Friendship, Music

Of Choir Singing and Reminiscence

Writing this makes me feel a bit old. But I’m writing it anyway.

There is a group of people I always spend after-class hours with during my first two years in college. When repertoires consist of 10-15 songs, after-class hours would mean until the wee hours of the morning.

Having dinner with the alumni and current members of UP Mindanao’s Koro Kantahanay brought back so many memories.

I remember the auditions. I still cringe every time I recall how I had to sing one song in front of the pioneer members of the university choir and group’s founder and conductor Mr. Joey Vargas. After singing one song, I had to go through two tests – one, to check if I wasn’t tone deaf (I then had no idea that was the reason behind me having to sing the sound that is produced when Sir Joey presses a certain key in the piano); two, to determine my voice range. I still smile every time I remember Sir Joey’s remark after the tests.

Sir Joey: Nagkakape ka ba, iha?
Me: H-hindi po.
Sir Joey: Grabe ang nerbiyos mo!

And then he let out that very distinct laugh.

I remember the joy I felt when I saw my name in the list of accepted trainees posted on the bulletin board. I sang Soprano for the choir for more or less two years. I had to make a transition after that.

I remember poring over music sheets in between classes, more often than not having very little idea of how the notes were supposed to be sung, so I’d be ready for choir practice in the evening.

I remember how I missed out on the fact that we actually have a list of food to avoid to protect our voice and so one day, I went inside the rehearsal room eating candy. When it was time for us to do vocal exercises, I had to run outside to find the nearest trash bin to get rid of the candy. Sir Joey either came from one of his classes then or the faculty room then and he saw me doing just that. He gave me “the” look. Yes, Sir Joey is one of the most passionate man I know when it comes to music and the arts and he’s really nice outside practices, but because he regards excellence with the highest of values, getting “the” look I just got is enough to make me decide never again forget our restrictions. 🙂

I remember how I’d get frustrated when the notes are too high and I’d end up wondering how some people can sing it and I can’t. At times, I’d also wonder why there had to be notes like that.

But most of all, I remember how after every rehearsal, every performance, every concert, we would end up appreciating each other all the more; being bonded to each other all the more. It wasn’t all music and work for us. Singing in and with the choir was more for the fun and the friendship.

So, after YEARS of not seeing each other, and because Sir Joey, who is now based in Luzon, is in town to visit and train the current members of the choir, we decided to meet-up. The group was a mixed bunch – people who looked different (and I mean this in a positive way), people who got married, people who are now thriving in their respective careers, and people I don’t know. But something remained evidently constant – our love for music, the friendship, and the fun.

For the love of music and because we missed singing with each other, we tried to recall pieces from before and sang our hearts out. Yes, at a public place! Here’s a part of a song I managed to record. I used my phone so pardon the sound quality and Justin Beiber in the background.

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