Music to my ears! : Woodsville Primary School


Hazriq Idrus
Mohamad Hazriq Idrus

I started my Primary 1 education at the now-defunct Woodsville Primary School at Aljunied Road in 1985.

Mentioned Woodsville Primary, one name that associated with it-  Mr Clifford Oliveiro. The Discipline Master of the school was also an accomplished musician. 

Every week when the teachers had prolonged Contact Time, we students had to endure reading storybooks(or anything that can be read!) in prolonged Assembly periods in the school hall, just to wait for the teachers to end their meetings.

But we were always looking forward to Mr Oliveiro's "antics" on stage during that time. Not sure if he "skipped" his Contact Time but he seemed to be the only teacher available; and with his guitar, he strummed to a variety of songs that got the whole school sang along. To us, he had saved us from boredom!

With Mr Oliveiro around, assembly periods were like sing-a-long sessions. No need Mickey Mouse and Friends to entertain us.  Or Gurmit and his Lion pet, Jazzo, of Frasers and Neave (F&N) (Oh, that was how i got to know of Gurmit Singh's existence). Or even Sharity Elephant, which put up performances in the school on a few occasions.

Song sheets were distributed and the whole school sang and clapped to the tunes of "You are My Sunshine", "I'm Gonna Knock On Your Door", "Chan Mali Chan" etc played by Mr Oliveiro on his guitar.

That inspired me to learn guitar. I volunteered to be part of the School's Mixed Instrumental Ensemble (SMIE) in 1989 when I was in Primary Five.  Somehow, the guitarists slots were full so i was given to play the Bass Drum instead. The drum was huge for a small kid like me then to carry it on and off stage!

The SMIE made many performances on school stage at many occasions: eg Celebrations during Teachers Day, National Day and Children's Day.

In 1990, we participated in the Singapore Youth Festival (SYF). During the preliminary rounds, we played the tunes of "El Condor Pasa" and "Those Were The Days".

In the Finals at the Singapore Labour Foundation (SLF) Auditorium, we played the tunes of "El Condor Pasa" and "Spanish Eyes", instead. Maybe that was Mr Oliveiro's plan. Think that did the trick.  We wooed the judges, and we brought back the Gold Award - probably Woodsville's first SYF Gold Award!

That win, brought us to many places in Singapore. We were like the ambassadors of Woodsville Primary School.  We were invited to perform at Victoria Memorial Hall on one occasion.  At another, we were playing music at nearby Woodsville Secondary School as part of the School's "Music for FUNd" project.  Visiting and performing at other schools were like almost every other week.  It was like a "Concert Tour".  

My last performance with the school was at Kallang Theatre before I sat for my PSLE and then graduated.

Till now, the tunes of "El Condor Pasa", "Those Were The Days" and "Spanish Eyes" keep ringing in my ears and I keep humming to the tunes regularly.