Coronavirus

12-year-old writes song to cheer on Singaporeans

by Karen Tan // February 27, 2020, 8:34 pm

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“My mum, my sister and I look at the COVID-19 news on gov.sg every night and we pray Psalms 91,” says Jacob Neo, who wrote a song to raise spirits in this COVID-19 season. Photo by Glen Goh.

Jacob Neo has a gift of song. Literally.

The 12-year-old composed “Singapore, Unite as One” as part of a gift that his school, Fairfield Methodist (Primary), presented to National University Hospital (NUH) today (February 27) to cheer on the medical fraternity and Singaporeans in the fight against COVID-19.

“I was thinking about the people who are sick and, although the current situation is kind of dark, the song is hopeful that Singaporeans can press on and stand up to face it together,” said the young songwriter. 

Madam Law, Principal of Fairfield Methodist School (Primary), Jacob Neo, Associate Professor Eugene Liu, CEO NUH and Professor Quek Swee Chye, Chairman, Medical Board, NUH

From L-R: Deputy director of nursing, Joann Pang, Fairfield principal, Madam Law Li Mei, Jacob (centre), Associate Professor Eugene Liu and Professor Quek Swee Chye (far right). Photo courtesy of Fairfield Methodist School (Primary).

Neo’s song struck a chord with NUH staff, who said they were heartened by the knowledge that “the community is behind us”. 

“As the words of Jacob’s song go … united we stand. We will take these words to heart as we fight this virus,” said Professor Quek Swee Chye, chairman of the NUH Medical Board.

Covid-19,

Teachers and students from Fairfield Methodist School (Primary) pitched in to write cards of appreciation which were collated into an artwork depicting a bouquet of flowers.

Covid-19 cards, picture by Glen Goh

About 500 cards from students and staff of Fairfield School (Primary) were put into gift boxes specially prepared by the school’s Aesthetic Department.

The school also presented NUH with about 500 cards that the Primary 2 and 3 students had designed to cheer the hospital staff on.

It was a community affair and parents were also involved in contributing to hampers for the NUH staff.

Associate Professor  Eugene Liu, CEO of NUH, said: “We’re very touched by all the good wishes, cards and gifts from the students, staff and parent volunteers from Fairfield. The support of Fairfield Methodist School for our healthcare workers means a lot to us.”

Psalm 91

Jacob, the young composer, has no musical background.

But this did not deter the Primary 6 student from raising his hand when his music teacher asked who would like to write a song.

“I am not sure if I did a good job, because I have no experience!” he said with a grin.

“I am not sure if I did a good job, because I have no experience!”

All he knew about music came from a six-month songwriting module at school where students were taught the foundations of musical composition and were allowed to “dabble and explore” on digital music software, GarageBand.

The inspiration for his song, however, arose from his empathy for the affected patients.

“Two years ago, my mum fell sick and was hospitalised. She had a blood clot near her heart and almost had a stroke,” said Jacob.

“My mum wasn’t always the healthiest, but it was never that bad before. It was really scary. So, I can really empathise with how the patients and their families are feeling right now.”

Jacob Neo, Fairfield Methodist School

Jacob (far left), together with his school mates who performed in the music video, and NUH staff. Photo courtesy of Fairfield Methodist School (Primary).

That experience left an indelible mark.  

“I always treasure my mum a lot. I don’t have a dad, so whenever I go through hard times or anything, it is always my mum helping me,” he said.

His parents are divorced.

Jacob Neo, 12 year-old songwriter, Fairfield Methodist School. Picture by Glen Goh.

Jacob Neo is also on the Fairfield Methodist School’s (Primary) badminton squad. He had to miss a tournament earlier this year because of DORSCON Orange. Photo by Glen Goh.

“Until recently, my mum never sent me to tuition except for Chinese classes. She doesn’t send me to classes because she wants to tutor me herself.”

Having his mum laid up in hospital in 2018 weighed on Jacob.

“To be honest, I was losing a bit of faith,” he confessed.

“Losing faith may make us lose the battle.”

“Although I still believed in God, I was very young then and I thought: My mum prays every night. She reads God’s word and lives a life of faith. Why did God let her go through such an experience? 

“In the end, with my sister’s encouragement, I managed to keep the faith. My sister is three years older, and it was just me and her. We prayed for my mum and read the Bible every night.   

“God pulled my mum through. She’s good and fine now and just needs to take a little medication.

“Every night my mum, sister and I look at gov.sg for the latest COVID-19 news, and we also pray Psalms 91:1-16 because it says that He will bring us through everything.”

The 12-year-old, who turned down the gifted programme because of “friends and badminton” at Fairfield, added: “In the New and Old Testaments, people made so many mistakes, but God still didn’t give up on us and believed in us.

“No matter what happens, we cannot lose faith. Losing faith may make us lose the battle.”

“We are called into medicine for such a time as this”: Dr Tan Soo-Inn, chaplain of Christian Medical & Dental Fellowship

This is a “defining moment of discipleship”: Pastor Benny Ho on COVID-19

About the author

Karen Tan

Karen was a producer at Asia Business News (Singapore), Bloomberg News and CNBC Asia. She subsequently joined the Far East Organisation to oversee corporate social responsibility. Karen is now Associate Editor at Salt&Light.