Sunday, December 09, 2012

Memory Trail: Teresa Khoo Music Pioneer From 50s

The following post about pianist Teresa Khoo is information from a letter by Horace Wee (thank you Horace) and articles from the daily newspapers published in Singapore. I do not know her personally but have seen the Khoo family perform on TV and listened to them on the radio. I thought she deserves some recognition since she was one of the pioneers in the music industry from the 50s.

Hi Andy,

You may want to post this as it is about Singapore musicians from the 60's.

Teresa Filmer (nee Khoo) the pianist wife of bassist Winston Filmer passed away on November 8th, 2012 in Melbourne Australia. She was 70 years old and had been in ill health the past few years.

She had a hit song that was popular in Malaysia around the early 60's I think. Not sure the title but was it called, *Say Yes, My Boy (image 1), recorded on the Decca label. She spent her years in Melbourne teaching and I think she was on the board of music examiners for the state of Victoria/Australia.

She is from the well-known family of Khoos in Singapore that includes Victor an entertainer and ventriloquist, The Singing Khoos comprising of her brothers. Her father (Khoo Teng Eng) used to perform magic shows in those early years as well.

Horace Wee.
1. Mono Extended Play. Cover Photo: George Abbas.
Teresa Khoo was one of Singapore's most talented daughters from the 50s who acquired her LRSM (London Royal School of Music) in piano when she was only 15 years old. According to reliable sources, she was a school-prefect and was usually on stage to lend support by playing the piano on numerous occasions.

She started the first ever all-girls band called the Blue Belles in 1960, way before any guitar group could ever claim that status. The group came in third in a "battle of the bands" contest that year and were a hit when they appeared in nightclubs all over Singapore and Malaya playing jazz standards.

Their ages ranged from 17 to 21 and the combo consisted of a double bassist, a wind-instrumentalist, an accordionist, a violinist, a guitarist and Ms Khoo herself as a pianist.  But she was also very good on the accordion, flute and vibraphone.

Sometimes, as a family, Khoo was assistant to her father's magic shows but the music was her first love and her musical interest expanded when together with the Singapore Musical Society she formed an official choir of thirty singers. From classics to combo to the choir.

When she turned professional Teresa Khoo and her Three Notes entertained regularly at some of the more established nightclubs in Singapore, namely The Raffles and The Adelphi Night Club and Peacock Bar in the 1960s. With her classical music background, her versatility was obvious when she gave her own twinkling trademark to the pop songs she rendered.

2. The Singing Khoos and sister Teresa Khoo at the piano were
performing an item at the Victoria Theatre on 5 October 1960. The show
was organised by the Chinese Section of Radio Singapore and the
compere was Mr Wang Shih Ming.
Khoo cut an album on Decca Mono DFE 4003: Teresa Khoo and Her Five Notes. Her songs include: You Don't Know, Baby, Unspoken Words, Say Yes, My Boy and A Lover's Concerto. She has another record on Decca F 22658 called Teresa Khoo and Her Five Notes with Tonight in Tokyo/This Must Be Love (1967).

Produced by Darling Lim Geok Lin with cover photo by George Abbas the record sleeve reads: "Presenting for the first time on record as a performer in her own right - the talented and versatile Teresa Khoo. Teresa was trained as a classical pianist, obtaining the music degree LRSM (London).  

Indeed she has her own music school in Singapore but at night - she sizzles. Gone for a while are the classics and, leading her Five Notes, in comes the beat. Teresa prefers sentimental songs. Just listen to her rendering of Unspoken Words."

Unspoken Words climbed the Singapore Charts and was published under Hits of the World on Billboard Magazine when it hit number two in February 1968. The image below shows the song position where it bettered Cliff Richard's, All My Love and Bee Gees' Massachusetts, losing only to the Foundations' Baby, Now That I've Found You.

