Thau Yong Amateur Musical Association 陶融儒乐社
18 music fanatics, undeterred by financial and cultural barriers, founded Thau Yong with only the mission to “unite all music-lovers to study National Music (国乐) and Han Opera, in order to share favorable entertainment, as a contribution to society so as to promote freedom and equality to all fellow citizens.”
They scrimped and saved, in order to rent a place in Carpenter Street to practice music together, often using only a kerosene lamp to light up the place.
During a certain meeting held at the 3rd address, on the 2nd floor at 26 Carpenter Street, a suggestion to stage Thau Yong’s virgin opera was so well-received that the president Yu Zi Dong immediately donated one month’s salary and encouraging all to step forward to their dream to perform.
Thau Yong managed to raise a grand total of $1402 to purchase props and costumes for their Waijiang opera debut in Great World in 1935. The performance functioned as a fund raising charity event.
After moving to the 2nd storey of 45 Hong Kong Street, Thau Yong started preparing for their 5th anniversary charity performance.
In the following years, Thau Yong’s artistic contributions rose in fame across the island. Not only was Thau Yong well-known in the Chinese community and a regular on Rediffusion, they were invited to perform for the British Amateur Theatre Society at Victoria Memorial Hall. Every English paper on the island, raved about the performance. In the short period of four years, Thau Yong recorded a total of 44 Waijiang opera and music albums, released by the Gramophone Company (HMV logo). They also used their performances to raise funds for charity.
After the war, surviving members got together to prepare for her comeback. On 1st January 1946, Thau Yong’s flag and patriotic spirit of her 100 odd members arose once again at her new address at 27 River Valley Road. Her first performance was staged a month later for two nights at Carpenter Street free of charge, in celebration of her comeback.
By 1947, Thau Yong moved to 21 Nu Wen Ji (怒吻基). $10, 000 was raised for the renovation and the new association included a meeting hall, a guest hall, a meeting room, bedrooms, a general office, a storeroom. The new venue attracted a 100% increase in members.
Life continued for Thau Yong, swirling year after year around charity performances, learning Waijiang music and opera, recording albums and sharing her passion to all.
Thau Yong continued to provide a venue for Teochew music and opera lovers to learn, practice and finally perform on stage. With the increase of patrons or what they address as “honorary presidents” from the 50s, donations from allied societies, members and supporters together with good financial management, Thau Yong managed to purchase a shophouse in Kim Yam Road, off River Valley as their new society venue in 1974.
Due to some tenant contractual issues, the rehearsals became impossible due to limited area and the loud percussion music disturbed those living there, in the end, that year’s performance had to be cancelled. In order for the society activities to continue smoothly, Thau Yong moved once again into rented premises on the 5th storey of a shophouse at North Canal Road, which they stayed for 19 years.
Finally in 1996, Thau Yong sold the shop house in Kim Yam Road, moved out of Chinatown and into a much more spacious and comfortable premise situated at 68 Geylang Lorong 24A.
Thau Yong series of articles contributed by Ms Javier Lee