Monaco’s charming singers /Zobel-awarded book launch /Thai embassy donates to SSC

SUNDRY STROKES (The Philippine Star) - July 13, 2013 - 12:00am

Founded in 1974, The Little Singers of Monaco gave their first Philippine performance at the FEU auditorium under the sponsorship of Prince Albert. Consul of Monaco Fortune Ledesma welcomed the audience headed by Dr. Lourdes R. Montinola, chair of FEU’s board of trustees. RJ Ledesma, Fortune’s son, who served as emcee, introduced the 28-member choir (one was missing) and Pierre Debat, conductor who assisted the singers on the piano.

Not all of them are “little”: the youngest are ten years old; four or five are 18. The age gap represents voices that have yet to change and voices that have already changed. This did not seem to be a problem to Debat because the voices blended smoothly.

The choir rendered the songs from memory – except four singers who, holding scores were presumably new members – reflecting long, rigid rehearsals. Singing sans scores was remarkable with the program consisting of diverse periods, from baroque to classic, to romantic to contemporary. The performance was likewise remarkable because the choir conveyed the distinctive styles of Bernier, Charpentier, Bach, Mendelssohn, Offenbach, and the moderns – Fauré, Charles Parry, Humperdinck, Philippe Maze and Sally de Ford, the latter three having each a soloist.

The audience had the added convenience of having the names of the composers on a huge screen. As previously noted, the stylistic differences in the songs were clearly delineated, the singers revealing conversance with what they were interpreting. Fauré’s “Les Matelots” (The Sailors) was particularly lively and spirited; what sounded like intermittent, collective hiccups punctuating certain end passages, were amusing.

The folk songs of Monaco had simple melodies. I especially enjoyed the more familiar French songs: The Skies above Paris, Hymn to Love, The Sea, A Man and a Woman (translation supplied), Saint Germain-des-pres and Champs Elysees. After each number, Debat stood up to take a bow amidst hearty applause, graciously pointing to the young singers as he did, by way of giving them credit.

It was a charming and engaging if rather brief recital that introduced “The Little Singers of Monaco” to our music lovers. Martin Lopez, director of the FEU President’s Committee on Culture, gave the closing remarks.

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Doña Georgina Padilla y Zobel has sent out invitations to the launching of Antonio Abad’s “La Oveja de Nathan” (The Sheep of Nathan) to be held on July 16, 6 p.m. at the Ayala Museum. In 1929, the book was awarded the Premio Zobel, the highest Spanish local literary award.

Doña Georgina is the sponsor of the Premio Zobel which was founded by Don Jacobo Zobel in 1923.

All recipients of the Premio Zobel, as well as Filipino hispanistas and Spanish filipinistas are expected to attend the launching of Abad’s book.

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On July 18, 12 noon at the Corazon Aquino Hall of St. Scholastica’s College, the Royal Thai Embassy will donate a set of musical instruments to the SSC which will be represented by Sr. Marv Placid Abejo, OSB, dean of the College of Music.

There will be a program by Thai professional musicians on the occasion. The formal turn-over of the instruments will doubtless enhance and further the cultural ties between Thailand and the Philippines.

There must be a special reason why the Thai Embassy chose as beneficiary St. Scholastica’s College. Its music department was founded way back in 1907, the year Sr. Baptista Battig, OSB, arrived in Manila from Tutzing, Germany.

A pupil of Ludwig Deppe, one of the last students of Liszt, she had a brilliant concert career prior to entering the Benedictine Order when she was already in her thirties.

Sr. Battig gave two concerts in Manila to help fund her music school after which her fame spread like wild fire, attracting pupils to whom, as a true pioneer, she introduced the music of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Chopin and other European composers.

Most of the music schools and conservatories in the country trace their roots, directly or indirectly back to Sr. Battig’s legacy. For instance, I had the privilege of having taken piano lessons, as also music history, music appreciation, theory and composition under three of her graduates.


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