“Go big or go home.” These words of encouragement seem to echo in the different battles of our lives. It sounds easy enough, but a lot is at stake, especially for students who go out of the country to compete around the world, not just for the school but also for the country.
That’s what the DLSU Chorale did in 2013, which led to its being one of the Ani ng Dangal for Music awardees for 2014.
Soft, gentle and angelic come to mind as you listen to this group. For four months, some of its members had to push graduation dates, since they had to tour select European countries and America to represent the Philippines in several choir competitions.
If you think this is just another “Glee”-inspired group, remember that a glee club is different from a choir. They both sing musical numbers with choreography, but the difference lies in their song choices. “I think the difference is, ‘Glee’ is more Western and focuses on pop songs. Choir is more on the classical side,” says Erika King, a Psychology student and DLSU Chorale company manager.
From eight European countries and five American cities, the group has garnered a total of 13 awards. In Lithuania, it won the grand prix and three gold medals at the Third Kaunas Cantat International Choir Competition. In the Czech Republic, it was adjudged the “absolute winner” and won another three gold medals at the 41st Mundi Cantat Festival of Songs.
In Greece, it won first prize in both the Adult Chamber Choir category from the 11th International Antonio Vivaldi Choir Competition, and the 19th International Competition of Sacred Music.
For the chorale, everything is about hard work and having passion for the craft. “Depends on the readiness of the group—if I see that it’s ready, we go on tour,” professor Rodolfo “Boy” Delarmante, the group’s conductor, says. “If not, we extend training for another year.”
Ready to win or lose
The group goes on tour every two years, and is a mix of undergraduates and alumni. It is sent abroad not just because the members are good, but because they are ready to win—and lose. “We always want the gold prize, the grand prix, but we’re ready to lose. If we win, thank God,” says Delarmante.
Having been recognized by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the chorale is all the more challenged to top its achievements. “Actually, one of the hardest things is to start all over again,” says Delarmante. “Most members are graduating students and I have to train new ones.”
Add to that the pressure of La Salle’s trimester system, in which the curriculum is fast-paced. This puts the students in hyper-mode.
But it doesn’t deter the chorale members; in fact, the system has even inspired them to excel in academics. “The goal is to sound good; winning is just secondary,” says Justine Cudiamat, a soprano in the group.
Cudiamat is one of the chorale’s diligent students. A Biology major, she goes to choir practice from 6 to 9 p.m., after which she still has to review for her class.
Her passion for singing was ignited in her high school years. “Kasi po nung high school, I was already part of the choir and being handled by Sir Boy,” she says.
But not all days are full of rainbows for the chorale, since its members also go through problems and failures. “The mindset is, ‘every day is a new day.’ Kung napagalitan man ako ngayon, alam ko namang sa susunod na araw, mas maayos na,” Cudiamat says.
King is aware that the chorale’s disadvantage is in its having lesser number of members compared to others. But it doesn’t mean the quality of its sound suffers. “In many ways, if you have less people, you can control the sound because you have less people to correct and adjust,” she says.
The group’s uniqueness lies in sounding like it has a lot of members. The intensity of how it sings the classics is inversely proportional to the number of its members. As they say, quality is better than quantity.