Since the early 1980s, the Andres Bonifacio Concert Choir (ABCC) has been regaling audiences with their highly selective repertoire consisting mostly of patriotic anthems, religious hymns, time-honored compositions, love songs, Visayan haranas, regional folk songs and—once the season sets in—Christmas carols plaintive as well as festive.
The choir is led by composer Jerry A. Dadap, who has just turned 76.
If the sole criterion for being named National Artist is a body of works, Dadap should have been one a long time ago. The problem is, he is just not charming enough for the board members of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
After all, he has his own set of ways which some may not agree with. As one admirer said: “He should be a National Artist by now, except that he has no PR.”
Dadap’s major works include an opera about San Lorenzo Ruiz; the landmark musical “Andres Bonifacio: Ang Dakilang Anak-Pawis;” “Ama Namin” (hailed by one pastor as the most beautiful “Our Father” he had heard, after which he promptly went to heaven); the heart-stopping “Aleluya;” the oratorio “The Resurrection-Redemption Story;” the showpiece choral work “Alay sa Inang Bayan;” and the formidable Choral Cycles 1-3.
The last are complex, polyphonic arrangements of Visayan and Tagalog folk songs which pose a challenge to choristers. And, like all Dadap arrangements and compositions, they require seven voice ranges: first and second tenors, first and second sopranos, altos, baritones and basses.
There are also three great songs—San Pedro’s “Sa Ugoy ng Duyan,” De Leon’s “Payapang Daigdig” and Dandan’s “Pasko Na Sinta Ko”—which when arranged by Dadap became even more achingly beautiful.
ABCC members are mostly young, although there are a few golden oldies like me. Many fine singers have come and gone, for one good reason or another. But some, when they are in town or back from abroad, renew ties with their old choirmaster.
The best known of the alumni is Lani Misalucha (neé Bayot), whom Dadap discovered when she was 13.
“Ang tamad-tamad [so lazy],” he recalled. “She was always sleeping.”
But when she sang—wow. And she went on to become a big star at Las Vegas, USA. Being a fellow Visayan, Lani calls her mentor UnCol Jerry.
Other outstanding alumni of the choir include noted operatic baritone Andrew Fernando (based in New York); May Bayot (PhilStage Awardee and star of the musical play “Himalá”); Neonita Bona (screen star of the 1950s, once groomed by Doc Perez to succeed Gloria Romero); media personality Angelique Lazo; tenor Ernesto Binondo (later president of a German opera company); and baritone Bert Robledo (of dzFE’s Bravo Filipino).
True to tradition, ABCC will stage a concert on Nov. 30, Bonifacio Day, at Philamlife Theater, UN Avenue, Manila (7:30 p.m.), and will link up with the Wesleyan College of Manila Choir, headed by Jeffrey Perida, himself a tenor soloist of ABCC.
The college is named after John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church. Its founding president is Bishop Emerito P. Nacpil; current president is Florita V. Miranda.
Wesleyan College is planning to open a music center named after Dadap and, to celebrate the event, is planning to publish the complete works of the composer.