Coincidence had it. Two generations of one of Asia’s most awarded choral group grew up in neighboring compounds.

Andrea Ofilada grew up in the same street where I was born. My grandparents knew their family. She was married to dentist Dr. Felipe Veneracion in the same nearby parish church where my parents got married and where I was baptised.

I found out about it when I became part of the Philippine Madrigal Singers in 2003. I told my grandparents about Prof. Andrea O. Veneracion, and they knew it was their former neighbor.

Ma’am OA, as her legion of singers call her, is one of the forerunners of Philippine choral music, and brought it to far-flung communities in the Philippines and abroad.

Through her guiding and nurturing care, the University of the Philippines Madrigal Singers established itself as one of the most recognized choral groups in the world. The group has been invited to numerous choral festivals and won top prizes in the most prestigious international choral competitions in Europe, one of which is the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing which they first won in 1997 under her stewardship.

Through her vision of a Singing Philippines, the Madz et al was born. Alumni and members of the Madz started to propagate what Ma’am OA started by building choirs of their own, or giving workshops to starting groups. To date, the said network of choral groups from all over the country had for themselves established their own stature in similar festivals and competitions that the Madz had joined.

In 2001, she passed on the baton as choirmaster of the Madz to someone she personally chose, Mark Carpio. Through Ma’am OA’s inspiration, the Madz’ tradition of discipline, humility, and excellence remain in the group, which reaped awards for the group when the Madz under Sir Mark returned to the competition scene in 2004.

That same year was my first international tour with the Madz. And it was also my first close encounter with the fine lady they dearly address as Ma’am OA.

I had but a few moments with Ma’am OA. At that time, I was a shy newbie in this group of talented singers. I remember during the crucial quartet exams, she was part of the panel who will choose the tour cast. I could remember how nervous I was when it was my turn to sing. Sir Mark mentioned to me that one of Ma’am OA’s recommendations was that I should vocalise everyday to develop my voice more. Which I did. And through the years of singing with the Madz, my voice was trained to sing with increased volume and strength. Likewise, I got so much better in sight singing and developed my musicality more.

Ma’am OA joined us on the latter half of that European tour. And she witnessed how we, the new breed of singers under Sir Mark, bagged the first international victory in Torrevieja, Spain. Sweet victory, indeed.

She started one of the Madz traditions of praying with crossed hands, right over left, forming a circle. I remember before that competition, she led us in prayer, and each singer was given a chance to say a short prayer also. God must have heard that storm of prayers and gave us top prizes!

Dearest Ma’am OA,

You once dreamed of a Singing Philippines. The country achieved that and so much more through you and the Madz. How fortunate is our choristers to have you as a mother and inspiration they can look up to.

From the hundreds of choral groups that were inspired by you, Maraming Salamat Po!

An international choral competition, another milestone for our choral history, shall be staged in honor of Prof. Veneracion. Check out this link for complete information.

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