Koro Kantahanay, the resident choir group of the University of the Philippines (UP) Mindanao, was one of 52 choirs — and the only one from Mindanao — invited to perform at the Philippine Madrigal Singers or the Madz’s “MusiKapayapaan: Madz et al. Choral Festival 2019” held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on 1–6 October 2019. The choir was led by choir founder and conductor Joey Vargas, a former faculty of UP Mindanao.
As each choir group was given ten minutes to perform, Koro Kantahanay sang three songs: “Amani” (Peace) by American composer Audrey Snyder, “Salmo 150” (Psalm 150) by Brazilian composer Ernani Aguiar, and a Blaan folk song “Kayo Mungay Daun” (The Weaving of Leaves).
The program ended with all the choirs singing their two final songs, the reggae version of American singer Perry Como’s “One Little Candle” and Filipino reggae band Tropical Depression’s “Kapayapaan,” both arranged by featured arranger and Madz alumnus Robert Delgado.
This is the second time Koro Kantahanay participated in Madz et al., having previously performed in the 2017 edition of the choral festival. The festival, which brings together choirs founded or trained by members of the Madz, started in 1983 and since then has become the biggest choir festival in the Philippines.
“It’s very big privilege and an honor, a once in a lifetime chance, to perform on the same stage with other veteran choristers, with us being the youngest, and the only group from Mindanao,” said Elaine Mae Tibayan, a sophomore in applied mathematics and managing director of the Koro. “The chorales who were invited were of the top tier and the best of the best,” she said.
The performers of Koro Kantahanay were mostly new recruits of the group, with the addition of alumni members Pete Estudillo, Martino Aldepolla, Lovelyn Reyes, Nate Lim, Rodcenmarie Escamilla, and Juven Niño Villacastin.
According to Benz Lystin Ybañez, a senior in applied mathematics, the festival is a great way to build networks. “We met choristers from the other groups and somehow learned additional tips from them. We were able to build friendships there,” he said.
Koro Kantahanay was formed in 2001 by Madz member Joey Vargas and has since then maintained a thriving membership and delivered goodwill for the university. The UP Mindanao Chancellor’s Committee on Culture and the Arts provides support to the Koro alongside other arts and culture projects in the university.
Koro alumnus Villacastin said, “It would be beneficial for our arts groups to receive trainings and other forms of support from professional artists. Our involvement in the Madz et al. Choral Festival was one of these rare opportunities where Koro was exposed to the practices and techniques of some of the best choirs in the Philippines. (UP Mindanao)