Thursday, August 31, 2017

Rudy Mosbergen: Classical Music During Japanese Occupation


This post is not a book review but contains illustrative extracts of the music scene during a serious and destructive war in Japanese occupied Singapore in the early 40's. 

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A Teachers' Day 2017 Story:

I met him the first time at *Teachers Training College at Paterson Road in 1961 where I was a studying to qualify as one. He was my lecturer and what a large figure he was in class as we kept to rapt attention listening to his interesting anecdotes and topic of the day. I cannot remember if he was discussing Principles of Education or English Literature but what caught my attention were his humorous one-liners which he dished out as fast as Bob Hope.

I met him again by chance at Toa Payoh Hub in 2009 when I was teaching at *NTU/NIE. He was still keen to know what was happening at NIE, so we chatted. That was when he revealed he had written a book about the Japanese occupation in Singapore. He sent me an autographed copy by snail mail when I requested to buy one.

Mr. Mosbergen's book, In The Grip Of A Crisis, was published in March 2007 with a foreword by Chan Kai Yau. The stories were told with the same pomp, fervor, and flavor as the ones he related in class.  In the introduction to his book, he wrote that although his wartime experiences were, "quite modest in scope, (they) were of sufficient interest to be shared with others."  
Seen through his own eyes as a teenager he felt, "the marked difference between benign British colonial rule and the mailed list of the truculent Japanese was both stark and harrowing."

This posting is not a review of his book. I shall leave it to the reader to check it out at the library if it's relevant to the person's needs. 

Since this blog peeps at our local music scene and food, I shall reveal passages where he wrote about the  "seeming tranquility of everyday life in Singapore" before 1942 and selected music happenings during the war. You need to buy the book to read what's written in between.

Mr Mosbergen was an accomplished, self-taught musician who could play the piano, compose songs and lyrics.  He remembers his evenings, "of music which was an enriching experience", discussing a Military Brass Band or the Singapore Police Force Band that performed alternately between the Waterloo Street bandstand, near National Museum, and the one at Botanic Gardens.
Waterloo Street Bandstand was dismantled to make way for Indian hawkers whose food, "became a legend to some Singaporeans." but when the Indian rojak, mee rebus/goreng/siam and teh tarek culinary experts were relocated by the Hawkers Department, their "staunch patrons met their Waterloo (page 48, 49)."

Under Syonan-to when the music came to life again, he attended concerts at the Victoria Theatre, walking from his home nearby, with his aunt Edna. He watched performances in the evenings by Hungarian and Filipino musicians that included light classics from the works of Strauss, Franz Lehar and pieces from Schubert, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, and Mozart (page 177-178).

Throughout his book, in great detail, Mosbergen explained his growing up years in Queen Street that came later with frenzied pre-war preparations, a brief military campaign, the surrender of Singapore and the three and half years Occupation of the mighty Dai Nippon.
Concise but about 300 pages thick, you need to read the book in its entirety to appreciate Mosbergen's experience and the harrowing years he went through when the Japanese held this island.

Up to this day, I cannot forget his wise crack at Teacher's College, "Young man," he advised me once, "It's survival of the fittest, not necessarily the fattest."

Happy Teachers' Day 2017.


Mr. Mosbergen passed away on 22nd February 2015.

*Teachers' Torture Chamber (TTC) as we jokingly called it.
National Technological University/National Institute of Education.

Please write in if you knew Mr Mosbergen and provide a simple dedication. Click the Comment page below.



Thanks Andy for sharing nice stories always!

I was born after Japanese surrendered, cannot contribute any stories about the war atrocities but heard they were cruel.

Keep in touch.

Best Regards

DR. JOE PETERS said...

I missed this one. I have collected all his compositions.Thank you, Andy!

(click connection to read about Joe.)

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

A teacher extraordinaire, a book with depth but simply written containing music bytes in between; here's my Sir from College. RIP Mr. Mosbergen. DID YOU KNOW HIM? PLEASE WRITE IN.

Thank you for telling the world, Joe. A collection well worth.
And Ronnie See, thanks for being the first as always to reply to my postings.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Min, Allow me to share your FB post. Here's a book by teacher Rudy Mosbergen about the Japanese Occupation. Thank you.

LIM KUAN MIN said...

My pleasure, Andy. Mr Mosbergen was a former Principal of Naval Base Secondary Sch which was the first school that I was posted to head in 1991. I had the pleasure to meet him some years later after my posting there.


Thank you, Min for such an appropriate response. Not a coincidence to have two effective and dedicated principals to man the same school. I hope former students and teachers will honour you both on this TEACHERS' DAY.

LIM KUAN MIN (former secondary school principal) said...

During Mr Mosbergen's tenure at NBSS the school was strong in sports, particularly hockey.

JAMES KWOK said...

As trainee teachers working in the morning session in the mid-1960s, we had to attend afternoon Teachers Training College lectures, the last one ending at 6 pm, when most of us were already brain dead, revivable only by ‘Dr’ Mosbergen. Sympathetic and empathetic, he would let us off early, which we much appreciated.

But then we’re torn between the relief of going home earlier, and yet having to take leave of his instructive yet delightful presentations. For those of us blessed to have attended his classes, we remember this about Mr. Mosbergen: in his lectures, never a dull moment.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Gee, thanks, James. Not surprised with your gift of a tale for us who knew Mr. M. and others who might benefit from your insight. For sure he was a delightful and dedicated teacher.

CHEN HUI SI said...

Happy teacher's day!!!

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

You've gone a long way since Hui Si. Congratulations and thank you.


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