THE Philippine Madrigal Singers (Madz) will once again represent the Philippines in the European Grand Prix (EGP) for Choral Singing 2017 and its supporters are hoping that the choir will rewrite history and win its third crown when they compete in Tolosa, Spain this November.
Last August 2016, Madz won the Grand Prize victory at the 64th Concorso Polifonico Guido d’Arezzo, beating choirs from France, Slovenia, Iceland, Italy, Sweden, Bulgaria and Ukraine.
The big victory made the Madz eligible to compete against five other champions of Europe’s most prestigious choral competitions: Debrecen (Hungary), Maribor (Slovenia), Tolosa (Spain), Tours (France) and Varna (Bulgaria) for the ultimate prize, the 2017 European Grand Prix for Choral Singing.
Madz is the first choir to win the EGP twice, in 1997 and 2007 and is eyeing a rare and historic third win.
For more than fifty years, the Philippine Madrigal Singers has earned accolades all over the world. It has consistently won all the top prizes in the world’s most prestigious choral competitions Their participation in this year’s competition is truly monumental and a defining event in terms of scope, impact and influence in the world arena of choral and vocal music, a critical opportunity to maintain the Philippines’ reputation as one of the foremost choral nations of the world.
In the meantime, the group has embarked on a concert tour in the United States, as part of their goodwill concert tour, before heading to Europe.
They kicked off their tour with concerts in Walnut Creek, San Francisco and Sunnyvale and Los Angeles, CA. They have also been to McAllen, Brownsville, Austin, Tyler, Dallas and Houston, TX and barnstormed through the midwest visiting the cities of Wonder Lake, IL and Grand Rapid, MI.
On their last leg, they performed in Washington D.C., Burlington, St. Johnsbury, VT and Edison, NJ. And to cap off their U.S. tour, they have concerts in New York in West Babylon, Scarsdale, Queens and Manhattan, before they leave for Europe.
In NYC, Madz will be performing on October 6 as part of the 29th Sacred Music in a Sacred Space concert series, produced by the Church of Saint Ignatius Loyola. They invited The Philippine Madrigal Singers to be part of their featured artists for this concert season.
National Artist for Music Prof. Andrea O. Veneracion, who founded the group in 1963, introduced world-class Filipino choral artistry to the world as the University of the Philippine Madrigal Singers and has since triumphed in prestigious festivals and concerts.
For more than 50 years, The Philippine Madrigal Singers has consistently won over the hearts of its audiences across the globe. They sing in a very distinctive setup – sitting in a semi-circle without a conductor. The group has established their reputation as a pioneering force in choral music and an inspirational role model for other choirs in the Philippines.
We chatted with choirmaster Mark Anthony Carpio and here are the highlights:
Were you always interested in music?
My father, who used to play the clarinet in a marching band in Angat, Bulacan, encouraged my siblings and I to learn, play and practice the piano when I was about 8 years old. From then on, playing the piano has been a part of my life.
How did you start your career as a conductor?
I graduated in UP College of Music with a BM (Bachelor of Music) in Piano. From there, I was introduced to the Philippine Madrigal Singers and aspired to be a member of the elite circle of singers. When I became a member, I would assist other singers’ choirs in their performances and they would eventually have me sub for them when they are unavailable. This lead to forming my first choir, the Claret Boys Choir, a catholic all-boys private school in Quezon City.
What do you miss most about the Philippines when you usually go on tour?
My family, of course, and my friends.
How long is a tour and what has been the longest tour you have done?
A typical tour can last from 2 to 3 months. The longest one to date was in 2011 where we toured the US, Canada and South America for 6 months.
When you were in school, did you imagine that this was the career path you were supposed to go through? If not, what was your dream?
I initially wanted to be a civil engineer just like my father but he was the one who encouraged me to pursue music, which I did. Our agreement was to take any course I wanted after I finished my music degree–but eventually fell in love with it.
Any memorable experiences/incidents you can share?
I was only 33 when our late National Artist and founder, Andrea O. Veneracion, turned over The Philippine Madrigal Singers in 2001. It was a very overwhelming responsibility and challenge, which she has assured that I am capable of fulfilling. I will always be grateful that she was able to nurture and guide me during the transition process and being like the supportive and caring mom that she was.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a conductor?
Singers moving on and new singers coming in are always the biggest challenges for any conductor. Training new singers to the choir’s sensitivities, blend and musicality takes time and for the singers who were still in the choir, the challenge is to make them realize their full potential.
What inspires you?
When I study a new music score and see a great piece of music, I hear and imagine how it sounds in my head. This inspires me to work on it and transform my vision to song.
Any projects on the horizon?
We are already on the last stages of our 2 album recordings on the works of 2 Filipino composers, who are also members of The Philippine Madrigal Singers. I believe that doing a lot of recordings would be part of my legacy as the choirmaster of the Madz and at the same time, share our music with more people who are not able to go to our concerts.
Any frustrations? What is the best thing about being a conductor? The worst thing?
They say “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work another day”–as cliche as it may sound, this is exactly how I feel in leading all of my choirs. Yes, there may be challenges, but not too big you cannot overcome. Also, it is just not the music that makes an organization sustainable but also the administration, professionalism, organization and, of course, the business side of it. I am fortunate to have an amazing admin team so I can focus most of my attention into music and music making.
For tickets to the Sacred Music in a Sacred Space concert series, please visit www.smssconcerts.org or call 212.288.2520. Use the exclusive promo code: MADZNYC for a 30% discount on tickets.
Be sure to catch them in one of their concerts in the New York and New Jersey area. On September 30, 2017 at Our Lady of Grace Church in West Babylon, NY; 7:00 pm; October 1 at Church of St. Pius X in Scarsdale, NY; 5:00 pm; October 5 at St. Aedan’s: The Saint Peter’s University Church in Jersey City, NJ; 7:00 pm and October 7 at Our Lady of Lourdes in Queens Village, NY; 7:30 pm)