For someone who spent his life around choral music, hearing a whole repertoire of some of the most beautifully composed choral music in one evening is simply heaven. Such was the case with the UP Manila Chorale’s 25th Anniversary Kick-Off concert last May 11 at the CCP main theater.
Known for having a vast repertoire encompassing secular, pop, jazz, spiritual and OPM; the evening was a celebration of the most stunning chorale music. From the most difficult arrangements to the most engaging, the chorale group delivered each creation with absolute precision.
The evening opened with the mysterious Glong-ngo Ko “Praise You”, composed by Excelsis Betil and arranged by Eudenice Palaruan. A piece with such gorgeous parts for soloists, it exhibited a very unique musical appeal. A magnetic composition that has a continuous humming line that despite one not knowing the words, the meditative and scared appeal of the number enfolds you.
The opening was followed by a series of sacred compositions such as Avinu “Our Father” by amazing Filipino composer Eudenice Palaruan, Cantate Domino (Josu Elberdin), Jubilate Deo (Ko Matsushita), Stetit Angelus (Rihards Dubra), Prayer to the Guardian Angel (Pawel Lukaszewski), the spiritual Witness by Jack Halloran and Gloria by Nilo Alcala.
The first set was overwhelmingly breathtaking. It was a showcase of the chorale’s skills in phrasing, breathing, vocal colors, voice layers, dynamics and pitch. Each detail properly paid attention to that every single section was heard alongside each other in perfect harmony. Not a voice out of place, and most of all, all numbers sung just like a true Filipino musician, with fire and passion.
As part two of the program continued, it is quite noticeable that more staging was involved. From shifting positions to the use of instruments and gorgeous lighting, more storytelling took place. Two beautiful English numbers opened the second part and more soloists were showcased. I will have to say that UP Manila Chorale has wonderful tenors. Beautiful creamy voices that were so clear you could imagine one of them singing Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni and he could bring the house down. The last time I remember hearing the most immaculate tenors was when Chanticleer, a 14 all male choral group from San Francisco performed at the PhilAm Life Theater. I can never forget the male tenor soloists in Franz Biebl’s “Ave Maria”, it was like being transported to the medieval era and watching a performance happening in the heavens.
The evening was also made special by the participation of the group’s alumni. Exciting and inspiring, it was a delight hearing voices of generations echoing one love which was singing. A crowd favorite and a very known contest piece, Bituing Walang Ningning was the highlight of the reunion.
The concert ended with very popular numbers such as the Bongga Medley, Overdrive, Limang Dipang Tao and I Believe I Can Fly. Numbers with very enjoyable arrangements and really fun choreography from the singers. Who said choral singers can’t dance!
Our country is a proud bearer of chorale music. We are know around the world and how I wish more support could be given, in order to create more choral groups. I remember back in the 90’s, I watched international tenor and Grammy award winner John Aler give masterclasses and he said, “You guys have the most beautiful Mozart sound. You have such musicality and you also have the sweetest tones you would make the most beautiful choral singers.”
As someone sho grew up being part of glee clubs and choirs, I can confidently say that choral singing teaches a very valuable lesson. Learning to harmonize, listen to your partner or companions, and blend. So for those who are aspiring to be singers someday, train with a choir, you might be surprised how much you can learn.
As for the UP Manila Chorale, thank you for taking care of our music. You are one of the best in the world, and truly outstanding musicians.