One of the country’s finest and “winningest” choirs, the Philippine Madrigal Singers, turns 50 this year with anniversary concerts at the UP Abelardo Hall on June 27-28.
The hall, named after the country’s foremost composer, Nicanor Abelardo, is also turning 50.
By coincidence, the glorious history of the choir and the composer (and the venue after whom it was named) is linked with the history of music in the Philippines.
The choir was founded by National Artist for Music Andrea O. Veneracion in 1963, the same year the UP Abelardo Hall first opened its door to the public.
The Philippine Madrigal Singers first earned critical acclaim during their performance in the First Choruses of the World Festival at the Lincoln Center in New York in 1969.
They later joined the most distinguished international choral competitions—Spittal, Austria; Arezzo and Gorizia, Italy; Neuchatel, Switzerland; Debrecen, Hungary; Varna, Bulgaria; Tolosa, Spain; and Marktoberdorf in Germany, and winning all the top prizes.
On Aug. 26, 2007, Madz won the Grand Prize in the European Grand Prix in Choral Singing in Arezzo, Italy, making it the first choir in the competition’s history to win it twice.
Veneracion passed on her choirmaster’s task to Madz member Carpio, who led the choir in winning the latest editions of the choral Olympics.
“I never had the ambition of becoming the choirmaster of a group I have admired for a long time,” said Carpio, who took over in 2001. “But I trusted Veneracion’s decision. She had been praying intensely for this when the Madz won in 1997.”
Carpio was overwhelmed when the Madz made history by winning twice, under his leadership.
“Nothing is more enjoyable than to see our hard work pay off. Feeling good about ourselves inspires us to even work harder. As Veneracion always said in the past, competitions are not the end; they are just means for us to see how well we are on track,” Carpio said.
“We worked hard to achieve what we believed was the composer’s desire for each of our pieces. We did a lot of studying and research. But most of all, we did a lot of rehearsals,” he added.
Culture of peace
The group was cited in 2009 by the Unesco as Artists for Peace for “putting fame and influence at the service of Unesco’s ideals and efforts to promote cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and a culture of peace.”
In 2010, the Concorso Polifonico Guido d’ Arezzo Foundation honored the group with the Guidoneum Award for “their artistic and choral-promotion activity.”
In July 2012, the group became the first choir in the world to receive the Brand Laureate Premier Award from the Asia Pacific Brands Foundation, in recognition of its “significant contribution to the world of choral music; producing new compositions and choral settings for Philippine, Asian and international songs; spreading the beauty of this genre; and giving a good musical experience to the audience.”
Carpio said there was no such thing as an ideal sound in any choral competition. The sound that the choir always tries to maintain is a free and relaxed sound but at the same time versatile and flexible.
“I believe there is no ideal or perfect sound for a choir. I have made this conclusion after listening to so many choirs from different countries of different cultures and ages. Each one sounds good but different from each other. There are qualities that are common to choirs. They are homogenous and the different voice parts are well-balanced. This is what conductors find very challenging: how to make the different individual voices blend together. This is difficult but attainable,” Carpio added.
For tickets to the June 27-28 UP Abelardo Hall concerts, call tel. 02-9296963.