If you hear music coming from Singapore General Hospital’s (SGH’s) chemotherapy rooms, wards and various open spaces on SGH’s campus, you are not mistaken. Each year, on a day in June, patients at the hospital get to enjoy the sound of music performed by professionals, amateurs, staff and students.
MusicFest@SGH was started by Nathalie Ribette in 2012 as she was trying to find meaning after losing her close friend to cancer. With a desire to bring together music and joy in a hospital setting, she approached SGH and the hospital was quick to take up the idea. The inspiration behind the concept came from a street music festival in France that happens every year on 21 June called La Fête de la Musique.
Explained Nathalie: “The principle of MusicFest@SGH is simple. It is music performed by anyone, for everyone, everywhere.”
This year’s event had 200 performers with more music played in the wards and 150 volunteers from various sponsors helping out on the day. The line-up of performers included heavyweights like Sebastian Tan (also known as “Broadway Beng”), stage actress Karen Tan, singer and cancer-survivor Daphne Khoo, and actor Hossan Leong.
Besides good music, each year’s special moments are witnessed. In one of Sebastian’s performances where he was singing a Hokkien song, there were 300 patients, some of whom were “in bad shape”, in the audience. He had then asked his audience if they could help him to sing and separated the ones who were sick and those who weren’t. “The ones who
were sick were actually singing louder than the ones who weren’t!,” said Nathalie.
Nathalie also recalled another occasion when she was performing a French song and an Indian woman was looking at her with a big smile. The woman later shared that the song reminded her of the wonderful time in Paris that she had with her late husband, and gave her a hug. “This is what music can bring. It is these moments that you remember all your life.”
Nathalie added: “Doing this event makes me love what I do as it makes everyone happy.”
This year, she has taken her successful concept beyond SGH by producing Musical Rendezvous@NUH, a series of monthly three-hour live musical events for patients, staff and caregivers. On a smaller scale than the MusicFest@SGH event, it has at least three performers each month.
"Through Tote Board’s funding, my dream of bringing music to the hospitals in Singapore has come true." - Nathalie Ribette, Founder and Artistic Director, Sing’theatre
Tote Board brings enjoyment of arts to all MusicFes t@SGH and Musical Rendezvous@NUH are part of several programmes that are funded by the Tote Board Arts Fund.
Administered by the National Arts Council, the Tote Board Arts Fund supports artists and arts companies that produce good quality performances and exhibitions for the enjoyment and edification of Singaporeans. These groups are encouraged to engage their local communities, giving them more opportunities in the year “to sample, savour and deepen their appreciation of different art forms”.