Mandaue choir prepares for ‘performance of a lifetime’

Posted on October 14, 2012

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Members of the Mandaue Children’s Choir with conductor Dennis Sugarol on the keyboard rehearse songs for their Rome performance in a studio of Sugarol’s Music House in Basak, Mandaue City. (JUNJIE MENDOZA)

Angelic voices of young Cebuanos will be heard singing during the canonization rites in Rome for Visayan teenage martyr Pedro Calungsod.

A total of 30 singers of the multi-awarded Mandaue Children and Youth Chorus will leave for Rome on Wednesday for the “performance of a lifetime.”

“We feel that heaven is with us,” said Dennis Sugarol, conductor and musical director, as he rehearsed yesterday with the children a mixture of songs in Cebuano, English and Latin that will be heard during liturgical celebrations on the eve of the canonization, the day itself, and a thanksgiving Mass the next day.

Since its birth in 2004, the group, formerly called the Mandaue School for the Arts Children’s Choir, has continually volunteered to sing in the Pedro Calungsod Shrine in D. Jakosalem Street in Cebu City.

“We’ve been singing in his shrine for eight years. We’ve been praying for eight years for him to be recognized as a saint,” Sugarol said.

He said blessings from their devotion to the teenage martyr have materialized in awards and public acclaim for the choir in local and international competitions.

For Oct. 21’s canonization, Sugarol said their performance will not center on asking for more blessings, but will emphasize thanksgiving and praise for the Visayan martyr.

Daily rehearsals started in late August.

“Compared to the competitions we joined before, this is more meaningful because it speaks of our faith, our being Christians,” said Sugarol.

The delegation of 30 singers and 18 accompanying adults will be staying in apartments of benefactors and a convent as they travel.

They will be singing on the eve of the canonization, during vespers or evening prayers on Oct. 21, and at the thanksgiving Mass the next day.

After that, they will hold concerts in Rome and Austria. They return to Cebu on November 2.

The group has traveled before to different parts of Asia and the United States for competitions but it’s their first time to sing in Europe.

From a repertoire of 30 songs, the children yesterday rehearsed emoting – not just singing – “O Bulahang Pedro Calungsod”, “Saint Pedro Calungsod”, “Mga Pangamuyo” and “Suluguon ni Hesus” in Sugarol’s Music House in barangay Basak, Mandaue City.

The director said he discussed the song list with Msgr. Ildebrando Leyson, the choir’s spiritual adviser, who wrote some of the songs, like “O Bulahang Pedro Calungsod.”

But most of the songs, including the most popular hymn or gozos of Calungsod “Way Sukod” are by Msgr. Rudy Villanueva, a Cebu diocesan priest known for his award-winning literature and liturgical compositions.

There was some uncertainty a few months back that the choir would have the opportunity to sing in Rome due to financial constraints.

In fact, they still need financial assistance.

“We still lack around half a million pesos. Our budget is P3.7 million. We did fund-raising activities, concerts and sent solicitation letters to friends. Some of the children will also be paying for their own trip,” said Sugarol.

An album of songs he arranged is also being sold to raise funds. They have received donations from priests, businessmen and public oficials. In gratitude, the choir will bring their prayer petitions to Rome.

Choir member 8-year-old Cher Lozada said she was excited about her first time to see the Eternal City and sing for Calungsod. “Thank you for the talent and the blessings,” she said, addressing her young patron.

The oldest singer, John Manatad, a 20-year-old college senior in Business Administration, said he was inspired by the martyrdom of Calungsod, a teenage mission helper who didn’t leave the side of Jesuit priest Fr. Diego de San Vitores when two natives of the Ladrones Island attacked them with spears and a cutlass in 1672.

“I was struck by his faith, especially his sacrificing his life for God. Faith jud ang dapat naa sa amo nga mga youth(We youths should maintain our faith),” he said to achieve their goals stay on the right track.

The Mandaue Children and Youth Choir received the Ani ng Dangal award last February from the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA). It won the same award in 2008 and 2011.

The choir first came to prominence after winning the National Music Competitions for Young Artists (NAMCYA) and the Province of Cebu’s Garbo Sa Sugbo Award in 2004.

The group later won three gold medals in the First Asian Choir Games in Indonesia in 2007 and moved up to the Grand Prix of World Choir Championships in South Korea in 2009 where they won first prize.

The children have also performed in Hongkong, Taiwan, and the USA. /Sean Timothy Salvador, CORRESPONDENT

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