by Annie Nepomuceno
photos by Rick Gavino
‘Love of Country’, a project of PH Department of Tourism and Asian Journal Group launched with Undersecretary Kat de Castro as special guest
After a six-year absence in the Los Angeles concert scene, the award-winning Philippine Madrigal Singers, or the “Madz” for short, received thunderous applause from an enthusiastic audience at the Plaza del Sol Performance Hall at CSU-Northridge. It was a full house of adoring fans, and the hall filled with the phenomenal, refined and impressive voices by the choir, led by Mark Anthony Carpio.
The Madz gave three encores, with the crowd clamoring for more of the repertoire which included competition pieces in the first half, many of which are written by Madz in-house composers. The lighter side in the second half proved the versatility of the famed choir where John Legend’s “All of Me”, and Jimmy Borja’s “Bukas Na Lang Kita Mamahalin” instantly became crowd favorites.
The Madz often spring surprises to its audience, and very well did so with the most applauded songs: Ryan Cayabyab’s “Da Coconut Nut” and the finale, Whitney Houston’s “Queen of the Night.” As if their honed voices were not enough to impress, explosive stage presence and unexpected dance moves by the soloists surely wowed the audience.
Songs from various regions of the Philippines are a requisite part of the program, and the Madz has been the source of choral adaptations of such all over the world. Showing the diverse cultures were “Osi-Osi” and “Mamayug Akun” from Maguindanao, “Ili-Ili Tulog Anay” and the tagalog collection of playsongs “Tuksuhan”.
A sight to behold — the women in elegant gowns in multiple colors and the men dashing in their barongs — the group filed into its iconic seated semi-circle position. This unique arrangement is borne of the group’s origin, when in 1963, founder Prof. Andrea O. Veneracion and other illustrious names in the U.P. College of Music, pulled Renaissance Madrigals from the 1500s from the library. Centuries ago, singing Madrigals was the main form of entertainment, when folks gathered around a table and sang music themselves.
In attendance were officials from the Department of Tourism, Undersecretary Katherine De Castro and Tourism Director Richmond Jimenez, who encouraged the audience to travel more and experience the riches of the Philippines, which aside from picturesque destinations, includes a wealth of cultural and artistic activity, as that provided by the Madz, a resident artist of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and a UNESCO Artist For Peace.
Launched at the concert was the “Love Of Country” campaign, in partnership with the Asian Journal with CEO Roger Oriel and Editor Christina Oriel in attendance. Balikbayan Magazine Editor-in-Chief Raphael John Oriel, head of the project, presented the new website Loveofcountry.ph, a platform for global Filipinos to explore travel, invest, and create jobs in the Philippines.
The Madz, being a standard bearer and cultural ambassador for the Philippines, has been bringing not only pride to the country because of its unfettered winning streaks, but also international choirs and personalities in the choral music world. The Madz have brought into the Philippines the famed The King’s Singers and The Swingle Singers in sold out joint concerts in Manila, and will soon launch the Asia Grand Prix for Choral Singing Competition.
Original works from three composer/arrangers from the ranks of the Madz were presented that evening of August 19: “My Life In You” and “Tenderly” by Fr. Arnold Zamora, former assistant to Ryan Cayabyab and now ordained priest in San Francisco, “Lux Aeterna” and “Magnifikat” by Ily Matthew Maniano, currently a male alto in this travelling batch, and “Agnus Dei” and “Kaisa-Isa Niyan” by Nilo Alcala, whose works have been performed at the prestigious Disney Hall by the Los Angeles Master Chorale.
Alcala is one of the numerous Madz Alumni based in Los Angeles, who also count prominent classical singers Sal Malaki of the LA Opera, Kit Navarro of the Pacific Chorale (OC), Ed Nepomuceno of the Harana Men’s Chorus, Sheen Sanchez of LAYA Children’s choir, and Annie Nepomuceno, performer/producer who managed production and touring of the Madz Southern California stop.
The concert is produced by the Philippine Patrons of the Arts USA, who has been responsible for bringing and hosting the Madz since the late 1980s. Founders Dante and Ellen Honorico have long been supporting exemplary Filipino artists deserving of the stage, and the best cultural representatives.
The staff of the Valley Performing Arts Center was equally impressed, as most US organizations have not been fully acquainted with Filipino artists. They do recognize the need to serve our increasing demographic of Filipino-Americans, and our support for excellent artists is what they need to see. Instrumental to this is the media support of sponsors Asian Journal and TFC The Filipino Channel.
With the Madz unprecedented third qualification for the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing, and being the first in the world to win twice, the Filipino has further cemented its capacity for artistic excellence in Los Angeles. The Madz continue on for the next five months touring the US before heading to Europe for the competition. For tour information, visit www.musicartsevents.com.