The alumni of the world-renowned UST Singers from the Philippines, named “Choir of the World Champion of Champions” in 2019, have again left echoes of their lilting music in a video that has since gone viral worldwide.
Launched at noon on April 24, Philippine time, the special video project titled #HeartHealHope, which took off from the song “Isang Dugo, Isang Lahi, Isang Musika,” was aimed as an inspirational tribute to frontliners east and west of the International Date Line during the coronavirus pandemic.
At launch date, there had been 866,646 cases recorded worldwide, up 26,971 from the previous day, and 49,759 dead—and the numbers are still rising, no sign as yet the curve would be flattened before long.
On that day, the Philippines, on Enhanced Community Quarantine—this has since been extended in some areas to May 15—had recorded 7,192 cases; 762 recoveries; and 477 deaths.
Of the 95 alumni who participated in the virtual concert, two are based in Canada, 23 in different states of the United States, and eight in the Philippines—all frontliners—with Professor Fidel Calalang Jr., who founded the mixed choral ensemble in 1992, on the piano.
Of the 95 alumni, 32 are sopranos, 23 altos, 19 tenors, and 21 basses.
The project, the first of its kind, materialized through the collaborative efforts of the UST Singers alumni worldwide, with the support and guidance of Calalang.
Calalang, who heads the Composition, Conducting and Music Technology departments of the University of Santo Tomas, has led the Singers to at least 80 top prizes in different choral competitions at home and overseas.
Calalang said the special project took its few bars when a USTS physician alumna expressed exhaustion from being a COVID-19 frontline worker, yearning for the comfort of music in such difficult times.
The UST Singers, in the posted video which has since gone viral, said the voices were individually recorded “using smartphones and tablets, each track was blended together with the help of today’s modern-day sound technology.”
The USTS added in its post: “It (the project) pays tribute to the true heroes on the front lines who selflessly put their lives at risk as humanity battles the novel disease and aims to provide a message of hope to those who silently bear the weight of loneliness and solitude in the midst of a lockdown.”
Music and lyrics of the song were done by Dodjie Simon, prolific OPM songwriter and former president of KATHA, an organization of Filipino composers.
The choral arrangement was done by Dr. Joel Navarro, a Filipino-American conductor and music director, a choral clinician, and music minister.
Accompaniment track arrangement and sound engineering were by Paulo Zarate; video editing by Pete Avendano and Vincent Evangelista; project management and coordination by Nice Lim-Trinidad and Viola Villena; marketing and communications by Marz Encarnacion and Jasper Allan Mirasol; storyboard concept by Jasper Allan Mirasol; copy development by Viola Villena and Dr. Lynnette Kristin Mendez-Velasquez.
Translation into English for subtitling—intended for those outside the Philippines to immediately convey the message of hope and peace—from the original Filipino lyrics was done by Dr. Hermione Cabie-Santos.
Appropriate permissions were secured from the owners of the original materials and no copyright infringement is intended, with the video produced “for inspirational purposes only,” according to the USTS.
In his introduction before the song, in four/four time signature, the amiable Calalang urged fellow Filipinos in this country of 108 million people “to do their share of cure and give hope and opportunity for our nation to rise again.”
“This is not the time for self-centeredness,” he said.
He thanked everyone—from the frontliners “who are of genuine love and sacrifices,” the leaders, the communities, to Filipino families, and “most of all God, for giving us the truest essence of hope, love, generosity, mercy, and kindness.”
Recalling how the project got into full scale, Calalang attributed this to “the power of music; I guess it all started there and the rest is magical. God led us anew to a true blessing.” He said the support of the alumni singers across the continents was positive and reached crescendo before long.
Not hobbled by the different time zones and work schedules, this group of artists, professionals, and healthcare frontliners collaborated and chose a song, among many Filipino compositions, which embodied a grateful, unified nation despite the challenges of a society and economy under crisis.
Calalang said, “The spirit of driven unity that stemmed from Amor y Amistad is relived. This time, the music is not only for ourselves but for a more noble cause. A panacea for wounded bodies, agonized hearts, and broken spirits.”
He was referring to the celebration of excellent years of music, fostered by love and music in Amor y Amistad, which recently featured Calalang, twice winner of the Luciano Pavaroti Choir of the World Trophy (1995 and 2010).
At the same time, he was pointing to the unprecedented number of deaths and rising incidence of WHO-confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines and around the world.
In mid-April, one month after the start of the lockdown in Luzon, USTS alumni recorded vocal tracks individually and separately with mobile phones, to create this unique symphony of hope.
The video project was successfully launched on social media on April 24. To date, local and international communities have celebrated the virtual message, with over 12,000 combined shares and likes and nearly 600 comments from responders on Facebook, including online acknowledgment from non-profit organizations and agencies.
One who watched the video clip from the Philippines commented: “In their song, the members, through their blended voices, raise the message of peace and unity as the world, through the frontliners in the tough, if unrelenting, battle against the unseen enemy…rises to this medical and health challenge against humanity.”
Play the song da capo al fine.