UP Concert Chorus marks ‘50’ with a concert
Dot Ramos Balasbas-Gancayco (The Philippine Star) - December 14, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines -  On Dec. 21, music lovers from all over the Philippines and other parts of the world will flock to the UP Theater in Diliman. At 7 p.m., a musical milestone will take place: The Gala Concert of the UP Concert Chorus (UPCC/Korus) in celebration of its 50th anniversary. Titled SingKwenta, SingKwela, it will feature UPCC batches from the 1960s to the current batch.

 The Korus was founded 50 years ago. Originally called the UP Mixed Concert Chorus, it became the official University choir under then UP president, Gen. Carlos P. Romulo. The first conductor was Ramon Tapales who was assisted by Johnny Ramos, then Ramon Santos (all former deans of the UP College of Music). Tapales later passed the baton to Flora Zarco-Rivera (who later founded the UP Cherubim and Seraphim). It was while under the tutelage of dean Rey Paguio, who handled the group for 30 years, that the UPCC became a singing and dancing group (decades before Glee popularized the genre) and made its name as an award-winning and world-class choir.

 I joined UPCC when I was 18, then a third year college student at UP. I was a high school glee club soloist and a voice scholar of professor Aurelio Estanislao, but it was not a breeze for me; and just like any one determined to be a part of this elite group, I had to undergo rigid singing auditions (and the more difficult psychological and mental “hazing” from the very intimidating old members, hahaha!). By the time that I joined, UPCC products like Evelyn Mandac, Chinggoy Alonso, Edru Abraham, Frankie Aseniero, Elmo Makil, Raul Sunico, Boy Camara, Heber Bartolome, Joel Navarro, John Lesaca and Ryan Cayabyab were already stellar names in the music industry.

A few months later, my brother Fortune and I were fortunate to have been among the few chosen to join the third International Tour, and I was assigned to be the roommate of Nanette Inventor, then already a recording artist and popular singer. UPCC had the biggest impact on my life because of this opportunity to travel the world at a very young age. Later, even as a law student at the UP College of Law, I spent glorious afternoons rehearsing with my fellow UPCC members instead of burrowing into thick law books in the library like my classmates. Even after I became a lawyer and a professional singer, I was never able to get UPCC out of my system. Sir Paguio became a second father figure to me and my UPCC friends. Hence, Zebedee Zuñiga, Sushi Reyes, Manolo Tanquilut and I formed the Opera band while other batchmates formed the first Philippine all-male a cappella group, The TUX. Batchmates Nolyn Cabahug (Aliw Awards’ Best Male Classical Performer) and his sister Lisa became prominent in classical music.

Even as we moved on to other pursuits, Sir Paguio continued discovering and honing would-be stars. In the ’90s, Jonathan Badon (Aliw Awards Best Male Classical Performer), Cynthia Culig-Guico (Aliw Awards Best Actress in a Musicale) and husband Lionel Guico, Kay Balajadia-Ligayyu (who just appeared in the Laurice Guillen-directed Carmen in October) as well as singing sweethearts Raymond and Jeannelle Bihag-Roldan had stage and concert appearances. UPCC alumnae Leila Florentino-Aubert, Angel Suguitan and Mia Ongkiko played the role of Kim in various productions of Miss Saigon.

 After I left, UPCC later produced Arnell Ignacio, flutist Tony Maige, Moy Ortiz (of The CompanY) and Kaitsch Tiuseco of the Ryan Cayabyab Singers.

Now the current members of the Korus, dubbed the Golden Batch, under the baton of Prof. Jai Sabas-Aracama, has made the alumni very proud by garnering several top awards in recent festivals in Spain and Hungary. Just a few days ago, UPCC capped its successes when the Aliw Foundation gave it a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Together with the alumni, the present members will be performing at the very exciting last portion of the Gala Concert under the baton of UPCC alums Prof. Kitchie Valdellon-Molina (Voice Department chairman, UP College of Music), Ed Manguiat (founder and artistic director of another award-winning choir, the UP Singing Ambassadors), and former conductor, Dr. Ramon Santos. Prof. Agot Espino of the Piano Department of the UP College of Music and Jesper Mercado will provide piano accompaniment. Ambassador Vic Lecaros will provide guitar accompaniment, while music director Jun Latonio for the arrangement of the Batch ’80s medley. Batch ’60s and ’70s will sing May Bukas Pa composed by UPCC alumna, Charo Unite. Jonathan Badon will sing the solo for Pasko Na Sinta Ko, with lyrics written by Prof. Aurelio Estanislao for UPCC alumni, Fredo Gutierrez and Melba Solidum.

 The gala concert will be directed by Dulaang UP’s Alexander Cortez, and will feature videos created by Raul Castro (UPCC alumnus, now McCann World group Philippines chairman and CEO).

After all the years since I was a UPCC member, I look back with much gratitude for the priceless experience of those years. It’s not a coincidence that I became known as the “singing lawyer,” and am now the chair of the 50th anniversary celebration. It’s my way of paying back, and paying forward to the future Korus generations.

(For details, call 922-8632, 921-5121, or 0917-6267571. E-mail author at dotgancayco@ymail.com or text 0927-5000833.)

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