Mr Zhuo Yuan Long's love for singing started when he was a child and he would sing anything from Hokkien to Malay numbers.
When he was working as a crane driver in the early 1960s, he often sang as he worked, earning him the nickname "Do Re Mi".
Mr Zhuo turned 85 recently, but his love affair with singing has continued unabated.
He had planned to hold a concert on his birthday last Saturday at the Singapore Conference Hall and even invited guest singers, but the pandemic put a stop to that.
"As a singer, I love to perform. But I haven't been able to put up any recitals this year because of Covid-19," said Mr Zhuo, who used to run his own crane business but retired in 2000.
The singing enthusiast has taken part in numerous concerts, including events in Tianjin, China.
In an interview with The Straits Times, Mr Zhuo laughed as he recounted his singing skills as a young amateur.
"Back then, I couldn't sing well, but I would still sing," he quipped.
Growing up during the Japanese Occupation was difficult for Mr Zhuo.
He dropped out of primary school after about a year to become a hawker and later turned to odd jobs, earning just $1.90 a day.
Yet, singing was always on his mind.
He joined choir groups such as the Hokkien Huay Kuan Choir and the now defunct Tong Luo Choral Group.
Mr Zhuo credited his improvement in singing to teachers - some of whom hailed from countries such as Australia and England - who coached him over the past six decades.
"I only became better and learnt the correct singing skills when I started learning from these teachers," he said.
He initially struggled with singing opera songs, many of which had Italian lyrics that he found difficult to pronounce.
But his Italian improved tremendously after he enrolled in a private school to learn the International Phonetic Alphabet.
"My singing teacher at that time even said my Italian pronunciation was better than some Westerners'," he said.
While concerts may not be possible for now, Mr Zhuo still practises singing almost every day for two to three hours in the flat he shares with his wife, 68.
They have five daughters in their 40s and seven grandchildren aged from four to seven.
Sometimes, he said, he rehearses more than 20 songs in a day.
He finds it hard to explain his love for singing.
"I just know that when I sing, I feel very satisfied," he said.
When asked what advice he would give to other elderly people looking to pursue interests in the arts, Mr Zhuo had only one thing to say: "Do what makes you happy."
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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