Friday, April 30, 2010

what do Kopi-O and Under One Roof have in common?

Both were my family favourite shows on TV years ago. And both were prime time TV hits – KOPI-O on channel 8 and UNDER ONE ROOF on channel 5.

KOPI-O is a drama serial televised in 1987. It centred around the daily lives of stall operators in a HDB coffee shop. Every story was about a situation which they would argued and quarreled and eventually came to a good ending. There were good times and bad times in their lives in providing services to coffee-shop customers. One of the things that made this show memorable is the catchy theme some. Many of the local stars performed superbly. You see them in the opening of for this show at

Under One Roof is the story of Tan Ah Teck (Moses Lim)-the owner of a provision shop and his family-wife Dolly and children Ronnie, Paul and Denise and their daily encounters with their neighbours in a HDB apartment. The stories that were told could be easily identified with the daily lives of HDB heartlanders. We used to gather round the TV set to watch this hilarious show and everybody had good laughs.
It was the first locally-produced English situation comedy. First aired over channel 5 in 1994 it starred Moses Lim ,Koh Chieng Mun , Norleena Salim , Vernetta Lopez, Nicholas Lee, Andrew Lim, Selena Tan, Zaibo and Daisy Irani. It won many international awards and was also shown in many overseas broadcast stations. Here is the opening of Under One Roof

MediaCorp had produced many good ones over the years and I think the above two are classics during the formative years of the company. The other classic is Phua Chu Kang another classic of recent vintage……...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Remember the first TV Guide?

One of the priorities when RTS rolled over to SBC a statutory board was to keep viewers and advertises informed of its channel porgrammes. The first issue of TV Guide in English called Radio and TV Times was published on 25 Oct 1980. It gave viewers lots of programming information and was an instant success. This issue featured programmes such as Battle Galactica, the Muppet Show etc and interesting snippets on TV personalities.
About three months later the Chinese version of Radio and TV Times was published. The Chairman of SBC the late Ong Teng Cheong gave an encouraging forward to this issue. Mr Cheng Tong Fatt the General Manager also had something to say, thanking staff for the support and giving information on the reorganisation of the company. The first edition of Chinese RTV Times had interesting information on Carol Cheng and Chow Ying Fatt. It also featured our new drama artistes including Huang Wenyong. The TV Guides became an instant hit with viewers.

Many look forward to the guides weekly- now called 8 Days for English and I-Weekly for Chinese.
You cannot watch TV without it!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

MediaCorp Logos over the years

The above is not complete. Please emaiil me if you have more logos of the station on Caldecott Hill especially during the British Colony Days, Japanese Occupation and any that is in your collection.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Remember the SBC Orchestra?

(left: Leslie Weddell, Ahmd Jaffar)

Yes there was a SBC orchestra on Caldecott Hill. It had a humble beginning in 1956 (only 9 musicians) and expanded to 38 members over the years. Gus Stein was the leader at the early stages (i didnt know until recently). I knew the next leader Ahmad Jaffar who had dedicated his whole life to music and was a recipient of the Cultural Mediallion from the Ministry of Culture. I also knew there was a Christopher Daniel who brought electronic music into the station . And I remember having being scolded for poor lighting quality on some of the shows that SBC Orchestra appeared and the poor sound balancing as well. Which was the reason for sound experts on Cladecott Hill from the BBC and NHK in the early 70s and 80s. In the formatives years the station depended on lot on foreign expertise including in the Orchestra. Last week I was pleasantly surprised by an email from one of the musicians a Mr Leslie Weddell. He was kind enough to share his memories with us in the write-up below. Enjoy the memories!

My days in Singapore, working at RTS in the orchestra.
By Leslie Weddell.

I do not think of myself as an ‘expat’ worker, although it may appear so as I was not Singapore born, because all the British expats had long gone by the time I joined the RTS orchestra.
For the ten years I worked in the Radio & television Orchestra in the period 1964 to 1974 or thereabouts, and as a young lad, I loved every minute of it.
Singapore was going through a period of rebuild after WW2 and it was going to be a long haul because there was little or no money for the Government to finance a vast rebuild of the republic for the nation, to give future generations a real chance to work with pride and enjoy better health and remove the poverty of those desperate years.
Because of the shortage of local trombone players at that time of a standard good enough for broadcasting, staff orchestra positions were offered to anyone that wished to audition for the vacant post.
I was serving in the British Royal Marines Band in ‘HMS Terror’ in the (then) Royal Navy base at Sembawang, and we all used to listen to the radio on the wall of our barrack room, the very same blocks that the Japanese Forces occupied when Singapore fell to them from the British Forces.
There was no television in those days, and the radio was king, along with the person putting on the records at request times. Today we would call the presenter a ‘D.J’.
Being a trombone player, I was always interested in the RTS Big Band playing every week, and one day I bucked up enough courage to write in to the ‘Director of Music at RTS, Caldecott Hill’ !
I was flabbergasted to actually get a reply, and a well written letter in lovely handwriting from Gus Stein, the then Orchestra Leader. He invited me to come to one of the recordings and to say ‘hello’ to the boys in the band.
The first thing I found out was that the studio in which the band made their recordings was FREEZING! All the personnel were sitting there with coats or woolly jumpers on to keep warm, so besides the music they were recording I most certainly enjoyed getting back in the heat of the day on the tea break in the canteen.
Gus asked how long I had been playing the trombone and as he had only three trombones in his section at most on the recordings, would I like to make up the full compliment of four trombones that big bands use, and could I bring my trombone in the following week for a sit-in with the band.
It was a try-out of course, and I must have passed it, for he asked if I would have any problems getting out of the Band duties I had with the Marines in the Naval Base, and I had none, for when I told my Band officer about my wonderful experience at RTS he was delighted, and urged me to ‘go for it.’
So I played with the RTS big band for a few weeks until the resident trombonist left.

