Keeping music alive: University choir joins virtual competition

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MANILA – A university choir in Pasig City which finds music as a source of hope took advantage of the international virtual competition to showcase its talent despite the present challenges due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid -19) pandemic.

When the Bandung Choral Society (BCS) in Indonesia announced the holding of the third world virtual choir festival, the University of Asia & Pacific (UA&P) Chorale decided to give the online competition a shot and keep up with the rapid pace of technological change.

Anna Abeleda-Piquero, music director of the UA&P Chorale, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that the 3rd BCS World Virtual Choir Festival has given solace to the members of the university’s choir group amid the pandemic.

“The BCS World Virtual Choir competition was born last year in response to the situation brought about by Covid-19,” Abeleda-Piquero said in an interview with PNA. “When Covid-19 hit, choirs were no longer allowed to travel, hold concerts, compete, or worse, exist at all. BCS gave the opportunity or the platform for choirs to still share the music of their countries even if we still cannot travel through this competition.”

The music industry is one of the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Indonesian-based BCS has launched its third online competition that provides a platform for choir singers to keep them active, creative, and connected amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

UA&P Chorale has participated in the mixed choir category and performed its rendition of “Ang Tren” (The Train) composed by Saunder Choi.

“Ang Tren,” which is based on the literary piece by Jose Corazon de Jesus about Philippine commuters, imitates the sounds of a moving train.

'A chunk of PH history'

Abeleda-Piquero said the UA&P Chorale had picked Choi’s “Ang Tren” because they are confident that they would be able to give a soulful rendition to the music piece.

“We chose ‘Ang Tren’ by Saunder Choi, one of the current genius composers in the Philippines, because my students felt that they can exhibit more creativity with the text and rhythms elements in the piece than the other pieces we were considering,” she said.

Abeleda-Piquero added that the university choir’s chosen piece would give its audience an idea about “a chunk of the Philippine history” since trains in the country have already been operating even before World War II (WWII) from 1939 to 1945.

“It was very Filipino, depicting the pre-WWII days when our railroad was very much alive, thus perfect not only for competition but also sharing at the same time, worldwide, a chunk of Philippine history,” she said.

It was in 1891 when the first colonial train running from Manila to Dagupan in Pangasinan started its commercial operations, according to a history shared by the Philippine National Railways on its official website.

Virtual rehearsals

Since members of UA&P Chorale could not meet to rehearse for the competition, they had no choice but resort to online practice sessions, Abeleda-Piquero said.

“People need to understand that for a lot of singers, the choir is not a hobby. It is a lifestyle, it is a community, it is family. Choristers lamented and struggled to find a way to keep the music alive even if we are not allowed to meet face-to-face,” she said.

Performing in the comforts of home is an additional homework, Abeleda-Piquero admitted, but it paid off since the group was able to produce a “beautiful” music video without defying the strict health and quarantine protocols.

With the help of the audio engineer, the UA&P Chorale singers’ audio tracks were synchronized, Abeleda-Piquero said, adding that the video recordings of each singer were also submitted to a videographer for editing.

“This is the process: the conductor first chooses a piece of music then prepares the audio tracks that the singers can keep listening to and synchronize with during his/her recording. The singers learn the tracks, put them on earphones, then record his or her voice on another gadget,” she said. “We were able to produce the video without meeting face-to-face, thus in strict observance of quarantine and health protocols.”

UA&P Chorale’s “Ang Tren” rendition is so far the most viewed music video with 48,301 views as of this writing.

The music video was uploaded on the official Youtube account of Tommyanto Kandisaputra, chairman of BCS and artistic director of the third virtual choir competition.

UA&P Chorale is competing against five other participants in the mixed category, which include Indonesia’s The Unklab Choir, Umvoice, and Chorus Rusticarum, the United Kingdom’s CÔR CF1, and Poland’s Gdanks University Choir.

Viewers can listen to UA&P Chorale’s “Ang Tren” by visiting this link: https://youtu.be/NKvk4hLDbtA.

Apart from UA&P Chorale, the other university choir representing the Philippines for the folklore category is the Central Luzon State University (CLSU) Maestro Singers from Nueva Ecija performing Bienvenido Constantino Jr.‘s “Manlagsagsak Takon Amin.”

The link to the CLSU Maestro Singers’ music video is https://youtu.be/deAuZzKZx0w.

Stay optimistic

Despite limited movements amid the pandemic, Abeleda-Piquero encouraged her fellow Filipinos to keep a positive mindset and continue honing their skills.

“We are Filipinos. We have been thrown so much challenges such as earthquakes, floods, storms, and droughts in our lifetime, yet we always came up alive and kicking. We are known for our ability to survive and adapt and come up smiling amidst troubles. Why would we let such a tiny, microscopic virus stop us from being who we are? It is just a matter of adapting again,” she said.

Abeleda-Piquero also told aspiring singers to look for ways to “keep the music alive even if we are not allowed to meet face-to-face.”

“We, musicians, are musicians forever. We will always find a way for our music to reach you and we are showing you again that we, Filipinos, have been one of the most excellent musicians all over the world and we still are, even in this pandemic. Find a way to be who you are,” she said. (PNA)

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