Madrigals sing in Gingoog
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - November 19, 2019 - 12:00am

It would have been a grand tourism and cultural boost for Gingoog had the Philippine Madrigal Singers been invited to perform at the city gym. The famous choral group had been singing in many of the country’s locations as well as in the United States, Russia, Europe and Asia. It holds the distinction of being the first choir in the world to win the formidable European Grand Prix for choral singing twice.

Luckily,  some of Gingoog City’s music lovers, matrons, businessmen and professionals were invited to lunch at the home of Edgard and Joji Balsamo last Monday to meet and listen to the singers before they drove off for performances in Bayugan City and  San Francisco municipality, both in Agusan del Sur,  then to Tagum City, capital of Davao del Sur. They had performed in Ozamis, Iligan and Cagayan de Oro.

They dropped by Gingoog upon invitation of Jude  Edgar “Jed” Caballero Balsamo, whose songs are part of their repertoire and who is “like family already,” is from the place, which considers him one of its most prominent “natives”. (We were on the same stage in 2012  when then city Mayor Ruth de Lara Guingona handed us – two Gingoognons – awards – Jude as Outstanding Music Artist, and me as Outstanding Journalist). Jude proposed that since Gingoog is just a few hours from Bayugan, site of their next performance the next day, it was apropos that they have lunch at his parents’ home. 

There were 17 singers plus the choir master, Mark Anthony Carpio, and Jude, of course, parking three vans in front of the Balsamo residence on Rizal Street. They wore jeans and happy smiles: nearly all of them in their early 20s; a mix of senior students and professionals who are not even music majors, coming from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, majority of them from the University of the Philippines  chosen by the choir master under strict auditions for their excellent voices. Their group is the second generation of the Philippine Madrigal Singers organized in 1963 by the legendary choral conductor and National Artist for Music Andrea Ofilada Veneracion, who died in 2013.

Their repertoire includes Tagalog and Visayan songs, Broadway numbers and classic pieces. That’s Part 1; Part 2 is a workshop, where  choir master Carpio talks about music, teaching and learning techniques and the like, his audience music educators, and plain music lovers.

Before the singers arrived, Jude’s mother, Joji, related how she discovered that her son (one of four children) had music talent. A St. Scholastica College bachelor and masteral degree holder in music, one time she was teaching piano to students at home. Jude, a toddler,  was just listening and watching from a distance. After her students had left, she heard someone playing the pieces she was teaching her students; she was surprised when she came out of her room to find Jude at the piano, playing not only the pieces, but following her instructions to her students. “He was so small he could not reach some keys, and he used two hands to reach them.”

From that discovery of his talent, Jude graduated to the high ranks of success. He became a multi-awarded composer, arranger, pianist, vocal coach and musical director, won a choral writing competition sponsored and published by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the National Music Competition for Young Artists (NMCYA). From the sprightly young man I met years ago, he has matured, at age 45, grown heavier and sporting long hair dropping to his waist. He said yes, he has won many awards, I would have to wait for his emailing them to me. But he looks forward to his forthcoming award – the Xavier University Jubilarian Award (he had studied at Xavier in high school, then later, earned his bachelor of music at his mother’s alma mater, St. Scholastica’s college, and his master of arts in music at the University of Santo Tomas.) Right now he is teaching full time at the Centro Escolar Conservatory of Music in Manila and part-time at the Philippine High School for the Arts in  Mt. Makiling, Los Banos, Laguna. 

After a most satisfying lunch, the group sang a Visayan song about happiness, then Jude and Mark did a duet, then Jude played a solo number,  on the Baby Grand Piano his father Edgard, a businessman, had gifted his mother with. It was a thrill listening to the consummate artists play.  Then the crowd requested the hostess to do a piece, but she was too shy to oblige; instead, she asked the group to do a birthday song for the household staff, and they did, without her really knowing what a great tribute had been given to her on her natal day.

To give credit where it is due, let me give you the names of the singers. The sopranos: April Glory de Guzman, Katrina Marie Saga, Ma. Pilar Charlene Ramos, Leslie Anne Abodo and Michaella Mari Sanares. The altos: Trisha Kay Piao, Jeanie Lynne Tolentino, Alrose Jane Salva and Cyrno Bon Cloul Moral. The tenors: John Angelo Diamos, Adrianne Roy Calangian, Joseph James Doak, and Nikko Villaneva. The Bases: Mark Allen Estrera, Paul Manet Martirez, Moritz Jobcresvir Abella, Erwin Vargas, and Lenico Augusto Buela. Perlita Reyes is the company manager, and Kyle James Solar, marketing officer. 

The occasion was an opportunity for my husband Saeed and I to meet some of Gingoog’s prominent residents: Joaquin Miguel de Jesus and wife Marita Soriano, Dorie Ubalde, Titing Villanueva, Joseph Rojo, Susan R. Da-Soc, Iris Oliveros, Benedicto, Mercy and Augustus Rafols, Toto Lugsanay, Elizabeth Stucki, Firm Loyd O. Dena, Neil A. Lumantas, Jusie Maquiso, Aurelia Chan, Tita and Tessa Chan Teope and Besben Maquiso.

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Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

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