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Perng Peck Seng

Prominent arts and culture advocate and administrator

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Published: 12 Oct 2016


Time taken : ~10mins

It is perfectly okay if we do not have the ability to be artists—we can be art lovers. An artist with an audience will feel encouraged to carry on persevering in his practice.

Perng Peck Seng is a prominent arts and culture advocate and administrator. He inspired Chinese clan associations to take a more prominent role in the development and promotion of Chinese arts and culture in Singapore, and went on to spearhead many initiatives—including the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan Arts and Cultural Troupe and the annual River Hongbao Chinese New Year celebrations—that would play a huge part in the artistic and cultural development of generations of Singaporeans. In 2010, Perng received the Pingat Bakti Masyarakat (Public Service Medal) for his contributions to arts and culture in Singapore.

Born in Jinmen, China, in 1951, Perng Peck Seng was a young lover of the arts who has since followed through his childhood interest to become a passionate lifelong supporter and administrator of art and cultural programmes.

Growing up, Perng took to stage performance naturally and won prizes for a singing and an oratorical competition in primary school. He moved to Singapore with his family at the age of six, and his interest in theatre was sparked in secondary school by a teacher who would make him and his classmates recite theatrical dialogue. At age 14, he then joined a children’s drama and singing workshop at Singapore Broadcasting Corporation, learning how to sing and act. Eventually, the group became the Children’s Radio Drama Players, with which Perng would be a performer before going on to join the Youth Drama Troupe at the corporation.

After completing his education, Perng worked in a commercial firm for a spell but found that he had little interest in the line of work. Knowing of his dissatisfaction, his friends in television persuaded him to join them at Singapore Broadcasting Corporation. Perng already was helping out with television programmes and singing lessons with the corporation, and decided to join the corporation as a producer. This would mark the beginning of Perng’s significant career as an arts administrator. Soon after, he became the leader of the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation Choir.

In 1979, Perng started serving as the secretary of the Singapore Choral Association. There, he helped organise choral competitions that included choral groups from Singapore and Southeast Asia. At the same time, he never really left the stage completely, continuing to take part in the Youth Drama Troupe’s productions as a performer.

In 1980, Perng joined the Nanyang Fang Shee Association as a consultant of its youth committee and helped to organise its cultural events. He helped set up a children’s choir, a harmonica group, a theatre group and a singing group, and most significantly, organised the association’s first ever variety concert in 1983 at the National Theatre. This was a first for a clan association in Singapore, and its full house reception raised the profile of clan associations in general, highlighting the viability of clan associations being promoters of arts and culture.

Two years later, Perng was approached by theatre practitioner and Cultural Medallion recipient Low Ing Sing to organise arts and cultural events for the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan. He then joined the association, setting up its cultural section. Believing that having a love for arts and culture is an important factor in the development of a person, Perng focused on developing programmes for children, so that young minds and hearts may have meaningful cultural encounters. With that in mind, he initiated a two-year cultural programme for children that culminated in a graduation performance. From an initial batch of 90 children in 1986, the programme would see a healthily growing enrolment every year, eventually benefitting a few thousand children in each batch. In 1989, he founded the association’s Arts and Cultural Troupe, serving as its leader till today.

Perng also joined the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clans Association in 1987 as director of the cultural committee. That year, he organised the inaugural River Hongbao, a week-long Chinese New Year carnival featuring Chinese performing arts and cultural performances by Singapore and international arts and cultural groups. From that first year, River Hongbao grew to become an important staple of Chinese New Year celebrations in Singapore, attracting families and tourists alike.

Besides his lifelong service to his various clan associations, Perng also contributed his expertise in his other capacities—he served for a decade as the artistic director of the Singapore Buddhist Federation’s annual Vesak Day celebrations; as a member of the Cultural Medallion for dance advisory panel; as honorary chairman of Siong Leng Musical Association; and as chairman of the Thian Hock Keng Temple management committee.

Perng has also received official recognition for his contributions to arts and culture in Singapore. He received the Singapore Soka Association Friendship Award in 2006, the Pingat Bakti Masyarakat (Public Service Medal) in 2010, and the Service to Education Award (Silver) in 2011.

