Singing in harmony is second nature to Filipinos. Admittedly, when a melody is heard, we (secretly) hum a second voice into it.
And with the advent of a cappella singing in movies and TV (think Glee and Pitch Perfect), and competitions like Akapela Open, more Filipinos are getting hooked in a cappella music. Which positively translates to more a cappella singers and choristers (happy dance there!).
A product of Akapela Open is our featured koristas for this month. Acapellago (see the play name between a cappella and archipelago? Cool, right?) is an award-winning ensemble of five singers who does covers of popular songs in a cappella fashion. They have competed and won locally (beginning with a local town competition and then in Akapela Open) and internationally, getting the top prize in the A Cappella Championships in Singapore just last year. Because of this accolade, they were awarded an Ani ng Dangal, given by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
They started their vocal group in school, with members of the Bulacan State University Saring Himig Chorale in 2012. Currently, the group is made up of singers from different schools who are also koristas. The group continues to create, arrange and perform new music, to inspire many young artist in contemporary a cappella singing and contribute to Philippines music and performing arts heritage.
Let’s get to know each of them.
Ron Laderas is a choir conductor, arranger and singer. He had sung for the following choirs: Hagonoy United Methodist Church (UMC) , Bulacan State University Saring Himig, and Obando UMC. He sings Bass in the group, and takes inspiration from a cappella groups like TAKE 6, Swingles Singers, Kings Singers, The Filharmonic (a Fil-Am group who guested in the Pitch Perfect movie), Rajaton, Pentatonix, Home Free, The Real Group, and our very own The Company. Likewise from the following musicians (composers, conductors, and arrangers) Lucio San Pedro, Mark Carpio, Eudy Palaruan, Chris Borela (who currently conducts Bulacan State University Saring Himig), Ily Maniano, Eric Whitacre, Deke Sharon and Ben Bram. He thinks that a cappella music is popular in this generation, and that the community is getting bigger.
Bogart Laderas is the beatboxer of the group. He is Ron’s brother, who along with him are pioneers of the group. He started with the school choir in Bulacan and is also a Dubbing Talent. He joined the choir because music is his passion, and his ticket to studying as a scholar (some schools do offer scholarships, whether partial or full, to choir members, another korista perk!). His most unforgettable moment was to sing Heal the World with The Philippine Madrigal Singers. He likes a cappella music because of the fact that “you have no choice but to squeeze your imagination on how will it sound full because voice and imagination are your only instruments.”
Almond Pondevida Bolante started his choral journey in high school with the Ramon Magsaysay Glee Club, then in college with the Our Lady Of Fatima University Chorale. He used to train with the Philippine Madrigal Singers, and he says he’s a big fan of the group. The reason he joined a choir is “for me to know how to blend with other people because for me, as a singer, you have to know how to harmonize for you to practice not just your voice but your ears.” He enjoys touring and singing with a choir because he gets to know different people and different cultures, at the same time, share your own culture to them.
Joshua Cadeliña studies music and is a recording artist and dubbing talent. He has joined the Ars Noveau Chorale and Novo Concertante Manila (another award-winning church-based choral group) prior joining Acapellago. He sings tenor and is a trained classical singer. He recalls his most unforgettable choir moment with the Novo Concertante Manila, “It is my first time to travel abroad and to compete internationally (Novo had its European Tour in 2014). Gladly, Novo won the Grand Prix in Poland.” For him, a cappella music “requires sensitivity to each other. It is one of the hardest things to do in a cappella singing but I find it really interesting.”
The only belle of the group is Michelle Corpuz Pascual. She started singing with the choir as member of NAMCYA prizewinning choirs from the north, Samiweng Singers, Ilocos Norte National High School Youth Choir, and Laoag City Children’s Choir. She also trains with the Philippine Madrigal Singers. She believes that joining a choir would improve her singing and widen her knowledge on music. She also thinks Contemporary A Cappella has its own uniqueness.
These choristers also take part in the Sing Philippines Youth Choir, a project of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Philippine Madrigal Singers. Michelle and Almond joined its maiden batch in 2014, while Joshua and Ron will be part of the second batch who will also be the laboratory choir of the Conductors’ Workshop component of the Hands-On Choral Workshop this June at the CCP (by the way, I will be one of the trainors again, looking forward to teaching again!).
Of course, I made them answer why they are certified koristas:
#KoristaAko dahil naniniwala ako na dun ako nilagay ni Lord. Destiny kumbaga. – Michelle
#KoristaAko dahil ako ay alagad ng musika at mahal ko hindi lang ang choral music, at a cappella music kundi pati narin ang lahat ng bumubuo ng musikang Pilipino. #KoristaAko dahil proud ako na isa ako sa mga bumubuhay sa musikang pilipino. – Almond
#koristaAko dahil minahal ko na ng sobra ang pag-awit at ang choral world. Mahirap man ang pagiging full time musician sa bansa, pinili ko pa rin ito dahil dito ako masaya, tulad ng nararansan ng iba. – Ron Laderas
Gratitude to Acapellago and their manager, Riva Ferrer of the Philippine Madrigal Singers for this feature. To close, here’s their newest cover, Dulo, by Thyro and Yumi, the duo behind the current hits popularised through the Philpop Music Festival, as sung by Sarah Geronimo, in a cappella.