Filipino Music and Filipino Voices with the...FILCOM CHORALE
By Mel Kasuya
November 14, 2010 will forever be etched in the hearts of the members of the FilCom Chorale, a group of talented Filipino men and women from different communities and parishes of Tokyo, Chiba and Kanagawa. Organized by former Consul General and Minister Solphie Confiado and his wife, Precie, the group was formed primarily to sing for the mass – the first gathering of President Benigno Aquino III with the Filipino community in Japan. Held at Yokohama Futaba High School, the gathering was attended by close to 1,500 Filipino community leaders who were led by the choir in a solemn Eucharistic celebration that was presided by Most Reverend Raphael Masahiro Umemura, Bishop of Yokohama.
In hindsight, “Amare et Servire” – the entrance song for the mass which was also the very first song that FilCom chorale sang on its first public appearance was providential. This song that served as an inspiration and gave purpose and meaning to why the choir was created is also the same song that gives the direction and the reason for the FilCom chorale to persevere – “In everything, love and serve the Lord.”
Driven by the passion for music and the commitment to share their God-given talent, the choir easily re-grouped in time for the 2nd Filipino Community Gathering with President Aquino last September 25, 2011. Again, the choir rehearsed and led the congregation in singing songs of praise and thanksgiving at the mass that was celebrated by Fr. Russell Becker, Pastor of the Franciscan Chapel Center (FCC).
In one of the rehearsals for this occasion, Dennis Sun came to personally extend an invitation for the choir to sing at the 7th UTAWIT Grand Finals last November 6, 2011. The choir gladly accepted the invitation for an intermission number and rendered “Paraiso” - a song that speaks of the motherland we all love so dearly. But to the members of the choir, every rehearsal at Meguro church (made possible through the kindness of Fr. Leo Schumacher) was like being in Paraiso – having a welcome respite from the demands of work and daily chores. The FilCom chorale gave each one a venue to freely express their talent, and an opportunity to be at “home” with a family whose members speak the same language and share the same faith and passion for music.
Having realized that the FilCom chorale is indeed a blessing, the group decided to become a channel of blessing to others. Under the guidance of Ms. Leith Casel-Schuetz and Dr. Mel Zulueta Kasuya, the FilCom chorale will be having its first major concert entitled Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika: Isang Pagbabalik Tanaw (Nostalgia: A Concert of Filipino Classics). The concert will be held on April 19, 2013 at 7:30 pm at Theater 1010 right across Kita Senju station. A concert was conceived to help children in the Philippines who require medical attention and surgery for cleft palate. Aside from the event being a concert for a charitable cause, it also aims to promote the richness of the Filipino culture through its beautiful music, and to re-kindle the Filipinos’ pride in the beauty of our culture.
The following are excerpts of the interview conducted by Jeepney Press with some of the members of FilCom chorale regarding their insights on the group and their upcoming concert.
I first encountered the FilCom Chorale at the UTAWIT Grand Finals in 2011. I was quite impressed by their singing, even if it was only one song at that time. Little did I know that I would deeply involve myself in their activities a couple of months later.
Mel initially contacted me in February 2012 to discuss a project that she had in mind invol-ving the group. This discussion provided me with another opportunity to promote Filipino culture in such a way that foreigners and Filipinos alike could easily appreciate, through song and dance. When discussing a possible project, we thought of staging a concert that would pay tribute to classical Filipino composers by featuring their time-honored pieces. Both of us knew that the vast majority of young Filipinos, especially those living here in Japan, (and foreigners) have not been exposed to our traditional music. They have been exposed to mainly modern Filipino music that is strongly influenced by rock, pop and hip-hop. We thought that something quintessentially Filipino might arouse a sense of pride. Thus, the concept for this concert was crystallized by our strong desire to introduce a worthy and valuable part of our cultural tradition.
I first met the members of the FilCom Chorale during the first rehearsal for this concert at St. Anselm’s Church in March 2012. I was quite touched by the way everyone welcomed me, as if I had been part of the group from the beginning. I personally witnessed each member’s commitment, the joy of being able to show and share their talents, and a deep faith in God. And it has been a joy ever since to work with these members who commit their time and effort every week to make this concert a success.
The Choir was formed not by Fate but by FAITH. Although there are no material gains, we are being enriched SPIRITUALLY.
Singing is my favorite hobby and one of the blessings I'm grateful for. I believe the FILCOM Chorale members' drive and motivation to put effort and time with rehearsals come from the desire to thank the Lord for His blessings by sharing and doing something for others. FilCom Chorale is truly a GIFT for people with GIFTS and would like to be a GIFT to other people.
Through the FilCom chorale, I can share the talent that God gave me.
Dexter and Becky Pellerin
True to its mission of singing together for our Lord, our country, and our community, the choir had continued to spread its wings and will continue to fly bringing the richness of our culture through music and songs. May God be glorified as we continue to be stewards of the work He entrusted to us.
Singing revitalizes and relieves stress and homesickness. Through the FilCom choir, I had the chance to be the president of the Philippines! This is memorable because I was asked to act as Pres. Aquino during the final rehearsal for the Holy Mass in 2011.
