Every second counts for NDP cue master
Managing the spectacle that is the National Day Parade is no mean feat
This coming National Day, one man will have the daunting task of making sure that Singaporeans are cued to take the national pledge at precisely 8.15pm, which is at 2015 hours on the 24-hour clock.
That man is Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Koh Ting You, the chairman of the National Day Parade (NDP) show management committee and cue master for show.
The pledge-taking is a highlight of the SG50 Jubilee NDP. Singaporeans islandwide are expected to join in as they watch it live on their TVs, computers, tablets and handphones.
LTC Koh said that keeping to the schedule is crucial this year because of the symbolism of the 2015 timing.
"Every week we have to work closely on meeting the 2015 target for the pledge moment," he said.
"For example, if the mobile column exceed their timings, we would have difficulty trying to meet 2015 on the dot."
LTC Koh said split-second decisions would have to be made during the show.
"If something is not on time, it is a stressful situation in the operations room because we have to decide if we can delay or truncate certain portions so that we can meet 2015."
LTC Koh is one of four cue masters tasked with ensuring that all segments of this year's three-hour long National Day Parade follow the schedule strictly.
Each cue master oversees one of four different elements of the parade: show, mobile column, air participation and parade and ceremonies.
It is the job of the cue masters to ensure that performances start on time, and that the six chapters are cued to start accurately.
LTC Koh is in charge of the prologue, chapters one, four, five, and six, and the grand finale - which add up to two thirds of the show.
Despite past experiences as cue master and ground crew at the 2005 Jurong East satellite celebration site and 2008 National Day, LTC Koh still feels the stress.
"We are monitoring not only the activities on the performance area, but the activities behind the scenes.
"When you are counting every cue by the second, it does get very stressful making sure things are right."
When asked what the toughest call has been so far, LTC Koh recounted a moment during a combined rehearsal when performers could not get to the performance area on time, and he decided to halt the entire show.
"We stopped all the activities at the time because if we didn't stop the show, the performance would have been incomplete.
"It was undesirable, but it was a necessary lesson to surface many of the co-ordination issues."
In order to avoid such incidents during the actual day, seven combined rehearsals were conducted.
Dealing with almost 1,000 performers at any given time, LTC Koh works with his ground team of 500 army personnel to manage the timings of the show.
At any one time, he can speak directly to 130 people on the ground to cue performers on where and when they have to go.
Though getting the timing right for the pledge commencement is nerve-racking for the show management committee, the pledge-taking itself is one of LTC Koh's favourite moments.
"That moment is very iconic. It's the part we reaffirm our commitment to the success of Singapore."
DID YOU KNOW?
Here are three things you might not know about the committee and their work:
1 They can cut segments of the parade at a moment's notice.
If a certain performance is taking too long, the committee can decide to cut it short, or even cut out entire parts.
This would be seamlessly done so that the audience would not even notice that something was missing.
2 One hundred and forty performersspread out over the different segments are army personnel, who are a part of the show management team.
They are on the ground to carry out any actions the committee requires, such as moving props,and just in case something that requires urgent attention happens.
They learn the same dance moves so that the quality of the show is not compromised.
3 They get the best view.
Well, at least six members of the show management committee will enjoy that view.
They get to sit at the sixth storey of the National Gallery Singapore, just above where the Members of Parliament will be seated.
Although they get the best view of the show, LTC Koh revealed that they often do not get the time to revel in it.
"We don't really get the chance to enjoy the show because we always have to concentrate on the different cues involved."