Monday, July 04, 2011

Mary Ho: Grandma Diva Rocks And Plays Santana

Mary with Carlos Santana.
She is one of the most celebrated grandmothers in Singapore so when I wrote to her asking how she manages to play the solid guitar at such a tender age she wrote this personal note. With her permission, here is glamorous Mary Ho (75), guitar hobbyist and grandmother of seven:

Hi Andy,
I love the sound of the guitar and started to play at 60+. I stayed home most of the time because I didn't like to leave my then very young grandchildren alone with the domestic helper. I strummed and sang to entertain myself. Nobody in particular encouraged me, just my passion which fueled my love to play on, again and again. To me it is a lifetime of enjoyment.

I bought a book for beginners and started to strum and sing at home and also checked with the CDs available for the melody. After a few years of strumming I started to go solo and play lead guitar. I couldn't find an instructor to teach me to play Samba Pati then and it was difficult for me without a music background. I couldn't read notes and tabs but I have a fairly good ear . Then one of my friends introduced me to Spencer.

He was reluctant to teach me at first but somehow I felt very strongly that I could play the melody. Then after a month or so, he was convinced that I could. It was all hard work after that... lots of practice for many hours every day till my fingers bled and had to be bandaged.

Guitar practice at home.
I usually play the acoustic guitar to strum and the electric guitar for lead. After a few years, I went on to learn to play the organ up to Step 7, i.e. to read notes and tabs. After that, I proceeded to learn the drums for a couple of months. I gave up because my grandson also wanted to play the drums and my drum teacher had only one slot left. So I gave up my lesson slot for my grandson.

I can also play the harmonica. I have so many hobbies and interests like mahjong, dancing, acting and traveling. Because of my love for these activities, I'm always very busy. Right now I can play only a few songs. I used to play and sing a lot of my favourite songs.I can't really remember all of them as I've explained earlier, I have other interests that I rotate around my schedule.

One thing about instruments, if you dont play and practise regularly, you cannot perform. There's no short cut. I've been singing since young... there were so many popular songs in the old days. My family loves music. My dad played beautiful violin, my mum loved singing Chinese operas, my children play classical piano and my grand children play guitar, piano, violin and the drums. They also love dancing, but we are all not professionals - we do all these just for fun, as a hobby.
Mary with piano man Jimmy Chan, Larry n Swee Leong.
I didn't form a band as I'm not a professional and not a full time musician. However, I do have professional musician friends who can jam with me when I ask them. They're really good and can guide me all the way. Depending on the songs I play, I usually jam with a drummer, bass guitarist, keyboardist, and sometimes rhythm guitarist altogether.

We usually jam at my place or in a studio for 2 hours. We're not always together as my musician friends are working. They are very obliging and will make time for me. I have four videos on youtube and have hundreds of friends and fans. They also send me their videos and because of that, I know now about Eric Clapton, BB King and many other legendary performers. Before that I only knew of Santana...LOL!!

Here are some of my favourite guitarists, just to name a few : Carlos Santana, BB King, Peter Green and Gary Moore. When Gary Moore passed away, I cried because I love his music so much. My passion for music has motivated me to record some of my favourite songs. Please visit my website to listen to them. Now, with modern equipments and high-tech facilities, the music sounds so much better.
Performing in a nightclub.
I wish to name a few songs that I love: Blue moon, I cant begin to tell you, Inamorata, Its a sin to tell a lie, If I give my heart to you, Sway, Five minutes more, With a song in my heart. Sleepy lagoon, Stardust, Only you, The great pretender, Spanish eyes, Crazy.

Also, I walk alone, I'm in the mood for love, Mack the knife, Love letters in the sand, He'll have to go, Silver threads and golden needles, I wonder who's kissing her now, Changing partners, Cest si bon. Sentimental journey. 

My collection of guitars stands at ten.


(The above letter has been edited and Mary Ho has agreed to its content.)

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