The following day Gus Stein contacted me and asked if I would consider applying for the position of staff trombonist with the RTS if I could get out of the Royal Marines.
It was really all a lucky break for me, since at that very time the British Government decided to cut the size of the armed forces and I, along with anyone else that wanted to, could buy our discharge from the Service.
It all went through the channels and within a few weeks I found myself a civilian and driving through the gates of ‘HMS Terror’ in a taxi for the very last time.
For ten long and happy years I played with the RTS Orchestra, and I recall the jobs we played for; everything from radio and Television band programmes, song contests, street galas, official functions for heads of State and visiting foreign dignitaries to parties next to Chinese opera performances. We always had a laugh when we had to play in a street carnival for sure as little green apples, as soon as we started playing a piece of music with a young lady singing her heart out - the Chinese opera band would start up too!
Ahmad Jaafar would simply grin at us and say ‘ Alamat!’ and we would all roar with laughter for there was no way we could compete with that lot.
Before I came to the end of my stay in Singapore I met, and fell in love with, a lovely lady named Zarah, and we have been married now for 38 years and have three grown up children; Zarinah, Stephen and Richard, and we have now got a granddaughter named Kateejah.
Life after Singapore
My return to the UK was in the month of May in 1974, and so the transition from the lovely tropic heat of Singapore was not too bad, and I soon acclimatized.
It was a rude shock though to witness at first hand a completely different culture in Britain from Singapore. I could not believe my eyes at the drab, black clothing of the young; the long hair and massive boots they wore, looking as if they were all going to a funeral.
Walking through the streets of London I was window shopping and my eyes found something called a Sex Shop. I was totally astounded at what I saw in that window! It was disgusting to me, for I had left a good society of folks with clean minds in Singapore, and was wondering what I had let myself in for coming back to the UK.
A job working as a musican was not hard to find, and via a Band booking Agent, I secured a summer season theatre post in the pit orchestra of the ‘Pavilion’ theatre in Torquay for four months. Torquay is a pleasant seaside resort in the county of Devon in South East England and is very popular with holiday makers.
By this time my wife had joined me from Singapore and it was time to think about setting up a home and finding a secure job, so at the end of the summer run on the theatre I headed with my wife for my Mother’s house in Bonnyrigg, Midlothian, Scotland.
I soon found out that it was not going to be easy finding work as a trombone player in Scotland, so I worked for a short time as a labourer on a building site and that was tough. I have immense respect for anyone that is a builder or works as a brick layer on those jobs, and then I decided to move back to London to look for work as a musician.
Some theatre work came along deputising for other established trombone players, and eventually I attended an audition in a London studio for another summer season job with a band in a holiday camp in Southport, a small seaside town near Liverpool.
I stayed with that band for two years, going on cruise ships in the Caribbean during the winter months and returning to the holiday camp for the summer seasons.
In my time living in Southport I decided that it was not fair to my wife to be away from home so long on those cruise ships for five months at a time, and decided to take a teaching job with the local education authority. I was teaching music to children in Primary schools in the area and working casual gigs (engagements) in bands in Liverpool and Manchester on the weekends, and one thing leading to another, I found myself moving to Blackpool in Lancashire, for I had found a really good job as staff trombonist with the (then) Blackpool Tower Company.
I played in the Opera House theatre for all the big stars of the era such as Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Tony Christie, Matt Munro, and many more. As my job required, I also played as a member of the Empress Ballroom orchestra, and had the pleasure of performing with them for 29 years on all the World Ballroom Dancing Championships before I took retirement in November of 1999.
There were other good jobs too, for I eventually played trombone with the Northern Dance Orchestra (not really known in Singapore, but very famous in Britain in the seventies and eighties) and other jobs I had short spells with, such as the New Geraldo orchestra, UK Glenn Miller Orchestra, Eric Delaney big band, BBC Big band, and numerous studio sessions in Leeds, Manchester and London.
Finally moving to my present home in Preston, Lancashire, twenty two years ago I concentrated on teaching children to play music and have been with the Lancashire Music service for over twenty years.
Although I no longer play professionally in bands I do a little part time teaching with children in Preston Primary schools.
One of my interests or hobbies is writing books, and I love photography too.
I have a website at and besides my publications on it there is a more extensive bio of my travels as a trombonist.
You are welcome to visit the website and use anything you wish from my light hearted book ‘Have trombone will travel’

Les. Weddell

Les Weddell email is He is planning a trip to Singapore and if there are any Caldecott Hill Old timers who would like to meet him to chit-chat and recall old memories please contact.
Please keep me informed if you guys are getting together. Cheers.