July 26, 2022

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Madz sings the songs of National Artists in new album

SONGS can uplift our spirits and lighten our mood at a time of anxiety. They can also help us learn, remind us of our history, and deliver messages of patriotism.

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), through the cultural resource center Sentro Rizal, launched the album ALPAS: Awit at Letra ng mga Pambansang Alagad ng Sining. It features music, lyrics, and arrangements of works by National Artists for Music and National Artists for Literature as performed by Philippine Madrigal Singers (Madz).

The word “alpas” means “to be free or break loose.”

Madz choirmaster Mark Anthony Carpio refers to arranging music, recording, and performing the works of National Artists as “handling gems.”

“The original plan was to make an album of [works by] National Artists for Music. As we were looking for materials, we discovered that there are lots of materials that were works of National Artists for Literature. Medyo madami (There were quite a lot) so we really had to choose wisely what to include in the album,” Mr. Carpio told BusinessWorld at the album launch on July 14 at the Metropolitan Theater in Manila.

The group chose 12 titles that showcase a variety of styles and genres.

“We realized the value of making sure to bring these works of art to posterity — that we built a treasure chest, a repository of such works that capture the many facets of our culture,” Mr. Carpio said. “We hope and believe these works shall remain beyond our lifetime.”

National Artist for Literature Virgilio S. Almario, whose work is featured in the album, said that collaboration between artists gives the work a different interpretation.

“Literature is given a new vision and new way of being appreciated because of the music given to it,” Mr. Almario said in English and Filipino at the album launch.

The 12-track album features work by National Artists Levi Celerio, Ryan Cayabyab, Ramon Santos, Lucresia Kalisag, Francisco Feliciano, Antonio Molina, Bienvenido Lumbera, Felipe De Leon, Lucio San Pedro, Andrea Ofilada, Rolando Tinio, and Virgilio S. Almario.

The 12 songs in the album are:

• “Restless,” written by National Artist for Music Francisco Feliciano. The song’s persona sings about wandering and the profound sense of desolation. It is dedicated to National Artist for Music and Philippine Madrigal Singers Founding Choirmaster Andrea Veneracion.

• “Alitaptap,” written by Josefino Chino Toledo using lyrics based on a poem by National Artist for Theater and Literature Rolando Tinio. The score includes sounds inspired by indigenous communities such as a soloist chanting, leading the community in a kind of ritual.

• “Hatinggabi,” written by National Artist for Music and Literature Levi Celerio and composed by National Artist for Music Antonio Molina.  The song is about the sense of nostalgia and the cherished pains of pursuing love.

• A medley of songs from Noli Me Tangere, the Musical. National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera wrote the libretto based on Jose Rizal’s novel Noli Me Tangere, and National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab composed the musical. For the album, Joed Balsamo created the contemporary setting for choir without accompaniment combining songs from the musical.

• “Gaano Ko Ikaw Kamahal,” written by National Artist for Music and Literature Levi Celerio, with music by National Artist for Music Ernani Cuenco. The song is about one’s never-ending commitment to love.

• “Prelude Etnika,” composed by National Artist for Music Lucresia Kasilag, was interpreted for two choirs by composer and arranger Erwin Vargas for the album.

• “Sa Ugoy ng Duyan” is a composition by National Artist for Music Lucio San Pedro which was intended to be an entry to a competition in 1943. The music was inspired by the melody that his mother used to hum when he was a child. In 1948, Mr. San Pedro met Mr. Celerio who then wrote lyrics for the song.

• “Payapang Daigdig,” written by Eduardo de Leon and Brigido Batungbakal, and composed by National Artist Felipe de Leon. Mr. De Leon wrote the song upon seeing the devastation in Manila brought by World War II. Today, the song is most often played and performed during the Advent and Christmas Season.

• “Tuksuhan” is an interpretation of some of the Philippines’ teasing folk songs produced by National Artist for Music Dr. Ramon Santos.

• “Paraiso,” written by National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab, is about the need for environmental protection and preservation, and a plea to give the youth a better world. The song was originally performed in 1991 by Smokey Mountain, a group of young singers founded by Mr. Cayabyab.

• “Bahay Kubo” features an arrangement of the folk song by the National Artist for Music and Founding Choirmaster of Philippine Madrigal Singers Andrea Veneracion.

• “Sambayan,” written by National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario and an arrangement with accompanied choir by Josefino Toledo. The song declares that we are a creative, dignified, and unified people.

The Philippine Madrigal Singers “sought to serve as an advocate for preservation, protection, and promotion of Philippine music; and encouraged the creation of new musical compositions and ushered in the birth of new composers or arrangers,” a press release stated.

“We are using our social media accounts to reach people and, in every post, we try to describe and write about the work,” Mr. Carpio said, adding that the album can be used as a supplement learning material for students, alongside the choral group’s existing performance videos found online.

The Philippine Madrigal Singers is scheduled to tour the country beginning September. The choral group’s first major concert at the Cultural Center of the Philippines since the coronavirus pandemic lockdown is slated for this year.

Listen to ALPAS at https://spoti.fi/3Ou87Ca. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/philmadzsingers. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman