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Harana Men’s Chorus: Singing OPMs of the past, present and future

Posted By Prosy Abarquez Delacruz, J.D. On November 21, 2015 @ 1:14 PM In Rhizomes | No Comments

“I LEARNED playing Mozart on the violin for years, that reality got altered for me when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her tears were from the past, her dream of opening her jewelry store, unfulfilled, and how her unique aspirations were limited by standards of performance. That had a dramatic effect on my perception of myself. I had dreams of writing music, that I too can compose classical music, [which has been] an immoveable force of the last 500 years. This is how I see the world now, not just playing notes of the past, but creating sounds of today, for tomorrow, not just accepting past sounds and not accepting the limitations of culture. I learned that anything created by man can also be changed by another. That we have a collective mindset, and from our diversity of experiences we can build from, create together… how we view untouchable creations of the past, [that] we cannot become so entrenched in their genius that we miss the point, that their true product is their mindset, their collaboration to create more.”  – Kai Kight, Tedx Manhattan Beach, Nov. 15, 2014.

Kai Kight is an African-American entrepreneur — tall, slim, handsome — who played his violin with ease and virtuosity at the TEDx (Technology, Entertainment and Design) in Manhattan Beach, California during a forum attended by over 400 folks, with “Game Changers” as its theme.

His views on creativity were as profound and as skillful as his fiddling skills. He did not feel intimidated by Mozart, Beethoven and the classical musicians of the past, believing their compositions, as created by men, can also be modified by another, even if classical music were considered “immoveable forces of the last 500 years.” His entrepreneurial mindset is constantly on the verge of mind breakthroughs and creative innovations to satisfy human needs.

Kai’s mindset reminded me of Mike Zuniga’s. Also tall, slim and jovial, Mike moves with ease and his signature friendliness puts anyone at ease. His networking skills break open boundaries, from the Bulaceños to choral groups, to cantors, and even performing artists in California. No job is too small nor too big for Mike.

Mike coordinates luncheons for key friends and priests, celebrations, weddings, funerals. Aside from his regular full-time job, he also performs with his singing group, called the Harana Men’s Chorus, to raise funds for impoverished children in the “tsinelas” inner cities of Manila.

Harana Men’s Chorus’ New CD and Fall Concert

One fall evening, “Fall in Love with Harana” with Ed Nepomuceno, Harana’s musical director, was enjoyed by an packed audience at the St. Brendan’s Church.

The concert’s music has been put together in a recently launched CD, which showcases the singing capacities of its members. One member had just gone through surgery, yet, in four days, managed to join the rehearsal and later, the concert. He reasoned that singing heals him.

The CD has songs ranging from sacred/contemporary Christian, Filipino, folk and even songs from musicals.

Their sacred contemporary songs are: “Cantate Domino” (Hans Leo Hassler), “Non Nobis Domine” (Rosephayne Powell), “Crucifixus” (Antonio Lotti), “We Are The Reason” (David Meece with new arrangements by Ed Nepomuceno), “Lord Make Me An Instrument” (David Stanley with arrangements by Prof. Emmanuel Laureola) and “Our Father” (Michael Zuñiga with arrangements by Annie Nepomuceno). This genre was well received by the audience when sung inside an old Gothic Church-revival style. It created a solemn feeling of sacredness.

It was followed by “Yes, We Believe” (Victor Wheeler), “Come and Follow Me” (Tom Franzak/David Haas) and “Emmanuel” (Steve Angrisano), sung by the Music Ministry of St. Brendan’s Catholic Church, who were led by their director, Victor Wheeler.

The audience’s delight were marked by catcalls, applauses and bravos upon hearing these Filipino songs: “Hibang Sa Awit” (Ryan Cayabyab) with solos by D.E.M and Joaquin Lobado, Eli Rada and Jo-Honey Romulo; “Ikaw Ang Mahal Ko” (arranged by Ryan Cayabyab); “Bituing Marikit” (Nicanor Abelardo, arranged by Robert Delgado); Neneng (R. De Leon, arranged by Ed Nepomuceno) and Apo Medley: “Ewan” (Rowena Arrieta and Louie Ocampo), “Pumapatak” (Danny Javier) and “Mahirap Magmahal” and “Panalangin” (Jim Paredes) and “Ikaw Lamang” (Dodjie Simon, arranged by Annie Nepomuceno).

Hearing the Tagalog language in musical lyrics transports one to his or her land of birth and  brings one home.

After the intermission, clad in vibrant, well designed barongs by Burog’s Barong, the Harana Men’s Chorus got the crowd wild with joy with these pop and folk songs: “With  A Song In My Heart” (R Rodgers & L Hart, arranged by Ed Nepomuceno); “A Red Red Rose” (based on the poem written by Robert Burns, Music by Eric Barnum), “Shenandoah” (Arranged by Jack Schrader), “And So It Goes” (Billy Joel and arranged by Kirby Shaw); “Happy Together” (Bonner and Gordon, arranged by Ed Lojeski) and soloists were Joaquin Labado and Erwin Andaya; Nella Fantasia (Ennio Morricone and lyrics by Chiara Ferraù.

The trio, Dennis Jardiel, Don Sagarbarria and Erwin Andaya. also deserves a special mention for their Jersey Boys Medley (“Franki Vallie” and “The Four Seasons”) which brought the house down. It was a fitting finale as the trio gave their all to perform and truly represent the Harana Men’s Chorus at its best!

“Fall in Love with Harana Men’s Chorus,” the CD and the group, live up to the title.

And as Kai Kight said, expect this group to keep on collaborating, as their mindset is about harmony in making music together. Under the baton of Ed Nepomuceno, and his brilliant arrangements, with his wife, Annie, another brilliant arranger of music, and a good soloist and concert producer, there is no limit to the evolution of musical abilities of this group.

But for  this writer, that evening’s favorite was Don Sagarbarria, who sang his ode with such heartfelt feelings of love.

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