In late March, after attending a Zoom birthday party with her other choir leader friends overseas, Cheryl Teh realised that being able to see everyone, even just on screen, and singing along, really lifted her mood.
That’s when she thought about her own choir group and how she could do the same.
So in April, during the movement control order (MCO), Teh started conducting singalongs over Zoom.
“As choir leaders who are so used to bringing people to sing together in person, the absence of regular meet-ups was quite deafening. Even though Zoom is not an ideal platform, we have to adapt, ” shared Teh, founder of KLSings, an organisation set up to promote the joy of group singing and to build communities through song.
“After the first session, all those who attended felt uplifted and said it was nice to connect and see each other, chit chat and sing.”
When the MCO was lifted, her group managed to meet up physically a few times.
“That was such a fantastic feeling, after months of distant singing sessions.”
Then when the current conditional MCO was announced, Teh decided to start the sessions again, on a daily basis, throughout this period.
“Inspired by a group in Washington, the United States, who offer daily sessions, I thought perhaps I could do that too. After all, many of us are stuck at home for the next two weeks, ” she said.
The Zingalong sessions will take place at 4pm daily via Zoom, starting today until Oct 27. Each session will last 30-40 minutes. The event is sponsored by Harmony Hall PJ.
“The term ‘Zingalong’ was actually coined during one of our last sessions when I meant to say Zoom Singalong and it came out as Zingalong!” she shared.
Teh chose today to start the session to coincide with World Singing Day (WSD), celebrated on the third Saturday of October every year.
On this day, people all over the world gather in groups of all sizes to sing various kinds of songs to celebrate our common humanity.
“I had the opportunity to meet the founder of World Singing Day, Scott Johnson, in Colorado, the United States, as part of my Eisenhower Fellowship journey back in 2015.
“In 2016, together with the Philharmonic Society of Selangor, where I was the chairperson from 2009-2019, the first WSD event in Malaysia was organised.
“To me, WSD recognises the value of singing in our lives; for our general wellbeing and especially for our mental health, as a mood elevator and stress buster. It also brings people in the community together, ” said Teh, who is also the recipient of the Australian Council for Arts 2020 Art Leaders Programme.
Teh has also been hosting Merdeka and Malaysia Day singalongs over the past few years.
“It’s a great excuse to explore and sing old Malaysian songs from yesteryear.
“Normally, we have the sessions in person but this year, we decided to organise a hybrid version, with a smaller group at the hall (with social distancing in place) and also over Zoom and Facebook Live.
“We had Malaysians tune in all the way from America and Canada, too! It was a great session and many people said they hadn’t sung some of the songs since their childhood.
"Many songs, especially the old patriotic songs, made them tear up as they thought of their tanahair (homeland), more so during these times when they can’t travel,” said Teh, who is in her 40s.
With the Zingalongs starting today, she said she will be very happy if she can lift even one person’s mood each day.
“There are many studies that demonstrate the impact music has on elevating and uplifting one’s mood.
"For me, I feel singing has a higher impact on our wellbeing because it is an activity that requires us to be involved (versus passive listening).
“Singing is my meditation. I also hope that people will recognise the value of community music and the arts in general, and the positive impact it has on mental health, especially for the elderly, ” she added.
Updated: The Zingalong sessions will now run until Nov 10.