Victorious in Busan-A A +A
Sunday, November 27, 2011
A TIMELY reward for five years of hard work, the Cebu Chamber Singers (CCS), headed by musical director and conductor Dennis Gregory Arcelo Sugarol, bagged the “Grand Prix” during the Busan Choral Festival and Competition held in South Korea last Nov. 2-5.
“The CCS won the Grand Prix or the overall top prize. We joined in two categories: Mixed Classic and Folklore. There were four categories overall: Mixed Classic, Folklore, Popular Music and Equal Voice. In every category there is a Gold, Silver and Bronze award. On top of each category is one Grand Prize. The choir that gets the highest score among the four categories will be awarded the Grand Prix,” Dennis explains.
Dubbed as an “international venue for choral music,” the festival this year was participated by a total of “900 singers from 29 choirs from 13 countries all over the world.” These include choir groups from Lithuania, Czech Republic, Iran, China, Russian Federation, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Korea and the Philippines.
To merely say that this group made up of Cebuanos and Cebu-based individuals represented the country well is an understatement, as they blazed and bested every other nationality present during the competition.
The CCS is a 34-member choir group made up of doctors, teachers, businessmen, students, a lawyer and a nurse. The group was founded back in June 2006 by Dennis and Rey Roa. The former is a multi-awarded musician who has extensively performed and conducted choral groups in the Philippines and other countries. The latter, a US-based musician, is also known for the choral groups he trained and conducted while in Cebu.
Winning is not new for this team: a year after its organization, the CCS won two gold distinctions in the First Asian Choir Games held in Jakarta, Indonesia. The CCS was also proclaimed the “Winner of the Asian Open” for the Gospel & Spiritual, and the Mixed Chamber Choir categories. Its second major achievement was winning the Gold for the Mixed Classic Category and Bronze for Ethnic/Folklore category in the Busan Choral Festival and Competition 2008. Then, of course, the Grand Prix this year.
“We could not contain our emotions when our name was mentioned. Most members were jumping from their seats. Some were crying for joy and just humbled by God’s grace,” Dennis recalls.
“Two months of everyday rehearsals, hard work and sacrifice were key factors of our winning. I would say that the road to success was never easy for the group. We experienced pain, misery, challenges that are impossible to imagine, but God was with us in the journey,” he adds. To show how much hard work this took, the group practiced for five hours every day for a month prior to the competition.
“I believe the winning edge of the group was our varied repertoire,” the conductor reveals, “ranging from baroque to romantic and 20th Century music in the Mixed Classic. Our folk songs were also from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.”
“You should select songs that will showcase the groups’ artistry and level of musicality—a varied one at that. I think the problem with other choirs is they sound the same from one song to their last song. You need a surprise element so as not to bore the jury.”
Dennis also attributes the choir’s stunning choreography to artistic director Nino Matillano.
Besides a CD in the making and dreaming of a US or European tour, the group now plans a goodwill tour around Cebu in the next year. The CCS plans to visit cities and towns and do workshops for local choirs, believing that there is a need to develop choirs in Cebu because of the potential. “We Cebuanos are known worldwide when it comes to singing; (we are) passionate and with great artistry.”
It is no secret that great things await the CCS. And this, Dennis is definitely aware of.
“Humility is essential to a great choir. Keeping your feet on the ground, and above all, keeping your faith in God. A great choir should know how to glorify and praise the creator of talents,” the maestro reiterates.
And in so doing shall the music continue to reverberate.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on November 28, 2011.