Thursday, October 7, 2010

Choral Concert this Sunday - Manila, ManiLAH!

PsalmiDeo, a choral group made up of largely Filipino expats, will be staging Manila, ManiLAH! Now we know that our Filipino friends have wonderful voices - our SLO productions would only have 5 choir members left if not for their participation - so this is a great opportunity to see them take centrestage (quite a few SLO choir members belong to this group as well). Here is a brief but impressive list of what PsalmiDeo has achieved since coming together in 2003:

  • October 2010 - SCO Ensemble Series 2010 at the Singapore Conference Hall's Concourse;
  • August 2010 – Singapore Heritage Fest 2010, Suntec City Atrium;
  • June 2010 – Philippine Independence day celebrations at the Philippine Embassy, Singapore;
  • June 2010 - Collaboration with Rose Borromeo Spanish Dance Company, Dance Circle Studios and SaltShaker Productions, “Noche de Estrellas” Spanish fiesta at Villa Frangipani, Gilman Village;
  • November 2009 and January 2010 – participation in the events to commemorate 40 years of Philippine-Singapore diplomatic relations (November 2009 – Asian Civilizations Museum; January 2010 – Singapore Arts Museum);
  • December 2008 and 2009 - performance with Ms. Babes Conde at the Esplanade Open Amphitheatre during the “Celebrate December” activities;
  • June 2007 - Philippine Art Trek (part of a series of Philippine Independence day celebrations), at the ARtrium of the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA);
  • June 2006 - Philippine Independence day celebrations at the Kallang Theater
  • December 2005 - the group’s first concert at the Singapore Arts House;
  • March 2005 - Guest appearance at “Babes & Friends” with Ms. Conde at the Esplanade Concert Hall;
  • October 2004 – represented the Philippines at the United Nations General Assembly in 2004 (at request of the Philippine Embassy);
  • July 2003 - represented the Philippines at the ASEAN@Play sports event (at the request of the Philippine Embassy)

The Mad Scene speaks to conductor Kiko Dimalanta about the show:

Conductor Kiko Dimalanta in the foreground

The Mad Scene:  Hi Kiko, thank you for doing this interview with us. Firstly, please tell us, in your own words, what Manila, ManiLAH! is about?

Kiko: My pleasure, Steven.

Manila, ManiLAH is PsalmiDeo’s attempt to showcase standard choral works from the Philippines. The choir will render 1) familiar tunes from various regions in the Philippines; 2) songs that take us on a “sound” trip of nostalgic memories especially for Filipinos that are far away from home; 3) songs that will remind/rekindle the Filipino pride amongst those who have been away for so long. Because Manila is the Philippine capital and is familiar to most international audiences, we decided to make a play of the word in a Singapore setting – Hence, the “LAH” .

The Mad Scene: What can we expect from the program?

Kiko: We lined up a repertoire that consists of a mix of Filipino Folk songs, popular Filipino ballads, sprinklings of Singaporean and international songs, and some contemporary “Pinoy” hits. All works are arranged by Filipino artists. Sit back, relax, enjoy! If you know the song… hum along… but not too loudly!

The Mad Scene: What themes or inspiration did you have as you were creating this program?

Kiko: I am homesick. Most of us are. So I asked myself what I wanted to hear to remind me of home. Of course I have to balance the programming with what my choir would enjoy singing as well. I had a simple decision-making process: Being a Filipino Choir in Singapore, what makes us different from the multitude of outstanding choirs from the Philippines? We live here in Singapore and we want to:

a. promote Philippine Choral artistry in Singapore;
b. show that Filipino choral culture is alive in Singapore; and,
c. show that we are proud of our heritage while adapting to our country of residence.
We wanted to be “at home” in our “Singapore-home”.

The Mad Scene: How did your choral group PsalmiDeo chorale come about? When and why was it set up?

Kiko: In July 2001 a small group of friends formed an ensemble to come up with a performance for a Filipino Community Outreach program’s year-end event. The group’s passion for choral singing ignited and they continued learning Filipino choral pieces. In the year 2002, Psalmideo participated in a Christmas Concert sponsored by the Philippine Embassy. The embassy officials noticed the potential of the group and with the support of then Labor Attache’ Merriam Cuasay and Con Gen Minda Cruz, Psalmideo was tapped to represent the Philippine Embassy in regional events held in Singapore. The group’s musical director then was Mr. Ike Abrera.

Psalmideo then met Babes Conde who became a supporter/mentor to the group. She invited the group to perform with her in Esplande Concert Hall in March 2005. She then introduced me to the group, and I eventually succeeded Mr. Abrera as the group’s musical director . In Dec 2005, Psalmideo and Ms Conde produced a concert, Seasons in Song, that was staged in Arts House.

The Mad Scene: What are your most memorable performances with this group?

Kiko: I really enjoyed the performance at Esplanade’s Celebrate December last 2008 because we got to sing with a band. I thought it was cool that I was conducting both the choir and the band together. The energy from the people onstage and those from the audience was fantastic!

The Mad Scene: Filippinos seem to have a real talent for singing. What is it in your country or culture that gives you guys such wonderful voices?

Kiko: This is something I have been pondering on. I have a few theories:

A. Among Asian countries, the Filipino diction/accent has very pure vowels. This makes it really easier for us to sing and mimic sounds with a proper placement since childhood. Very similar to Indonesian Bahasa. But we have one thing that most Indonesians did not grow up with…and that is my next point…

B. Religion and the Spanish influence. The Philippines is a Catholic nation, much due to the long Spanish colonization. Almost all of our religious practices are enhanced by song and we hear music quite a lot in our daily lives. So, as a child growing up, one is exposed to the music heard in religious celebrations. This, later on, translated to the appreciation of various types of music.

C. Socio-Economic reasons. Admittedly, the country suffers from a poverty rate that is higher than most countries. This means our public school’s music programs can neither afford costly instruments for a school band nor individual students to afford to buy the instruments and the expensive matriculation to learn them. However, singing only uses air and a lot of heart.

D. Most of all, we just really like to have fun!

7) Lastly, tell us why we should all attend Manila, ManiLAH!?

Kiko: Have you ever heard a largely Filipino crowd cheer? If not, come to the concert!

Singapore embraces the various nationalities that have been fortunate to call it home. What better way is there to celebrate Singapore’s diversity than by appreciating and supporting the best that a culture has to offer? This is PsalmiDeo’s humble offering: to enhance Philippine pride among Filipinos and to show the rest of our Singaporean/International friends a glimpse of the wealth of Philippine musicality. So do come and join us!


Manila, ManiLAH! is on this coming Saturday 10 October 2010. Ticketing information at the Events Page

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