Ten years ago, five countries, three months, two categories in one choral competition.
It was my first international trip. First time to be away from family. First time to ride a plane. First time in Europe. First time to join an international choral competition. These many firsts I had the pleasure to share with about 20 people. We collectively call ourselves the Philippine Madrigal Singers, or Madz to the legions of choral fans it has gathered through the years.
The first time will always be the most memorable. And as I celebrate my ten years of traveling, I’d like to share highlights of it through this post.
Pre-departure: How I got into the semicircle
The Madz quartet exams is for me, one of the, if not, the toughest, exam there is. I can still remember the scene. We were waiting for our turn outside the Minihall of the UP College of Music. Paneling for that quartet exam were Sir Mark, Ma’am OA (Prof. Andrea Veneracion, Madz founder), and Anna Abeleda (now Piquero, a Madz alumna and sought-after conductor who just got off of the Madz circle at that time). We were all anxious, excited, nervous, while listening to the other singers inside. It was like American Idol, literally, where you will be critiqued after singing. Passing that exam was our golden ticket to the upcoming European tour.
If I could remember right, OA just told me to vocalize everyday. I felt even more nervous as I did not know if I passed or not. Luckily I did. And was cast to join the tour.
Homesickness is a serious sickness
The first timers were stricken by so much homesickness that we were always on the hunt for an internet connection or a phone booth to call home even for a few minutes in a week. I spent so much on calling and sending SMS and paying for internet just to update my mom, my sister, and my boyfriend (now my husband) on where I was. We’d cry over the Harana songs of the male section of the Madz during concerts. During concerts, yes. We terribly missed home!
Preparing for the tour
Before we left Manila, our schedule got tighter and tighter. We just had to sing and sing together, that’s why. We would have performances and rehearsals almost everyday. This is also to prepare our bodies and voices for the upcoming trip–which was equally busy. Ma’am OA met us the day before we left Europe to share stories and give advice. We got to meet her again halfway during the tour, when she followed us in one of the stops in France, which was incidentally, on the day of her birthday.
Tough assignments for a first timer
I did not know I could play guitar until Sir Mark asked me to. I had to always practice while in Manila to prepare me for my international debut! Each concert was nerve-wracking because aside from playing guitar, Sir Mark also entrusted me the task of being the pitchgiver. But all these definitely boosted my confidence on stage.
We brought home the bacon! Two bacons, even. We won two first prizes in the 50th Certamen Internacional de Habaneras y Polifonia in Torrevieja, Spain. It was a big moment for the Madz, that we even got busier as we arrived Manila.
And the rest of the traveling story, as they say, is history.
This was one of the songs we sung for that competition. A tu lado by Javier Busto (a friend of the Madz) and Anton Mena. Such a simple and beautiful habanera which made us win first prizes in the Habanera and Polyphony categories of the competition.
If there was only one thing I regretted, I should have written all these down! I had a journal in 2006 which was still with me, but photos of each trip will suffice.
Will photo post on the next blog post!