What brought us to Europe is the invitation to the Barasoain Kalinangan Foundation, Inc. to perform for the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space. Held every four years, PQ as it is popularly called, gathers together artists from all ofer the world for an exhibition. Prague turns into a huge arts hub, literally, including its streets.
I, and some more choristers from various groups were invited to join the trip. It is an honour for us to be part of this trip, as well as to represent the country in such a performance.
For this trip, we prepared two sets of repertoire: First is the “Kamanyang,” all-Filipino choral, ensemble, and popular music selections, and “Pasyon,” which is a cappella choral music in Filipino. One of the songs in the popular music section is Pinoy Ako (more popularly heard from Pinoy Big Brother), written by Kenyo’s Mcoy Fundales. But that’s another story for another day, so stay tuned.
The main event of the tour was the Prague Quadrennial, where we are to perform scenes from the Passion of Christ in the streets of Prague, which is widely performed as a theater production all over the Philippines during Holy Week. Our production has a different take– even if the text was purely Filipino, choral music was the main vehicle to transcend the message to the foreign audience, in Europe especially, where choral music is rich and accessible.
And the man behind the wonderful music we’ve sung is musical director and composer Ato del Rosario. I’ve known Kuya Ato since my Madz days, when we used to record songs in his Quezon City home. I got to know him and his music more during this tour. And what wonderful music he created!
Since we first rehearsed songs for the Kamanyang part, some songs for the Pasyon Kuya Ato would write the day (or perhaps hours) before we’d meet for rehearsals. And they were gems! Easy-to-the-ears melodic lines. They may talk about Christ’s passion which was supposed to be sad and melancholic, but the melodies in his works are heartwarming. I have never liked the Pasyon (because I know it’s sad) until this work came along!
The scenes chosen complemented each other, and were sequenced well. We had three-line interludes in between musical numbers, which tied up the next scene from the previous one. Script was written by Joseph Sonny Cristobal, and stage direction was by Arman Sta. Ana. The staging in Prague was in the streets, so we had liberty to use a 40 ft x40 ft space and move around with props and costume changes. As with the church as venue (in Venice and Vienna), we were limited, so we did it concert style. Not your typical choral set up–some are sitting and some standing. Add the fact that we are limited in number–only ten singers (3 sopranos, 2 altos, 2 tenors, and 3 basses). So this was for us a challenge yet a blessing, because we got to work harder therefore work closely with one another. And hearing positive feedback from our audience, as well as our hosts and friends who watched was definitely the cherry on top of the icing!
Enough of the descriptions, here’s a sampling of one of the works. The last two scenes, “La Pieta” and “Pagkabuhay.” Soloist for La Pieta is Verona Fortaleza McDonnell, who did the part with so much emotion and passion. This was the last performance of the tour in Fava, Venice, Italy.
Be blessed! Be a blessing!