Monday, July 13, 2009

Campfire !

When I was a very young cub-scout back in the 50's, two of the activities I enjoyed most were outdoor camping together with hiking and the traditional old scout campfire.

In a year we may have our own group campfire plus the chance to attend other campfires when we were invited.

Without a doubt, the Annual Campfire was one of the major highlights in the year's programme...almost like an Anniversary Dinner and Dance function.

Great care and committment when into the organisation
and planning for such an event. Different sub-committees took care of different aspects of the campfire event. Approval, invitations, venue, ( administration), logistics,equipment and furniture ( operations ), drinks,food and refreshments ...and finally the most important Campfire programme itself.

Months before the campfire, we scouts would have been taught the songs and yells that would likely be featured. This is something often often overlooked by many modern-day troops...many of the hosting/visiting scouts and guides do not know their campfire songs well.

I have always enjoyed the magical atmosphere and ambience of a properly organised campfire. From the 60's to the early 70's, I was closely connected to Campfire planning and organisation, and teaching of traditional campfire songs, rounds and yells especially to the scouts of 6th ARROW Group, Victoria School.

The scouts had an advantage over others. Singing is always more inspiring when accompanied by a musical instrument. In this instance, they learnt to sing properly to the accompaniment of my ukulele playing.

In 2003, Gongshang Primary School Cub-scout group discovered my "scouting" background and invited me to their Campfire. They had help to organise the event from a Secondary School Scout troop. What I saw and experienced that time was typical modern day campfires which

I would describe in Cantonese slang as
" hoh tai, um hoh sek".
Literally means " good to see, no good to eat".
Put another way, you have what looks like a fire, a large circle of people (invitees and host ) who never seem to stop shouting and screaming, no one really knows what's happening as the sound system they all use drowns out everything. They have too many leaders in the ring trying to control the noise and mayhem without any success. There is clearly no Campfire Leader...and if there was one, I never saw him or her at all!
The campfire resembles a modern day retro-rock event with everyone doing his own thing in anyway he likes.
To me and a few other"old birds" thoroughly trained in the old scouting is one huge and big disappointment. Quite a few left way before such campfires ended. I don't blame them at all.
It was sheer torture seating through these modern -day campfires which have completely lost the traditional touch and the magical ambience I mentioned above.

Starting from 2004, as I was a regular honoured VIP guest at GSPS Campfire... I decided to teach them the "ways of old", how the circle is kept small and compact for warmth, companionship and doing away with sound system. With such closeness, you can feel the warmth of the real fire.
I began to introduce long-forgotten songs...very popular in the old days of the 50's onwards.
The kids, teachers, parents and other invited guests were literally mesmerised!
They all told me that "this was the MAGIC they had been waiting for!"
Every year since then...the cubscouts and the others in the campfire cannot wait for the moment
when their Akela announces, " ...and now it's time we call upon unk Dicko to entertain us with
songs only he knows and to give us a yarn or two!".

Below is a blogpost from an open Cubscout group in the north which I came upon while googling
one day recently. I had no idea I had made such a BIG impact on them and their scoutmasters.
They were present at the GSPS campfire held in May this year.

After the debrief, we were off to the other side of Singapore! From West to East, literally. We were going to Gongshang Primary School for the Camp Seeonee 6 Campfire. It was very a long ride in the bus, providing us with the opportunity to rest our tired feet. We had a quick dinner at Long John Silver's (LJS) before a long awaited reuinon with our friends of Gongshang Cub Scouts and Leaders.It had already started to rain so the campfire was held the hall. We still had alot of fun, nonetheless. What better experience than to have a campfire with friends? Our favourite segment was by Uncle Dick from whom we learnt many traditional campfire songs like Cai Qui Dao, Chee Chong Fun and Tng Swa Nang. This segment was also best because of the musical support of Uncle Dick's Ukulele. The Senior Sixers choreographed their own action/dance for "Di Sini Senang" and also did a reprise of the "Taman Negara Song". The campfire was a nice ending to a long and tiring day.
(for more information about Uncle Dick Yip, see his blog.)
Thanks, Gongshang!
Yasaka! Yasaka! Yasaka!
Posted by Lamuel Sim at 12:19 PM 0 comments
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Saturday, 30 May 2009

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