A Choir for All Seasons

 The Philippine Madrigal Singers during their victory at Guido d'Arezzo International Competition on Aug. 28, 2016. (Photo by Odette Galura)

The Philippine Madrigal Singers during their victory at Guido d'Arezzo International Competition on Aug. 28, 2016. (Photo by Odette Galura)

The Philippine Madrigal Singers will once again embark on their world tour as ambassadors of peace. The award-winning group, popularly known as “MADZ” will kickstart its six-month US/European tour in San Francisco with a “Voices of Peace” concert at Holy Name of Jesus Church. Their first stop is special as it is home to Rev. Fr. Arnold E. Zamora, a former MADZ singer and resident choral arranger, who will be hosting them on the Bay Area leg.

The singers will arrive on the heels of the annual choral competition Andrea O. Veneracion International Choral Festival Manila 2017 held July 20-23 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines with choirs from different parts of the world and around the Philippines competing for the honors in Folksong, Chamber and Vocal Ensemble Categories. The festival is named after the founder of the world renowned Philippine Madrigal Singers, the late National Artist for Music Professor Andrea O. Veneracion, an esteemed choirmaster and choral clinician who was instrumental in the promotion of choral music all over the country.

Singing Madrigal Style

The MADZ is composed of students, faculty and alumni mostly from the University of the Philippines (UP), and is a resident company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), the premier institution promoting Filipino arts and cultural experiences.

Led by choirmaster Mark Anthony Carpio, successor to Prof. Veneracion, the corps of composers and choral arrangers of the Philippine Madrigal Singers continues to produce new compositions and choral settings of Philippine, Asian and international songs, thus contributing to the growth of world choral literature.

  Mark Anthony A. Carpio, Choirmaster of the Philippine Madrigal Singers.

Mark Anthony A. Carpio, Choirmaster of the Philippine Madrigal Singers.

The UP Madrigal Singers also maintain an active outreach and concert tour schedule, performing in far-flung areas of the Philippines seldom reached by choral artists. With an average of two overseas concert tours a year, the UP Madrigal Singers is the country’s most active ambassadors of goodwill and also one of the world’s most-traveled choirs.

The ensemble performs a wide repertoire of various styles and forms, from Renaissance to classical music, Filipino and international folksongs, contemporary and avant-garde music, opera and even popular music. Its specialization and focus on the madrigal idiom have inspired their unique set-up of singing while seated in a semi-circle, without a conductor.

MADZ Ensemble

We are now expecting a new breed of MADZ singers on this tour. The group brings in a few singers from other universities, although the majority of the choir are still from the UP College of Music, according to Odette Galura, MADZ press relations officer.

“Most of the current singers have been actively singing with the group for two years and more. We have only one new singer for this tour,” said Galura. “We also have a singer who has been with the group the longest, John Christian Jose, who has been with MADZ since December 2006.”

Galura herself sang with MADZ from 1998 to 2004, although she is not an alumnus of UP. Galura, who holds a business degree and is a thesis-short of a master’s degree in English Language Teaching, taught primary grades for 13 years.

“I got involved with the MADZ after college, when the musical director of our choir (also a former singer) encouraged me to train with the group in January 1998. I have stopped singing with the group but stayed on to help with press relations,” she continued.

One of the choral group’s most distinguished members, Fr. Arnold Zamora, joined MADZ in 1990 while he pursued music in UP after being ordained as a priest. He traveled worldwide on musical concert tours as singer, composer and resident arranger, before settling in the San Francisco Bay Area. Fr. Zamora continues to mentor, compose and arrange for the group as well as promote its message of music wherever he is. Some of his music will be performed by MADZ during its concert tour. (Check out a recording of his song “My Life in You” featuring the Philippine Madrigal Singers.)

  Philippine Madrigal Singers (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Madrigal Singers)

Philippine Madrigal Singers (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Madrigal Singers)

New Directions

When Choirmaster Mark Carpio succeeded Prof. Veneracion, his direction not only garnered many award-winning performances for the MADZ, but he also took on a higher note with his vision to provide others a way to explore music by opening a school not only to teach music, but also to show the mechanics of staging musical productions.

The influence of the UP Madrigal Singers on the Philippine and Asian choral scene has also been far-reaching. Since 1963, more than 200 singers have joined the choir, many of whom are now choral and vocal pedagogues actively involved in organizing and conducting choirs. This eventually led to the organization of the MADZ Et Al, a network of choirs that gathers regularly for festivals and workshops. To date, the network has a membership of almost 60 choirs from all over the country. This contributes to the now very active choral life in the Philippines.

In the MADZ campaign and pursuit to help nurture and develop conductors and choral singers around the Philippines, it has also been launching special choral development programs and events.

  Former US President Barack Obama in Malacañan Palace greeting the MADZ post-performance during his last visit to the Philippines in 2014 (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Madrigal Singers)

Former US President Barack Obama in Malacañan Palace greeting the MADZ post-performance during his last visit to the Philippines in 2014 (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Madrigal Singers)

In Eastwood City, it has the MADZ Music Studio where individual and group lessons for voice or musical instruments, choral compositions and putting together a recital are open to the public.

MADZ partnering with the Cultural Center of the Philippines has also been beneficial in holding “hands on” choral workshops and staging concerts and recitals. MADZ events at the CCP usually sell out.

Producing choral festivals, concerts, CD recordings and performances in all kinds of venues (churches, malls, schools, prison halls, outdoor plazas, etc. in large cities or remote towns) throughout the Philippines are also part and parcel of being a MADZ singer. There is rarely a slow day in the life of a MADZ singer. There is only the purpose of using music to bring joy and social consciousness.

  Singing for inmates at the Iwahig Prison and Penal farm in Palawan. (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Madrigal Singers)

Singing for inmates at the Iwahig Prison and Penal farm in Palawan. (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Madrigal Singers)

And, of course, the rigorous discipline of rehearsals and long distance travel hopefully would bring home a third European Grand Prix when MADZ competes with the world’s best choirs on November 1, 2017 in Tolosa, Spain. But the Olympics of choral music is not just about bringing home the gold. It is also about delivering the message of peace, love for humanity and celebration of life through song.

In Fr. Zamora’s words, “As we go through these challenging times when everything that means something to us, including our faith and political rights, are at risk, it is a blessing to have something to celebrate about. MADZ brings to us its message of love and hope that only the universal language of music can express. As UNESCO Artist for Peace, MADZ represents advocacy for UNESCO ideals, which include peace, security, fundamental human rights and freedom … the very things we need to protect – and celebrate – in these troubled times.”

The Philippine Madrigal Singers will be performing on Aug. 12, 2017 @ 7:30 pm in Holy Name of Jesus Church, San Francisco. For tickets or information, call Holy Name Pastoral Center at (415) 664-8590.


 Manzel Delacruz

Manzel Delacruz

Manzel Delacruz is a freelance writer living in San Francisco.


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