Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The CCP becomes a Center for Choral Performance

Philippine Madrigal Singers

CCP VP and Artistic Director Chris B. 
Millado and Madz choirmaster 
Mark Anthony Carpio
This year, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) aims to add more feathers into its cap, becoming a Center for Choral Performance by offering an exciting variety of choral music concerts and workshops for choirs and choral conductors as well as an international choral festival, under its choral music program.  

In a press conference held at the CCP’s Main Theater, members of the press met, face-to-face, with members of the Philippine Madrigal Singers (affectionately called the Madz), the first choir in the world to win the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing twice (in 1997 and in 2007). Founded in 1963 by the late Prof. Andrea O. Veneracion, 1999 National Artist for Music, it is mostly composed of students, faculty and alumni from the University of the Philippines.  

Since its founding, it has given command performances for royalty and heads of state, won numerous choral competitions and more than 200 choral and vocal pedagogues have joined the choir, many of whom are sought-after as singers, music educators, and organizers and conductors of choirs. Though they perform a variety of styles and forms, they specialize in the madrigal, a popular polyphonic and challenging, Renaissance Period musical style where, during a banquet, singers and guests would gather around the table to sight-sing and, together, make music.  
Their influence of the on the Philippine and Asian choral scene has been far-reaching. Since 1981, singers of the Madz have worked with choirs from all walks of life with the  organization of the Madz Et Al, a network of almost 60 choirs, to date, from all over the country, who gather regularly for festivals and workshops, thus contributing to the now very active choral life in the Philippines. 

Mr. Mark Anthony Carpio, the second and current Madz musical director and conductor, outlined for us the choral music events that are lined up for this year and the next year.  From April 1 to 6, a festival of choir performances, in celebration of the 30th year of the Madz, will be held.  Called the Madz et al. Choral Festival, it will feature more than 50 choirs, seven choirs every concert night of the festival, under the helm of Madz’ alumni conductors.  A two-day concert of the Philippine Madrigal Singers, on June 28 and 29, will close its 50th anniversary year celebration. It will also feature the Sing Philippines Choir, composed of selected choral singers from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. 
From October 21 to 25, the annual CCP Hands-on Choral Workshop, which started in2000, will be held.  This highly regarded, intensive training program on choral singing, conducting and performance has produced winners in local and international choral competitions.  It will gather choirs and conductors from different parts of the country, and will culminate, on the last day, with a choral performance at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo.  From July 21 to 25, 2015, the 2nd Andrea O. Veneracion International Choral Festival will open its doors to choirs, from different parts of the world, who will compete in three choir categories: Folk, Vocal Ensemble and Chamber Choir. 
The Madz performing with other choirs 
During the presscon, we were also treated to two of Madz’ signature songs: Mas Vale Trojar (Spanish for “better to suffer pain than to live without love”) and One Voice (initiated by choir member Bianca Lopez).  Selected members from Coro de San Sebastian and PVAO Chorale, both under choirmaster Ms. Maria Victoria H. Llamas; Kilyawan Male Choir (also under choirmaster Mark Anthony Carpio); Philippine Vocal Ensemble (under musical director Jose Emmanuel “Joel” D. Aquino), University of Makati Chorale (under Mr. Robert Delgado), and DLSU Dasmarinas Chorale and Minstrels of La Salle, both under Mr. Vell Luis Litan, also performed together. 

For details, contact the CCP Artist Training Division at 832-1125 loc. 1604.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Concert Review: Abbamania


(Excerpt from my article featured in

I am a late bloomer when it comes to being a fan of the legendary Swedish pop group ABBA but I am a big fan nonetheless.  The group, composed of Agnetha Faltskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, was formed by in 1972 and broke into big time after winning, in 1974, the Grand Prix at the Eurovision Song Festival with the song Waterloo. More hits followed until the group broke up in 1982.  Their songs have remained popular and the timeless appeal of the music of this much-loved foursome was further immortalized in the successful stage musical Mamma Mia!.  Later, it was adapted to screen, starring a singing Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan, no less.  
Lead singers Sharon Fehlberg
and Ewa Scott
Along comes Abbamania, the acclaimed ABBA tribute group from Europe, the closest thing to a true ABBA experience in concert.  It was with great anticipation that my wife Grace, another ABBA fan, and I attended our first Abbamania concert, held at the Plenary Hall of the Philippine International Convention Center at the CCP Complex in Pasay City. 
Abbamania has performed in sold out concerts in Denmark, England, Portugal, Scotland, Belgium,  France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Russia, Germany, South America  and as well as the Philippines. 

Fresh from their concert held the day before at Solaire Resort & Casino, Abbamania, formed in 1998 in the United Kingdom (UK), is recognized as one of the most authentic ABBA tribute bands in the world.   
Its current lineup is composed of Ewa Scott (as Agnetta), a classically trained vocalist from Poland; Sharon Fehlberg (as Anni-Frid) an actress, accomplished singer and songwriter from the UK (she joined Abbamania in 2012); the multi-instrumentalist and musical virtuoso Steven Galert (as Benny), the musical director of Abbamania; and Adam Robertson (as Bjorn), another widely successful multi-instrumentalist from the UK. All hold either a degree or master’s degree in music and were drawn together by their mutual love of ABBA’s music.  All four were backed up by Gareth Whitehead (guitarist) from UK; and Bryan Smith (guitarist) and Lee Brady (drummer), both from Scotland, plus two unnamed female background vocalists.  All (except Ewa who performed with Abbamania in the country last April 2013) are first time performers in the country. 
Guitarist Adam Robertson joins the lead singers
The one and a half hour, 20-song concert was pure ABBA nostalgia, with lavish and glittery 1970s spangled costumes and boots, party-like atmosphere  and close-to-perfect ABBA-style showmanship and dance routines.  

The very enthusiastic audience, mostly composed of people in their 50s and 60s, was singing, clapping and waving their arms, with abandon-free gusto, to songs like WaterlooHoney HoneyChiquititaThe Name of the Game, the raunchy Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)Thank You For The Music, the romantic FernandoKnowing Me Knowing You  Voulez VousSuper Trouper, the haunting The Winner Takes It All and Mamma Mia!.  
The group performed I Have A Dream with the opening act OB Montessori Choir while Steven Galert (Does Your Mother Know), Ewa Scott (Money, Money, Money) and Sharon Fehlberg (Take A Chance On Me) did some solo numbers.   The crowd also leapt to their feet and even danced in the aisles to Dancing Queen and S.O.S..  Their encore featured a medley of eight of the aforementioned songs.  Too bad they didn’t perform Our Last Summer, one of my favorite ABBA songs.  
With the OB Montessori Choir

Abbamania was so good that, even if you close your eyes, you wouldn’t have thought they weren’t ABBA. This is as true to an ABBA concert as you will ever get. True credit must be given to the performers as they revived, in a respectful and enjoyable way, special memories of when ABBA ruled the airwaves in the 1970s. They’re “the-next-best-thing-to-watching-the real-Abba-perform-together-again.”