Jo Gel Santiago
It's really fun to be with people who like music and are committed to serve God through songs. The closeness of the members makes me feel like I'm in a family. The upcoming concert offered new learning to us - from the very fundamentals of music to acting. All members are dedicated to deliver quality-performance.
Malaki pala ang maitutulong ko sa kapwa sa pamamagitan ng pag awit lalo na sa nalalapit naming charity concert na ni hindi ko pinangarap subalit pwede pala mangyari kung nagkaka-isa. At dahil si LORD ang laging nasa gitna, laging masaya ang bawat isa tuwing nagkakasama.
I was called to SERVE and I feel BLESSED.
Sumali ako sa Filcom choir to build friendships. Masaya ako at lalong nabubuo ang aking pagkatao.
I am glad to be part of the upcoming concert because I could share my God-given talent and be able to help the needy.
Besides music, camaraderie and friendship without pretension, I think FilCom chorale is the only Filcom group where members put GOD first in everything they do.
Ang aking pagkakabi-lang sa FILCOM Chorale ay itinuturin kong isang biyaya at karangalan dahil sa pamamagitan nito ay dalawang ulit akong nakasamang umawit sa Misa para sa Pangulo ng ating bansa.
Matapos ang aming pag-awit ng PARAISO sa UTAWIT Grand Finals, nanghinayang ako na matutuldukan na ang pagsasama-sama ng grupo at mabubuo na lang kung sakaling bibisita muli ang pangulo. Ngunit nagalak ako sa mungkahi na ituloy ang pagtitipon para mag-ensayo at matuto ng mga klasikong awiting Pilipino. Nang una kaming mag-aral ng mga piyesa ng kanta, kasabay ng kaba at kaunting takot na baka hindi agad matutunan o maintindihan ang aming inaaral ay ang tuwa at kasabikan na may matutunang bago. Sa pagdaan ng mga araw ay unti-unti kong nalalaman ang mga kwento sa likod ng bawat kanta. Ang mga linya ay puno ng magagandang mensahe na kasing ganda ng kanyang himig na naglalarawan sa ating kultura at pagkatao bilang Pilipino.
Sa pamamagitan ng aming pagtatanghal sa Abril 19, nais naming ibahagi sa ating mga kababayan ang karanasang kilalanin muli ang ating mayamang kultura sa pamamagitan ng ating napakagandang musika. Muli nating ipagmalaki at pahalagahan ang biyayang ito ng Panginoon ngayong makabagong panahon.
Sa tuwing nakakapanood ako ng cultural events ng ibang bansa..., "Mayaman din naman sa kultura ang Pilipinas ah. Sana meron ding ganito. Ano kaya kung meron nga...Pinoy na Pinoy siguro ang feeling?"
Sa mga pagkakataong natatanggap akong gumanap sa mga dula at musicals na kinabibila-ngan ng iba't-ibang foreigners sa Tokyo..., "Kaya din ito ng mga Pilipino ah. Sana hindi lang ako ang Pinoy na kasali dito. Alin kaya sa napakaraming grupo sa Filipino Community ang maglalakas-loob na magpalabas ng tulad nito?"
At sa mga oras na nakakasaksi ako ng mga talented na Pinoy na kumakanta ng mga pop songs sa mga events ng ...Filipino Community. “Marami pang choices ng awiting Pilipino, sana kumanta naman sila ng iba. Ano kaya kung kundiman at harana?"
Wishful thinking ko lamang ang mga ito, hanggang isang araw ng Pebrero, natanggap ko kay Mel ang listahan ng mga kantang pinapraktis na ng FilCom Chorale para sa napagkasunduan nilang concert sa April. Tinanong nya kung interesado akong maging director ng show. Aba, walang pop songs sa listahan ah -- mga kundiman at ilang regional songs lamang! Hmmm....teka teka....
Sa sobrang excitement ko, hindi ko na nakuhang sumagot ng oo o hindi. Nag-reply lang ako ng mga ideas na pwedeng gawin. Sana hindi basta concert lamang kung saan diretsong nakatayo lamang ang mga kakanta. Ano kaya kung gawin itong parang... sarswela?
Ilang araw pa at na-meet ko na ang grupo, sabay nagbigay na rin ako ng simpleng acting workshop. Marami akong hindi kilala sa mga dumalo, pero naramdaman kong mukhang maganda ang samahan ng mga tao. Napagmasdan ko din ito sa mga sumunod na rehearsals. Giliw na giliw sila sa isa't-isa; halatang excited sa sama-samang pinagkakaabalahang proyekto; at higit sa lahat, ramdam kong positive na positive ang attitude sa nakaambang bagong experience. Ano kaya ang dahilan at "love is in the air?” Ang kaalamang may beneficiary silang matutulu-ngan? Ang paniniwala sa kakayahan ng isa't-isa? Ang tago ngunit malalim na pagmamahal sa sariling atin?
Kung ano man iyon, na-inspire at na-excite akong magbahagi ng anumang makakaya ko. "Enjoy the ride," sabi ko sa sarili. Hindi lamang dahil may beneficiary... hindi lamang dahil naniniwala ako sa kakayanan ng bawat myembro...kundi pati na rin dahil tila yata may pag-asa nang matupad ang aking wishful thinking.