December 21, 2012
Last September I got news that the UP Concert Chorus was going to have a 50th Anniversary Concert this year. However I did not hear when this was going to be held. In fact, I forgot all about this event, until by sheer serendipity, I saw a poster of this in the lobby of our building! Given that I had the opportunity, I resolved to catch this special concert.
When I got to the University Theater, only Balcony tickets were for sale. All the seats in the Center and Side Orchestra were sold out. And why not, I believe those prime seats were only being sold for P300 and P200 each! Anyway, the theater was not really that big, so we can recognize faces on the stage from our seats in the Balcony.
The show began about 15 minutes after 7pm when the multi-generational UCC with singers from Batch 60s to 2012 formed on the stag amidst great applause. They began by singing "Battle Hymn of the Republic." I am not really sure why, if there was any story behind this song choice, which I imagined was their Invocation. A most rousing version of the Philippine National Anthem followed. The show was emceed by Mr. Chinggoy Alonso, who was a member of UCC in the 1970s.
The next segments were special numbers from every batch (divided per decade) of UCC members. There were introductory videos which preceded each batch. Unfortunately the font was too thin and too dim, orange with poor contrast from the black background. Everything was not legible from where we were seated, which was too bad.
Batch 60s was represented by Ms. Becky Demetillo-Abraham who sang a folk song "Hurry Sundown" with a mellow voice that evoked the hippies who may have sung it back then. She was accompanied by Leter Demetillo on guitar and back-up vocals.
The 60s and 70s batches joined forces in a trio of songs, the best of which was their version of "May Bukas Pa". They also broke formation to sing "Neneng" which was a funny medley of Filipino folksongs. I recognized Ms. Kitchie Molina and Ms. Joscephine Gomez in that batch of singers.
UPCC Batch 80s was in more colorful get-ups. They sang a lively medley of songs with dancing, including "Pumapatak ang Ulan" and "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In." They then sang "Kalesa" which they mixed with an unexpected partner "Oppa Gangnam Style"! Of course, the dance step fit right in with the "Kalesa" lyrics, ingenious. They ended their set with "Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika". No 80s song in their set.
UPCC Batch 90s started with a serious choral piece first. Then they segued to singing Filipino pop classics "Tuwing Umuulan at Kapiling Ka" and "Mambobola."
This was followed by a rendition of the Broadway song "Love Changes Everything" by a couple of UCC couples (UCC members who also married a UCC member). They are Raymond Roldan and wife Jeannelle, whom I knew as the writers of "Song of Joseph," and Lionel Guico and his wife Cynthia, who were introduced as theater actors.
UPCC Batch 2000s rendered a couple of religious songs, one English and one Filipino. Their final song was their version of Fantasia's "I Believe." They has three awesome soloists whose voices simply soared in that seriously belted diva number. The guy soloist matched his female co-singers in the lung-busting notes in the soulful end portion of the song.
A 10 minute intermission followed.
The Second Act opened with an In Memoriam slide show. Unfortunately again, we cannot read anything on the screen. The main and final tribute was for their beloved late Dr. Rey T. Paguio, who conducted the UCC from 1969 to 1999. After this, Dr. Dot Gancayco, who headed the organizing committee of the 50th anniversary celebration, delivered her thank you speech. Her enumeration of prominent UCC alumni was very impressive.
The stage was then given to the current batch of UCC, which they called the Golden Batch. Their first song was entitled "Ama Namen" (not the church hymn we know) which featured a spectacular soprano whose name eluded me. They sang three more songs, before they sang an amazing Michael Jackson tribute medley which featured a solo from their conductor Jai Sabas-Aracama.
After this, the other alumni of UCC all gathered again on the stage to render the final series of songs. Very notable here are the beautiful Christmas songs they rendered. The very sad "Pasko Na Sinta Ko" featured a solo by Jonathan Badon, and guitar by a UCC alumnus who is now an Ambassador, Mr. Vic Lecaros. The solemn "Payapang Daigdig" featured the original soloist who was none other than Ms. Kitchie Molina. After a rousing version of "Simbang Gabi", they began to call all UP Alumni to go up the stage to join them to sing. I had half the mind to go up, but I wanted to watch the rest of the show from my seat.
One of the original conductors of UCC in the 60s, Dr. Ramon Santos, was called in to conduct and lead the choir to sing Handel's "Hallelujah". This classical Christmas hymn was sung with sheer perfection. But they reserved their best for last as they sang a most touching version of "UP Naming Mahal" which totally captured my heart. What a fitting finale for a fun and nostalgic evening!
Looking back, not joining a choir in college was one of the regrets in my youth. But then at that time I was not really sure what I can do yet and I was too timid to pursue anything except my studies. Watching their reunion show tonight showed their audience with pride how UCC not only molded musical talent among the members, but also improved their personalities and built lasting friendship. Watching this show let me know what I missed because of my reluctance to try out the unknown back then. Oh well, as the Apocalypse did not occur tonight (as was hyped ad nauseam in the past few days), my own chance to be a member of a serious choir may yet come by in the coming years.
Congratulations to the UCC for their 50 years past and 50 and more years to come!