The Family Ensemble

Our Humble Beginning

Family Ensemble is a unique group of guitar players comprising of families of parents and their children of the Toa Payoh Guitar Club.

Started in 2005, Mr. Marcus Loh (a member of TPGC) and 6 other families, with the parents being members of the club themselves, came together to play the guitar with their children. The initial intention was merely to expose the children to the guitar with absolutely no idea where and how all may end up. At the start, there were a total of 11 children with ages ranging from 4 to 12 years old.

Shortly after forming, the Family Ensemble was privileged to be featured in The Straits Times newspaper as the ‘Strumming Families’ on 5th November 2005.

The Children’s First Touch

When we first started, we were unable to find a suitable teaching technique for the children, especially for the younger tots. Everything was done solely on trial and error basis in the first year.

To make the weekly sessions fun-filled and interesting, the children were first introduced to the guitar by relating their body parts to that of the classical guitar’s physical attributes. For instance, the guitar’s headstock is their head, the tuning-machines on the headstock are their ears, etc…

The first song introduced was ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’. The parents demonstrated how to play and the children followed suit. This process lasted several months with more nursery rhymes introduced to the children.

Shortly thereafter, the Family Ensemble performed for the public in the ‘Singapore Guitar Network’ concert. The response by the audience was simply fabulous and encouraging to all of us. We then thought “Hey! Perhaps we do have a future after all!”

One year on…

As more interesting but technically challenging songs and pieces were introduced, the working parents found it difficult to cope.

We attempted various ways to keep the ensemble going. Ideas like using play-cards to teach musical notes and other notations, musical games, parents’ sharing of the teaching workload, etc. were some of the suggestions tried out but unfortunately not feasible as none of the parents felt they were qualified enough to teach the children. In the end, all the parents agreed unanimously that the family ensemble needed to enlist the help of someone who is very passionate about guitar, preferably someone who has some guitar-teaching experience with children. An added challenge is to find a person who can commit his/her precious time every Saturday.

The search begins…

Our Music Director, Teacher and Friend

We are fortunate to have Mr. Albert Lim Seng Hoe, an ex-member of the Toa Payoh Guitar Club to agreeing to help in the ensemble. Albert has been actively playing and teaching both adults and children in guitar for more than 20 years.

Albert hopes that anyone who has the opportunity to play the guitar should not be limited to just guitar ensemble. The guitar can always be enjoyed in many other ways. He encourages strumming and singing, solo playing, duets, trios, quartets, families’ performing together, etc. All kinds of music are welcomed, be it classical, pop, evergreens, etc. Basically, there are no boundaries in the world of music.

He believes that it is important to build up a proper music foundation, capture and sustain their interests, instill and further enhance confidence-building, teamwork and family bonding.

We were delighted that our music director even took the trouble of arranging guitar ensemble pieces that caters to both the children and parents’ varying standards.

The Parents

The parents, some with many years spent with the club and are award winners at guitar competitions in their younger years, play a crucial role in helping to develop their children’s talents towards playing the guitar.

With such wide-ranging ages of the children as well as the limited time to learn and play together every saturday, it is important that the parents ensure their children put in their daily practices with proper guidance and motivation. In so doing, the child would be able to progress faster and it also helps to further enhance parent-child bonding, as what we have discovered.

Current Strength

The Family Ensemble’s current performing strength comprises of 8 families of 14 children and 11 adults. We are striving towards having versatile players to handle more complicated music pieces.

Performance at ‘The Esplanade’

As a young ensemble, we are certainly very privileged and honored to have been involved in sharing our music-making with the community in Singapore.

On 10th June 2007, the Family Ensemble held our first biggest-ever public performance entitled ‘Beautiful Sunday’ in which they played and sang to tremendous applause and delight, as part of the Toa Payoh Guitar Club concert, at the world-renowned Esplanade concert hall playing to an audience of more than 1,000 people.

What’s next ?

Looking ahead, we are looking into the possibility of expanding the Family Ensemble. We aspire to reaching greater heights with even higher playing standards. We hope to be able to reach out to more families and children through more public performances and to share the joy of music-making with all…