Today, Perng continues to contribute his services to the community in his hope to help create a vibrant artistic and cultural society made up of generations of arts lovers.

Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations

Timeline

19 Mar 1951

Born in Jinmen, Fujian Province, China.

1957

Moved to Singapore.

1958 to 1963

Attended Chongfu Primary School.

1964 to 1967

Attended Chung Cheng High School.

1968 to 1975

Member, Children`s Radio Drama Players, Singapore Broadcasting Corporation.
Member, Youth Drama Troupe, Singapore Broadcasting Corporation.

1979 to 1984

Secretary, Singapore Choral Association.

1980 to Present

Consultant, Youth Committee, Nanyang Fang Shee Association.

Apr 1983

Staged Nanyang Fang Shee Association's inaugural variety concert at National Theatre.

1984 to 2000

Producer, Executive Producer and Head of the Audio Post, Singapore Broadcasting Corporation.

1986 to 1987

Secretary of Cultural Committee, Singapore Federation of Chinese Clans Association.

1987 to 2010

Director, Cultural Committee, Singapore Federation of Chinese Clans Association.

1987 to Present

Chairman, Programme Committee, River Hongbao.

1989 to Present

Founder and head, Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan’s Arts and Cultural Troupe.

1994 to 2000

Vice Chairman, General Affairs Committee, Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan.

1995 to 2004

Artistic Director, Annual Vesak Day Celebration, Singapore Buddhist Federation.

1995 to Present

Honorary Chairman, Siong Leng Musical Association.

1998 to 2001

Director, General Affairs, Nanyang Fang Shee Association.

2000

Member, School Management Committee, Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan.
Artistic Consultant, Siong Leong Musical Association.
Director, The Hokkien Foundation.

2000 to 2004

Chairman, Social Service Committee, Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan.

2003

Member, Cultural Medallion Award (Dance) Advisory Panel, National Arts Council.

2004 to 2010

Chairman, Cultural Committee, Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan.

2005 to 2011

Member, Promote Mandarin Council.

2006

Received Singapore Soka Association Friendship Award.
Editor, Guardian of the South Seas: Thian Hock Keng & Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan.

2007 to Present

Chairman, Management Committee, Thian Hock Keng Temple.

2008

Chairman, Nanyang Fang Shee Association
Vice Chairman, Singapore Liu Kwee Tang.
Chairman, External Affairs, Singapore Kim Mui Hoey Kuan.

2009 to Present

Member, Go East Initiative committee, Business China Singapore.

2010

Received Pingat Bakti Masyarakat (Public Service Medal).

2010 to Present

Vice-President, Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan.

2011

Received Service to Education Award (Silver), Ministry of Education.

2011 to Present

Deputy Secretary-General, Singapore Federation of Chinese Clans Association.


TributeSG

TributeSG celebrates the arts community’s most senior members, and those who have made a lifetime of contribution to the arts. These artists, administrators, educators, patrons, and champions include many Singapore arts pioneers who laid the foundations of the vibrant arts and cultural scene we enjoy today. The many profiles in TributeSG let us into the minds and worlds of these pioneers, and help us understand our shared arts heritage. When we revisit their works and rediscover their journeys, we learn where we came from and how we came to be. Collectively, their stories tell the tale of the making of a nation’s artistic identity.

In putting together this collection, the TributeSG team consulted an external advisory panel, consisting of Arun Mahiznan, Choo Thiam Siew, J. P. Nathan, K. K. Seet, Kwok Kian Chow, and Iskandar Ismail. Those selected to be profiled in TributeSG met one of the following criteria: they were at least 60 years of age as of 12 Oct 2016, or deceased, or had received national recognition in the form of the Cultural Medallion. This journey of arts archival officially came to a close on 12 Oct 2016, after four years of extensive research, interviews and collation of information graciously provided by the TributeSG pioneers, their families and peers. TributeSG also benefited from enthusiastic help from like-minded friends and organisations who supported Esplanade’s cause—to remember, honour and celebrate Singapore’s arts pioneers.

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