“When living with music becomes natural, music ceases to be considered a luxury. If it forms a part in ordinary life, a child can play the violin in his or her humble home, another in the father’s garage, and many other can participate in recitals and concerts no matter where they live, in a coastal village as well as a community up on the hills. Material poverty is being defeated by the spiritual affluence. There is more to it – the latter can provide the physical condition, the ethical principles and the emotional and intellectual tools necessary when overcoming the former.” - Jose Antonio Abreu, 2001

We were fortunate to witness NVM Gonzalez play the violin during a visit in 1999. We have never been the same since that visit. Our major celebrations have been marked by live music: my 50th birthday, our 25th and 31st wedding anniversaries -- all because I have a resident lutier, my husband, Enrique, who learned to play the violin in his late fifties. At first, his bowing irritated me as it sounded scratchy, but through his persistence and daily practice which lasted for years, he became a decent violin player. When accompanied by a pianist who modulates the piano keys, their combination results in vibrance, in sounds coming alive, filling up my heart.

I felt the same way when Ed Nepomuceno, on the keyboard, accompanied the Harana Men’s Chorus during their practice one evening. He is the musical director of the Harana Men’s Chorus -- a group of singers who will be singing kundimans at a Valentine Serenade Concert entitled “Songs From the Heart.” The concert will benefit the capital campaign of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. The church has inaugurated its capital campaign of $1.9 million to renovate its structures, with 80% of the church members participating and 10% of the funds already collected in its first year. They have five years to fulfill this endowment goal.

I wondered how the Harana Men's Group was connected with Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. Who are some of their members?

Mike Zuniga who sings at Immaculate Heart of Mary Choir, joined this group. He was impressed by their willingness to give their best despite being ‘pagod from work.‘ “He learned the value of kundimans, based on love and commitments from different parts of the Philippines eager to share new Tagalog songs."

Gifted with a sterling voice, he has been the church’s music minister for 16 years. He credits music as turning his life around -- from holding down two jobs and occasional clubbing to a life of friendship and discovery of his heritage and culture, even enterpreneurship. He owns the House of Silvanas’ store located inside Kusina Restaurant in Fountain and Vermont, which was recently featured in the Los Angeles Times. On the day that his store was featured, customers kept coming.

Erwin Andaya has been singing for 20 years. He is a member of the Philippine Madrigal Singers, Singapore Lyric Opera and the Asian Youth Choir in Japan. No wonder he can memorize a song in less than 24 hours and sing it on chord -- either as bass, tenor or baritone. He graduated from the University of Sto. Tomas with a Bachelors degree in Music, major in Voice.

Annie Nepomuceno is the event producer for “Songs from the Heart – A Valentine Serenade Concert" on Feb. 14, 2010. Asian Journal is one of the media sponsors for this event.

Roxanne shared that she had coached professional singers -- from Concert Queens to American Idol finalists. She hardly gets starstruck, and focuses on whipping these famous artists into shape. "Famous or not, singing is their job and every artist's goal is to deliver,” she said.

Ed Nepomuceno is a professional musician, a musical arranger, a vocal coach and a singer. He was Ryan Cayabyab’s assistant for 15 years, and did arrangements for Lea Salonga, Gary Valenciano and Martin Nievera. He has a Bachelors degree in Music from the University of the Philippines and was a member of the Philippine Madrigal Singers for 12 years, San Miguel Master Chorale and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. He is the musical director of the Harana Men’s Chorus and he also arranges the music.
I was privileged to attend one of their rehearsals at a North Hills residence. Ed’s instructions brought out the emotionality and tonal quality of their voices. He was determined to bring out their distinct quality by telling them to "focus on the sound – as it moves forward, as it gets louder." It did not recede and became vibrant.
I was waiting for something positive, and on cue, he said “ Yes, very good! Focus on the chord – that’s here, on the forehead. Do you feel it?," he asked.

I understand now how sound is amplified, how sound does not just come out of a voice box, but sound comes from one’s being, out of one’s heart and spirit. There is a heart aspect, a physicality to it as well, but also a mental acuity to remember the lyrics and notes.

“Siguro yong paa mo, tumibok-tibok," he quipped. I thought he was referring to one’s heart, but he is making one’s feet tap dance, and describes it as a rhythmic beating to make the voices seem like tap dancing.

When the tenor had to reach a high note, he reminded him, “ Walang hininga yan – tuluy-tuloy…Brass then suave, note the contrast, when the music swells." He reminds them that the mark is a catch breath, not a full breath.

Oh my, I thought. There is more to singing than I realize. I was naïve to think that singing simply meant opening one’s mouth and vocalizing chords.

“Tenors are like sopranos, apat na vibrattos. Mayroong sustained voices. Very, very playful. Okay, one more time!," he instructed. Afterwards, with gusto, with a variation in tonal qualities, I was listening to chamber chorale music. I found myself being the only one to applaud, clapping on my own. I felt conscious, but not enough to restrain myself in sharing my compliments.
They were pleased. They should be. They came on time, sat down, and in two hours, went through 11 songs at least three times until they perfected them. At 10pm, they were ready to call it quits. I observed that they were quite polished, despite some of them being amateurs.

A performer once told me that there are three elements to a musical performance: knowing the chords, knowing the instrument and feeling the lyrics. The Harana Men’s Chorus had all three that night. Let us pray that they preserve their voices to be able to perform the same level of excellence that they displayed during the rehearsal.


Post a Comment