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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

entry arrow10:20 AM | The Philippine Madrigal Singers in Concert at the Luce Auditorium on March 11

Eyes glaze over slightly, possibly misting, as the audience takes in the resounding vocal tribute. The classic semicircle formation beams at them from the stage as the music flows through each singer, through the cohesive whole, through the very sparks that ignite inside each listener. The scene is not unusual for these dedicated performers; although the venue may—and has been known to—vary, the atmosphere is almost invariably one of fellowship through music.

Whether royal and presidential audiences in various countries, or nigh-forgotten, small-community churches in Italy and across Europe, or the once neglected Quezon City, Philippines town of Payatas, the University of the Philippines Madrigal Singers have played—and continue to play—for all of them. Driven by a mélange of national pride, peerless devotion to the craft and the simple desire to open oneself to the world through music, the Philippines’ premier choral group has built an indelible legacy over the course of the last 42 years.

Founded in 1963 by Philippine National Artist for Music, Professor Andrea O. Veneracion, the UP Madrigal Singers have built up an eclectic repertoire spanning the breadth and length of vocal music—from Renaissance madrigals to avant-garde compositions, from timeless Filipino folk songs to numerous international staples gleaned from their many travels—which has but increased their love for the craft and capacity to ‘pay it forward’ to the local and international musical communities.

Participation—and virtually inevitable victories—in international singing competitions have practically become tradition for the UP Madrigal Singers, starting with a critically-acclaimed performance at the First Choruses of the World Festival in New York City’s well-known Lincoln Center in 1969. The continuous building of their musical legacy then led them across the globe to competitions in Spittal, Austria; Arezzo and Gorizia in Italy; Neuchatel, Switzerland; Debrecen, Hungary; Varna, Bulgaria; Tolosa, Spain and Marktoberdorf, Germany and in Tours, France. More importantly, the Philippine Madrigal Singers is the first choir in the world to win the European Grand Prix twice, having won the prestigious award in 1997 and just recently in August of 2007.

Subscribing to the firm belief that—even while one reaches for the stars—one must keep one’s feet on the ground, the UP Madrigal Singers have maintained a strong presence at home in the Philippines. The ever-prolific Madrigal alumni—over 200 strong—have found their niches as the country’s singers, conductors, arrangers and music educators, always thankful for the opportunity to give back to the musical and national communities.

The UP Madrigal Singers also never miss an opportunity to reach out and share the gift with people from all walks of life, conducting “Lakbay Himig” mini-concerts that take them to far-flung areas and ‘stages’ of town halls and basketball courts. The Madz have also been known to forge ahead and honor their commitments to perform for their countrymen, even in the midst of armed conflict, depending on the region. Concern for their own lives, as has been said, should not be allowed to make those lives hollow by removing their opportunity to share their music.

The many paths traveled by the UP Madrigal Singers have traversed the globe, leading without and within at various points. North America, Europe and Asia have all welcomed our Madrigal Singers with open arms, and the feeling has always been more than certainly mutual. However, this eye-opening experience of truly being part of the global singing community has become but a welcome plus. These storied musicians are also ineluctably drawn to a fierce inner calling that has led to the further immortalization the Filipino name in song and performance, and the unification of so many lives in the pure, honest swirl of beauteous music.

No man can see through time with any degree of certainty. As such, it is no one’s place to assume what successes the future may hold for the UP Madrigal Singers. At this point, however, it remains clear that one can at least predict that they will continue to strive and fight for these successes—be they accolades of governing bodies, the gratitude of a nation soothed by a lullaby, or the lives of the everyday people they perform for. After all, it has always been their recognized God-given duty to share their music—which has been called “the most beautiful sound on Earth.”


A special concert for Foundation University students, faculty, and staff will also be presented on March 10 at 8 PM, at the Sofia Soller Sinco Hall.

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