#KoristaAko: Kristian Misa

Catching up before the first half of the year ends with blogposts so long overdue! Here is our next featured korista, a nurse based in New Zealand, and a co-actor/singer in one of the CCP productions I was part of, San Andres B.

Choral singing does attract Filipino koristas even when overseas. Kristian is one good proof.

Name: Kristian Albert Misa 
Current ProfessionNurse

Choirs Joined: 
Casa del Nino Children’s Choir
Casa del Nino Choral Ensemble
Himig Sanghaya Chorale
AUIT
Gisborne Chorale Society (New Zealand)
Auckland Chorale (New Zealand)


Why did I join the choir? 
At the age of 3, my aunt taught me two songs by Randy Santiago and she was surprised when I memorised the songs quickly. Back then, my parents were working in Saudi Arabia and my aunt had an idea of recording my voice on a cassette tape so that she can send it to them. After all her efforts to convince me to sing in front of the radio recorder and countless record overlays, she successfully managed to capture my singing voice on the cassette and snail-mailed it to my parents. The last time I listened to that tape was when I was 16 years old and until now I can still remember some of its contents – most of which are just me and my brother teasing our aunts – like asking our mom to send our other aunt a watch with a boxing glove that will punch her whenever she checks the time. Shenanigans aside, this is how my family discovered that I can sing. 

As I grew older and entered 3rd grade, I was drawn to a group of people singing and making harmonies in the music room just across our home room. I remember myself watching and listening to them through the room’s jalousied windows during school breaks. It was inviting; warm; and their sound had a sense of solidarity. At that time, I haven’t got any words to describe the sound I was hearing from the group. I was just entrapped, awed, and magnetised at the sound the choir was producing. Then one day, two of our school’s music teacher (they are identical twins) announced that they are forming a children’s choir and invited our class to join the audition. I was a shy and scrawny little boy and wouldn’t usually put myself in the spotlight unless someone is in the spotlight with me. Luckily, 4 of my classmates decided to join. This, of course, prompted me to try auditioning. After getting through the selection process, I was hooked and had never been not involved in any choral engagements that I have an opportunity to sing for since then. Looking back, I think it is the inexplicable feeling of euphoria you get when you hear music being produced that made me join the choir. 

What was that something or someone that influenced you?
No one in my family sings except myself and my grandmother. My grandma used to sing and dance ballet when she was in her teens. I can tell that she can sing because every night, she always lulls me a kundiman song “Basang Sisiw” which always unfailingly made me cry before I sleep as I literally imagined a lost chick wandering and getting wet in the rain. This, I guess, is where I got my empathy from. My grandmother always tells us to strive to be a better person and hone our skills if we ever discovered that we have one. She is my rock. She influenced a lot of who I am today.

Another person who influenced and introduced me to a higher standard of music is our conductor Katherine Trangco (Ate Katz, as we would call her, also conducts Auit Vocal Chamber Ensemble where Kristian and I first sang together -ed.). She opened my world to contemporary and avant-garde music which I have no difficulties of embracing. She was the one who pushed our choir to persist and aim higher whenever we study a piece. Her method of explaining why the music is written in such a way made us even appreciate and understand it. Her dedication to her craft as an artist and as an academic helped inculcate discipline and open-mindedness to each members of our choir.

What is your favourite song arranged or composed for choir and why?
I have a lot of favourites: Pamugun (Arr. Feliciano), Sat-sat (Trangco), Salitaan (Trangco), Magnificat (Arr. G. Swayne), just to name a few. However, the most memorable piece that I ever had the pleasure of learning is Brahm’s setting of Psalm 51 “Schaffe in mir Gott, ein rein Herz”.  

What was the hardest piece you’ve studied?
Chino Toledo’s “San Andres B” is by far, and without any doubt, the hardest piece I have ever studied. Its non-conventional time signatures, rhythm, and generous minor and major second intervals make it hauntingly difficult. Up until now, I never have imagined how I was able to memorise the whole choral part and some solo parts of the Filipino Opera.

Any choir/s or vocal ensembles you look up to and why?

Original members of AUIT Vocal Ensemble – simply because they’re just not humans.
Philippine Madrigal Singers – two-time European Grand Prix for Choral Singing winners. Emotionally charged interpretations; Musical standards; Range of genre they perform.
King’s Singers – Their sound; Musical Standards; Versatility despite all of them being male.
Ateneo Chamber Singers – Solid mature sound; Sacred music interpretations 
The Real Group – Jazz interpretations
Pentatonix – Pop songs
Swingle Singers – Vocal virtuosi  
Trinity College Choir Cambridge – Balanced voices
Tenebrae Choir – British contemporary music interpretations

What is your most unforgettable choral moment?
That’s when I joined AUIT Vocal Ensemble and premiered the contemporary Filipino opera “San Andres B” by Chino Toledo at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. I think this is my most cherished experience because, as an amateur performer and being a non-music major, I had to give tremendous amount of effort to learn and deliver the choral parts. I also had the privilege to work and perform with the best singers, musicians, actors, stage crews, and directors in the Philippine Theatre Industry.   

My choir now:
I recently just joined Auckland Choral, one of New Zealand’s premier choir. The history of the group extends back to 1855. Now, under the direction of Professor Uwe Grodd, we recently performed Bach’s St. John Passion in German. Being the only Filipino in the choir, I hope I can influence them to sing Filipino Choral Works.

Difference in culture:
All of our members can read music which is not common in choirs in the Philippines. In terms of how inclusive the choir is, we have a blind (soprano) chorister who has her own Braille version of the piece (this has been provided by the choir of course). The musical director also expects you to learn the pieces before you attend rehearsals. Other than what I have mentioned, there are basically no stark differences with regard to choral culture. 

#KoristaAko dahil:
1. Mahal ko ang kultura ng pagiging isang korista. 
2. Ang mga taong nakasalamuha at makakasalamuha ko ay nagsisilbing gabay upang mapaglinang ang aking sarili at sa kalaunan ay maituturing ko nang kapamilya. 
3. Napaigi ang aking disiplina dahil sa proseso ng pagaaral at pagbasa ng mga pyesa. (children, take heed! – ed.)
4. Higit sa lahat – dahil sa Musika.

Our final show for San Andres B (2013) at the CCP Little Theater. Kristian and I were dancing partners as well in this production. Triple threat! Photo by Kamole Orense.

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