When ChildAid 2020 debuts next Wednesday, audiences will be treated to a virtual concert unlike any other.

It employs cutting-edge technology so you can watch and listen to it in a 360-degree sphere. By moving your viewing device left or right, up or down, or even all around, you will be able to enjoy the concert in all directions – as if you are right there in the room with the performers.

It is best to watch the concert with a smartphone or tablet, and a pair of headphones or earphones. The 8D audio technology offers superior surround sound.

For an even more immersive experience, use VR Goggles if you have a pair. You will find yourself drifting on clouds and floating in outer space with some of your favourite musicians.

The concert, organised by The Straits Times and The Business Times, benefits socially disadvantaged children through two charities (see other story).

The technology is provided by ChildAid’s production partner NoonTalk Media, which spent 10 weeks capturing musicians against green screens and then transforming them into magical panoramic environments.

In the case of electronic music star Jasmine Sokko, for instance, her green screen background is converted into an intergalactic wonderland complete with exploding supernovas and a giant floating headphone.

For 13-year-old rising talent Heema Izzati Zainuddin, you get to see five versions of her standing all around you, singing, dancing and playing the keyboard and cello.

Not all the musicians find themselves in fantastical surroundings.

Singer Nathan Hartono, for example, opted for a laidback, stripped-down approach in his duet with Abby Simone. Artistic director Jeremiah Choy then added a sepia-tinged Casablanca feel to the image and had additional cameras zooming in on their gestures.

Choy, who has directed six other ChildAid concerts, says: “It’s been quite challenging creating a full-length concert in these social distancing times. But we’ve definitely risen to the occasion and created something magical.”

VIEW IT / CHILDAID2020 – VIRTUALLY YOURS

WHERE: YouTube and Facebook channels of The Straits Times and The Business Times, The Straits Times, The Business Times and Stay Home with SPH websites

WHEN: July 15, 8pm

INFO: str.sg/childaid2020

HOW TO DONATE

Readers can donate through str.sg/donatetochildaid, PayNow (UEN Number: 201408699H, enter CA20 and NRIC and contact numbers in the reference field) or by cheque, made payable to “ChildAid”, indicating name, NRIC number and address at the back of the cheque. The cheque can be mailed to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, 1000 Toa Payoh North, Singapore 318994.

Catch a sneak peek of the upcoming concert at str.sg/JmYv.

The one-minute trailer gives a glimpse into the concert’s 360-degree virtual experience and is best enjoyed using a smartphone or tablet, as well as headphones to experience the 8D audio technology. The concert can also be viewed on the computer or laptop

NoonTalk Media’s Jed Tay, the show’s multimedia director, says: “This is the first time Singapore is seeing a full concert in this format. And I must say the circuit breaker has been unexpectedly beneficial to us. Staying in throughout the period led us to figure out how to seamlessly blend images and animation to create these panoramic 360-degree views. And now we’re ready to present what we’ve created to the world.”

The concert, which also marks The Straits Times’ 175th anniversary, is sponsored by UOB, UBS, Citi and Richard Mille, among others. Other top musicians performing in ChildAid 2020 include Wong Kah Chun, Jeremy Monteiro and Benjamin Kheng.

It aims to raise funds for The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (STSPMF), which helps about 10,000 disadvantaged students, and The Business Times Budding Artists Fund (BTBAF), which supports lessons in the performing and visual arts for 1,000 financially disadvantaged children.

Mr Amol Gupte, Citi’s Asean head and country officer for Singapore, says: “Citi has been supporting ChildAid since its inception in 2005 because it provides a meaningful platform to inspire and empower youth. Importantly, the goals of the initiative in support of STSPMF and BTBAF are also aligned with Citi’s mission and value proposition to enable growth and progress in the community.

“Going online will mean more people will have the opportunity to watch the concert ‘live’ and enjoy the excitement of the event and an opportunity to bring greater awareness towards STSPMF and BTBAF.”

Helmi Yusof from The Business Times is the organising co-chairman of ChildAid.

More pocket money for sisters

Before receiving help from The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (STSPMF), Shrinithi Gunasegaran, nine, did not have enough money for lunch.

“My father used to give me $1.50 a day, but some of the food cost $2. So I had difficulty buying lunch sometimes. Now with STSPMF, I get $2 and it’s enough,” says the Tanjong Katong Primary pupil.

Her father works as a cleaner and her mother is a cashier. Her younger sister, aged eight, is also a recipient of the fund. Shrinithi says most days, she buys chicken rice which costs $1.50, and spends the remaining 50 cents on drinks.

The two sisters are among the thousands of socially disadvantaged children who receive assistance from STSPMF and The Business Times Budding Artists Fund (BTBAF).

The two charities have been organising the annual ChildAid concerts since 2005 and have helped more than 170,000 children.

Since the pandemic hit, the situation has worsened for some families as parents have lost jobs or had their salary cut.

Single mother Ang Lay Choo, for instance, juggles multiple jobs to support herself and her 17-year-old son, Xu Jing Feng. The pandemic caused her wages to drop and she is looking for additional work.

When Jing Feng was in Kranji Secondary, STSPMF helped pay for the two to three meals he needed to eat a day because he is a sportsman. Last year, he picked up a gold medal at the SEA Games in Manila for speed skating.

Now in polytechnic, he says: “STSPMF really helped relieve my mother’s financial burden. It’s been much tougher since the pandemic struck.”

While STSPMF helps kids pay for lunch and transport, BTBAF helps artistically gifted children from low-income families pursue the arts. The charity believes the arts help unlock the full potential of each child, including his or her academic abilities.

One such recipient is Aura Claire Mohd Rani. The 13-year-old has been studying dance for free for six years with the help of BTBAF.

She says: “Whenever I feel stressed about school, I turn to dancing to relax. Dancing has helped me grow my personality and confidence – I used to be so shy around people.”

Helmi Yusof

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