The crowd in the foyer of the Shaw Alumni Foundation House on Wednesday, 19th Feb, was as diverse and colourful as the feathers on a peacock’s train. Decked in elegant, formal wear, residents of Raffles Hall, past and present, gathered at the Shaw Alumni Foundation House to celebrate Raffles Hall’s 55th birthday, as well as to commemorate the release of the digitised yearbooks from 1960 through to 2012.
Upon the announcement that the event was about to begin, attendees slowly made their way into the auditorium, taking the time to mingle and catch up with old friends and to find familiar faces in the crowd. As the audience quietened down in the auditorium though, the event took on a slightly more formal mood. With an opening address made by Master, the program was under way.
At first glance, the program seemed very formal and sombre with speeches by various distinguished alumni lined up one after another. However, as the evening progressed, that presumption proved to be most erroneous. Many of the alumni spoke in warm tones, recalling their years in Raffles Hall with great fondness. Catching a glimpse of Raffles Hall through the anecdotes that each generation of alumni had to tell was truly an educational experience. Hilarious stories were told, colourful characters pointed out from among the audience, and uproarious jokes were made, some of which should probably not appear in print.
Sprinkled amongst the fond recollections of the alumni were performances by bands which were a mixture of current and alumni residents. The first band is better known to many of us: the band led by Ian Chan. The second, though, was a most diverse mix of alumni from numerous generations. Many of the musicians performed songs for which they were famous, at least in hall, during their golden years.
Following the program in the auditorium, we celebrated RH’s birthday in the most time-honoured tradition of them all: the cutting of the birthday cake. RHythm, Raffles’ newly formed A Cappella group, sang “Happy Birthday” in 4-part harmony, and distinguished guests, such as the previous hall masters, and prominent alumni, gathered to cut the cake. Dinner was accompanied by performances from RHythm and RH Voices.
Sometime in the middle of all that mingling, Dixon put his hands up in the signal to begin the aspiration cheer. While some of the older alumni looked on to witness our thunderous rendition of this relatively new cheer, the more recent graduates joined our current residents to cheer thunderously. Then, the prominent alumni, most of whom had been JCRC presidents sometime during their residency, surprised everyone by discovering that the Raffles Anthem has not changed since their years. Perhaps the most touching moment of the entire evening was when, one by one, generations of Rafflesians’ voices united to proclaim, “Raffles, the greatest in the whole country, let’s go, go , go!”
The biggest takeaway I got from the whole experience, however, is that, despite the years, despite the changed traditions, despite the people, there is something in Rafflesians that simply doesn’t change. To simply term it the Raffles Spirit would do it injustice, for it would cage so large an emotion into so small a term. It was something more than a spirit. Throughout the evening, it ran as an undercurrent through the hoots of support people gave when a particularly famous (or infamous) person was named during a speech; through the performances, some corny and silly, some soulful, others reminiscing; through the proud singing of the Raffles Anthem. It was not simply a formal event where people politely listened to speeches and scattered applause was given out of politeness. It was an evening where memories were dug out and relived, and new ones were made.
And for this writer (and other current residents, I hope) it was a journey through time, a glimpse into the (hall) lives of those who have brought Raffles to where it is today, to what we continue to proudly uphold. May we, the current residents, continue to contribute to our hall’s success, and let us leave a legacy that future residents can be proud of, a history richer than any other hall has ever seen.
-Samantha, Phoenix Press AY13/14