3. Teresa Khoo's Hit at Number 2 on Billboard.
In the early 80s when the SSO (Singapore Symphony Orchestra) recorded their first album Ms Khoo was the pianist selected for the occasion.   Together with other musicians they formed a contingent and had put on CD a collection of Chinese melodies.

Khoo's popularity allowed her to promote a local product and she was described as "one of Singapore's most respected pianist, a busy woman with performances, recording schedules and also teaching at a well-known music school."  In the newspaper advertisement, the tag-line was, "I must have soft and supple fingers or my playing will not be up to standard."
Video: Late Teresa Khoo's "Unspoken Words" from her debut EP, Number 2 in the Singapore Charts in 1967.

NB:  According to the record cover and newspaper advertisements her name is Teresa and not Theresa ie: without the letter h.

YouTube Video You Don't Know Baby song downloaded by: blastfromdepast.
Images 2: Mun Chor Seng Copyrights Reserved.
Image 3: Billboard Magazine: February 1968.

LATEST NEWS: 12 January 2018:

LATEST NEWS: Friday 6 June 2014

SINGAPORE: Local ventriloquist Victor Khoo, brother to Teresa Khoo, died on Friday, June 6th aged 63.  A well-known international entertainer, and one that many Singaporeans grew up watching the radio show, Happy Talk on Saturday mornings, he was most famous for performing with his puppet Charlee since the 1970's.

Image: Straits Times Press Singapore, Archives.



Dear Andy,

Many thanks for updating the 60s musical scene for all of us.


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks for the pictures Chor Seng. Appreciate your contribution to this blog.

LAM CHUN SEE said...

Sorry lah Andy.

I don’t know who is Teresa Khoo. In the 1950s, I was still playing marbles and catching spiders.

Chun See

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Lam Chun See is the author of two books. He is more famous than Catherine Lim for sure.

Check out his book by clicking his name above.

FRED SIOW said...

I played alongside Teresa Khoo and Winston Filmer in the 60s at the Ambassador Hotel as the second band under the name 'Corals'.

Sad to hear the news. May she rest in the arms of the Lord.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Fred shared and explained that he found Khoo and Filmer "a very nice couple, with no airs about them."

Filmer gave him some tips and ideas about music which he found useful. 'Corals' played around the late 60s and Fred's father was managing the band.

"At 17 or 18 years of age we were all geared up for fun and a good time." remarked Fred.

Thanks for sharing and visiting the blog.


Aiyah, she is Khoo Teng Eng's daughter. She gave piano lessons at Bras Basah Road. We know the whole family lah.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you Philip. Would be nice if you could provide some insight since they are family friends.

FRED SIOW said...


Nice reporting. U got the flow for this kind of hobby. Keep it up. Proud of you and most musicians should be grateful.

God Bless,

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you Fred. I believe you since you don't compliment unnecessarily.

Hope your story will be a chapter to read on this blog soon.

Happy walker said...

visiting here with a smile. take care.. have a nice day ~ =)

Regards, (A Growing Teenager Diary) ..

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks Mr Lonely for visiting. You have a lovely blog too and a large following.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

I have been asked if I am the same Andy Lim that recorded two songs of yesteryear: (1) 'Michael, Row The Boat Ashore' and (2) 'Tell Laura I Love Her'.

My answer is, "No!"


Teresa Khoo, music star from the 50s:

Andy has a post about the late Teresea Filmer, a music star from the 1960s who passed away last month in Australia.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks NoelbyNature. He has 3 blogs on the Net. Find out what he does by clicking on his name above his comment.

SingaporeMemoryProject said...

Dear Sir/Madam,

On behalf of the National Library Board (NLB), we would like to invite you to pledge your blog to the Singapore Memory Project as part of efforts to collect memories that are already manifested in existing online channels.

The Singapore Memory Project (SMP) is a national initiative to collect, preserve and provide access to Singapore’s knowledge materials. Spearheaded by NLB, the SMP aims to build a national collection of content in diverse formats (including print, audio and video), to preserve them in digital form, and make them available for discovery and research.

