alone,” he says.
Now, he spends his mornings exercising with other seniors, taking part in activities such as yoga, Zumba and high-intensity interval training, all of which have been tweaked to be suitable for everyone in the AAC regardless of their health status.
“Coming down here is like a safe place for me, where I can do everything I want, from exercising to playing my instruments. My life has improved since I joined the centre. I used to just go with the motions, but I have more purpose now.”
Cover photo courtesy of Home Nursing Foundation