As part of the Madrigals' 50th year celebration, they treated Filipino choristers to an experience of a lifetime.
"2 For The Gold" was a 2-day event featuring 2 great artists: 2-time European Grand Prix winner (for non-choristers: that's like the ultimate worldwide choral competition) the Philippine Madrigal Singers, and the world famous Swingle Singers from the UK, who are also celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. Aside from the 2-day concert, there was an option to attend their Workshop and Masterclass.
A few chorister friends and I attended last Saturday's workshop. I thought it would be a typical lecture-based or lecture-heavy workshop with the Swingles doing most of the work and singing or demonstrating vocal techniques. Instead, the entire workshop required our active participation - wtih the Swingles themselves! We got to sing with them and exercise our improvisation skills. Fun!!
Two brave vocal groups nervously performed and allowed themselves to be critiqued by the Swingles, who gave very interesting and helpful tips to improve on performance.
At the end of the workshop, we got a chance to have our photos taken with them, and we each got a certificate of participation signed by each member of the Swingle Singers. What a treat!
And then I watched yesterday's concert. It felt like a choral community reunion at the CCP lobby. Some of my choirmates from both the Ateneo Chamber Singers and Mass Appeal were there. Members of the Philippine Choral Directors Association were present. Pop vocal group The CompanY was there, too. As well as choristers who came all the way from different provinces.
Part 1 of the concert was by the Madz, and they were in tip-top form. Wonderful sound, great choice of songs including a classy and fresh rendition of their famous "Italian Salad" (which could be challenging to pull off in front of an audience that has seen the song performed many times - but they did a great job).
Madz Conductor Mark Carpio closed their set with a wonderful short spiel about how the Madrigals' semi-circle was a circle completed by the audience, from which they continue to draw strength and inspiration. And how they - like the rest of us - draw inspiration from great artists, including that night's main feature. They sang "Circle of Life" to close Part 1 (which gave me goosebumps - in a good way! I loved how they were able to give the song an African flavor and sound, and I was impressed by their bass soloist (who made me think of Mufasa!). After that, the choir, instead of exiting to the wings, came down from the stage to be part of the audience - to be one of us, and one with us, in what was to be an unforgettable musical experience.
Obviously we all knew that the Swingle Singers were excellent and highly skilled performers. But even that knowledge and that already high expectation did not prepare us for what we witnessed. Every single song - and I am not exaggerating - had me shaking my head in disbelief at the level of skill and artistry this group showed. There were no fancy stage effects, no special lighting, no instruments. Just 7 people singing a capella.
My choirmate Roger Sigwa could not have put it better when he posted this status on Facebook late last night: "Still on musical high after watching an amazing and fantastic concert! This batch has 4 alternating vocal percussionists, 2 alternating basses, 2 sky-is-the-limit sopranos and impeccable sound engineer. Best music experience of CCP so far!"
I don't remember ever watching a concert before where there was not a single song that felt like a filler. Watching several concerts through the years, even those by my favorite artists, there would always be highs and lows in terms of energy from the artist or my own preference for the songs being performed. With the Swingles, EACH song had its own magic and had something new to offer us. Each song would highlight a different strength, put us in a different mood, entertain us in a different way.
They made us laugh and they made us cry. They brought the house down with their version of "Single Ladies" - oh, the memory of their 2 tenors Oliver and CJ doing Beyonce's moves! I think we're scarred for life! LOL!! What great entertainers! And their rendition of Debussy's Clair De Lune was so beautiful it brought tears to the audience's eyes. Maybe choristers are weepy, emotional people. Or maybe it was simply because we know beauty when we hear it.
Another emotional point for us was their final song. After the group said their thank you's to the Madz and making sure we all knew that their trip to the Philippines was the best tour they EVER had, they told us that their final song was arranged by one of Madz members. The moment soprano Sara sang "Ili-ili tulog anay..." the entire audience went "Awww...." I got teary-eyed because I felt it was such a thoughtful gesture on their part to sing a Filipino song, and for them to put their heart and soul into it. They sang it so well it sounded like they had been singing this song forever. I thought about the friendship ties the Swingles had most certainly built with the Madz, who had hosted them for an entire week, taken them to Subic, fed them, entertained them, sang with them. And these thoughts must have run through Sara's head, too, because towards the end of the song she got all choked up and fought back tears while trying to sing her last few lines. That was it. There was not a dry eye in the house after that.
After the show, the audience flocked to the Swingles table to have their CDs signed and photos taken. This was also bonding time with fellow choristers and we all pretty much felt the same way. My good friend Moy Ortiz of The CompanY took the words right out of my mouth when he said "I feel so inadequate!" Many of us were saying the same thing as we left our seats. We were like, "oh so THAT'S what singing is supposed to be!" and "Nakakahiya ang mga pinag-gagagawa nating pagkanta!" Of course, more than this feeling of smallness, we all felt inspired to strive to be better artists. Mark Carpio had said it in his spiel. This was one group we would really draw inspiration from.
This was one concert where the adrenalin I had after watching the show matched my adrenalin level during our own performances! Ibang klase talaga. "Hindi ko kinaya!" - 'ika nga ni Moy and we were laughing our heads off because it was true - this concert was something else and something that will take some time for us to get over, even though we were mere members of the audience. I can't imagine the kind of high this experience has been for the Madrigals!
Congratulations, Madz! What a successful project to celebrate your 50 years! Thank you for giving us this once-in-a-lifetime inspiring experience, and for also giving the Swingles what was surely a memorable experience for them as well. We can only hope they'll come back soon so we can experience their music again.
My name is Trina Belamide and I'm a songwriter and record producer.
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