The rewards of joining the Madz Et Al Festival

By Anthony O. Alcantara

Too few rehearsals, difficult notes to master, raw voices that need a lot of polishing, costumes that need to be made, tickets that need to be sold, and a few kids with the attention spans of a gold fish.

Why deal with all this just to join the 2010 Madz Et Al Festival?

Well, despite the headaches, it’s fun and challenging. Our kids at the Shrine of Jesus Children’s Choir (SOJCC) often ask, “Kelan tayo magpe-perform sa Philam?” “Kelan tayo magpe-perform ulit sa CCP?”

They get excited by a lot of things. And we like it. At least we know they’re motivated enough to practice. Of course, not all of them are excited about the same things. Some are excited just to be with the other members of the choir who have become their playmates. Some are excited about the free tour at the CCP. Some are excited to perform for their grandmas and grandpas. And some are excited to see the boys of another choir.

Yes, some of our members are teenagers already. They have crushes and they experience puppy love. And we thought they’d be excited only about puppies. These kids grow fast. But then again, some of them have been with us for four years already.

The wacky SOJCC with their serious-looking conductor, Em Alcantara, 2nd row, center.

Aside from the excitement, letting the kids join the Festival is a way of directing their attention to possibilities and opening up their minds through new experiences. The Madz Et Al Festival, entitled “Choral Rhythms” this year, is an annual choral festival where choirs handled by former members and trainees of the Philippine Madrigal Singers get to perform. A lot of these choirs have won international awards already.

The Tala Choir conducted by Oscar Pantaleon Jr. was a joy to watch. They play instruments now. The “Waters of March” composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim and arranged by Oscar was a good one.

There were five other adult choirs during the first day of the Madz Et Al Festival. The Singles for Christ Chorale Manila conducted by Rivah Anne Singson performed three songs. I think “Fly Me to the Moon” was their best.

Among the songs performed by the DSWD Chorale conducted by Anna Tabita Abeleda-Piquero, I think “Lollipop” was very entertaining and memorable. My sister-in-law kept on singing it after the concert.

The conductors during the 1st day of the Madz Et Al Festival bow after the finale song. From left: Oscar Pantaleon Jr., Mary Louise "Em" Alcantara, Mark Anthony Carpio, Anna Piquero, Rivah Anne Singson and Warlito Yalung.

The Koro Ilustrado, also conducted by Anna Piquero, performed a well-applauded “Doobidoo,” composed by Danny Javier and arranged by her. The negro spiritual “John Saw the Numbuh” was I think the best song performed by the AUP Celestial Echoes conducted by Warlito Yalung.

The University of the East Chorale’s “Fever,” composed by Eddie Cooley and John Davenport and arranged by Anna Piquero, was a crowd favorite. I think the choral arrangement, instrumentation, choreography and the red light had something to do with it.

Our kids at the SOJCC could only experience these in the Madz Et Al Festival.

Preparing for the Festival was also about the discipline and enjoyment of music. Learning the songs is hard work. But there’s no reason the process can’t be enjoyable, too.

My wife Em, the conductor of the choir, taught them “Father in Heaven,” a song by Angus Hibbard and Friedrich Flemming and arranged by Andrew Hawryluk. The second song, “Sitsiritsit” arranged by Lucio San Pedro, was a bit more challenging. Fortunately, the kids learned them eventually.

The last song was “With a Little Help from my Friends” composed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and arranged by Barrie Carson Turner. A little swaying and head movements were all the visual embellishments we could add, aside from the costumes. No time for more complicated choreography.

Make-up 101: Finally, kids get to practice their Barbie doll skills.

The tutti song–“Hallelujiah” by George Friedrich Handel with a gospel arrangement by Mervyn Warren, Michael O. Jackson and Mark Kibble and adapted by John Higgins–was conducted by Mark Anthony A. Carpio, choirmaster of the Philippine Madrigal Singers.

When our kids joined their first Madz Et Al Festival two years ago, they just listened in awe to the other adults singing with their powerful voices during the rehearsal of the finale song where all choirs participate. They got used to it eventually. Now they can sing with any monster choir.

Em and I think the kids did much better compared to last year’s performance. The old-timers’ voices gelled better and soared with the high notes, while the many newbies were catching up vocally.

Monsignor Bobby Canlas, our rector at the Shrine of Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life, back row, center, tries to be wacky with the kids, too.

We’re also glad that the parents appreciated what we’re trying to do. Bringing the kids to practice and waiting and waiting have been a big part of the kids’ success in the concert. We heard that some of the kids’ teachers enjoyed the concert, too.

So will we join the Madz Et Al Festival next year? You bet.

(For more information about the SOJCC, please go to www.sojcc.multiply.com. If you want to experience the Madz Et Al Festival and watch other great choirs perform, you can still do so. The concerts will be held everyday from May 2 to 7, 2010. Please check: http://www.malaya.com.ph/04212010/liv3.html or http://libre.com.ph/showbuzz/showbuzz-nation/3802-choral-rhythms-the-2010-madz-et-al-jazz-festival)

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