By pledging your blog to SMP, you are affirming that every memory matters. Whether your posts are an account of your daily life, or an expression of your thoughts, the SMP hopes to find a home for your memories so that it can help build towards an understanding of Singapore. You will also receive a badge that you can display on your blog in recognition of your contributions.

Contributors to this blog pledging initiative will be listed on Singapore Memory portal’s blog pledging webpage. All blogs pledged to SMP will archived using NLB’s web harvesting software, in addition to images of each blog’s landing page.

If you are keen to pledge your blog to SMP, simply fill up our response form at this following URL:

You may find out more about this initiative at

We are looking forward to your contribution.

Simulation Software & Technology (S2T) Pte Ltd
583 Orchard Road #14-02 Forum The Shopping Mall S(238884), Singapore

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Again thanks.

JAMES KWOK said...

Happy New Year to you and all your beloved.

From 1966 January to June, I was teaching at Outram Sec School. And among the teachers was Vincent Khoo, who also appeared on TV and
radio - I think he's a member of the Singing Khoos, one of whom is Victor Khoo, the voice of Charlie.

James (Jim) Kwok

(This email has been edited to suit post content.)

Anonymous said...

Teresa Khoo Filmer was my piano teacher for almost a decade and she nurtured me since I was 8. She would tell me countless stories about her childhood but she never told me she was a pop star! I just recently found out about the news and I was so shocked.
I hope that her talents and memories will be cherished and passed on to future generations.
- tom

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Yes I hope so too. That's why I wrote about her.

MATT TAN said...

i am looking through your blog listing to see who i remember. this is one even my eldest sister would remember. i think teresa was classmate with my eldest sis in RGS.

but i definitely remember Khoo Teng Eng. i looked at Teresa 's name and straight-away her father's name came to mind.
my dad was also a big fan and a personal friend of Teresa's dad.

what a grapevine, eh???

so, as you can see, the importance of your blog . it is a grand oak tree that should never be chopped down.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Again thank you Matt for your generous contribution to this blog and your personal comment about Teresa Khoo and her family. I am sure somehow my blog is a place where families and friends gather because of the music connection.

I am not sure about the blog being a big oak tree and I surely appreciate the comparison but I hope it can be a delicious durian tree where others can gather and harvest the fruit.

anon said...

May Victor Khoo rest in peace. Condolence to his family and loved ones.


yes i remember khoo teng eng the ventriloquist when i was tiny and attended one of his shows for kids
at wesley church.

btw, u should make a world map and ask ex-singaporean to pin where they are now.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Yes, I am sure Victor will be happy to know he is still remembered even on the other side of the world by Singaporeans who have migrated.

Thanks Matt for your constant support and comments on this blog. Very much appreciated.

Joseph Chan said...

My mother, Elizabeth Seck, was a member of the first all girl band The Blue Belles. She was the double bassist mentioned in the article.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you Joseph for your important piece of information. Would be wonderful if you could tell our readers more about The Blue Belles.

Please visit my blog again.

Joseph Chan said...

Sorry for the long delay. I sort of lost track of your blog. My sister has a picture in her home of the Blue Belles during a performance, our mother was the double bassist. When I was young, she mentioned the band quite often and seemed to be very happy when she was there. There was not much else I can remember, she passed in 1981. I was under the impression they performed often. My mother had a full time day job in the civil service in the steno pool, as I am sure all the other ladies (save Theresa) had. I believe Theresa Khoo formed the band, the first all girl's band playing non classical music in 1960. I was born in 1962, which might have been the reason my mother left the band. LOL. She was a member of the Seck family, which at that time owned Seasons music store on North Bridge Road. Its interesting to note that Theresa was apparently an open minded person, having accepted a Malay singer Zainab Majid into the Blue Belles which up till that time was all chinese girls. Please see link.

Anonymous said...

I've read Catherine Lim's books.....never heard of Lam Chun See.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

My reply was meant as a joke Anonymous. Thanks for your response.