By Cheerie T. Magalit
August 11, 2017
What a fabulous evening with the Philippine Madrigal Singers!
It has been years since I last saw them perform here in the U.S., and eons of years ago when I heard them singing as we passed by the UP Conservatory of Music on our evening strolls in the campus. Back then, I had no understanding nor the appreciation of what it takes to produce that magnificent sound unique only to the Madz. It is no surprise that they have the distinction of being the first choral group to win the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing twice (1997 and 2007), considered the Olympics of choral competition. They were also conferred the UNESCO Artists for Peace. Truly, their artistry transcends cultural boundaries as they are at home in any genre of music in any language.
Tonight, they were as celestial, magical, soaring, heartwarming and inspiring as I remembered them. Their Latin spirituals transport you to the high heavens while their “Nang Minahal Mo Ang Mahal Ko” (When You Loved the One I Love), brings you back down to earth with its comedic presentation of unrequited love. “Nang minahal mo ang mahal ko at minahal ka ng mahal ko parang na-extra judicial nyo and puso ko. Nagmala vigilantes kayo.” (When you loved the one I love and the one I love loved you, you killed my heart. You were like vigilantes.) This was a not-so-subtle swipe at the brutal extra-judicial killings of President Duterte’s war on drugs.
I love their rendition of John Legend’s “All of Me”, but I barely recognized Bruno Mars’s “Marry You”. Their “Huwag Ka Nang Umiyak” tugged at my heartstrings, evoking memories of victims of typhoon Yolanda while “Da Coconut Nut” brought down the house. This group can adeptly portray both Pinoy sentimentality and humor, and universal romanticism; seamlessly gliding from one to the other.
What touched me most was “Sampaguita,” a song of heartbreak and love that extends beyond the grave. This is my all-time favorite Filipino original composition. It reminds me of evenings of my childhood when we listen to the radio at night and this song comes on. I remember those peaceful evenings in the province when all you can hear are the symphony of cicadas, the occasional cry of a baby in the neighborhood, and this plaintive “Sampaguita” with only the guitar as the accompaniment. I can imagine the lads serenading the girl who captures their heart and someone opens the window with a kerosene lamp or a bed pan full of you know what.
The magic continued when I got home. The waning half moon was still up in the sky and a gentle summer breeze was blowing. I lingered outside, mesmerized by this celestial spectacle while the music of the Madz played in my head.