By Ritzi Villarico-Ronquillo, APR, IABC Fellow
(UPCC 1975-1980, BA Broadcast Communication 1980)
February 4, 2023 has passed, balikbayan alumni have flown back to their homes in other continents, and Philippine-based alumni have settled back into their daily schedules, but the euphoria from the 60th homecoming concert of the UP Concert Chorus continues to linger like a LSS (Last Song Syndrome) that continually runs through one’s head.
Titled “UPCC@Sixty: Sama-sama Together,” the concert brought together more than 200 alumni and current members from the 1960s to the present, performing on stage best-loved songs through the decades. In the audience in the UP Theatre that seats more than 2,000 people, were some 100 more alumni (some who had flown in just for the homecoming), National Artists for Music Fides Cuyugan-Asensio, Ramon P. Santos, and Ryan Cayabyab, and National Artist for Literature Gemino Abad; UP officials led by outgoing UP President Atty. Danilo Concepcion, composers, musical arrangers, songwriters, and artists; UPCC concert tour hosts, media, family and friends. The newly refurbished UP Theatre was jam-packed at the sold-out concert.
The hiatus brought about by the pandemic only served to weigh in the intensity of the 60th homecoming. It was like old times as alumni rehearsed, blocked onstage and performed before a capacity crowd.
UPCC alumni talents were all out as they took on multiple roles, both onstage and offstage with production and organizing roles. Conductors were: UPCC Artistic Director and Conductor Prof. Jai Sabas-Aracama of world-renowned and multi-awarded UPCC, Dr. Ed Manguiat, founder and conductor of multi-talented and lauded UP Singing Ambassadors; and Dr. Joel P. Navarro, professor, book author, composer and esteemed choral conductor.
Among the UPCC alumni were musical arrangers whose works were performed: National Artist Ryan Cayabyab, Dr. Navarro, Prof. Sabas-Aracama, Nick Pacis, and Raymond Roldan. Assisting artists were: Kontemporaryong Gamelan Pilipino (Kontra-GaPi) led by its founder and artistic director Prof. Pedro Abraham, Jr.; Antonio Maigue on the flute, and Jasper Domingo and Paul Carlo Concepcion on the piano.
Behind the scene was a hardworking group headed by 60th anniversary event chair Atty. Noriz de los Reyes-Castillo and UPCC alumni association president Atty. Dot Balasbas-Gancayco; art director Jojo Isorena, and multitudes of dedicated alumni and current UPCC members: batch representatives and event committees.
The concert, directed by UPCC alumnus Rico Mortel, featured songs from the 1960s to the present, beginning with a rousing opening production number (“Hibang sa Awit/Salamat, Salamat Musika”) with all decades represented, and multi-awarded alumna Nanette Inventor doing a solo in the medley of songs written by National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab and Gary Granada, and arranged by Nhick Pacis. What followed were songs done in the UPCC’s pioneering choral style, the now popular signature “choreocapella” that effortlessly combines excellent singing with delightful choreography for a total favorite audio and visual treat that has enthralled audiences both here and abroad.
Again in UPCC tradition, “tutti” (Italian for “all”) songs ended the concert with robust renditions of more than 200 voices raised in song: “Sama-sama Tayo’y Makapaniig,” a new composition of Prof. Sabas-Aracama in collaboration with her daughter, UPCC’s Tiara; The Beatles’ “In My Life” in poignant remembrance of alumni who have passed away, the majestic “Alleluia” by Randall Thompson and “The Majesty and Glory of His Name” by Tom Fettke, and the patriotic classic “Sa Mahal Kong Bayan” by National Artist for Music Lucio D. San Pedro, with each of the three alumni conductors taking turns for each song.
It was also the world premiere of the UPCC anthem, “Aming Korus, Aming Buhay,” composed, arranged and orchestrated by Dr. Navarro, with lyrics by alumnus Justice Magdangal de Leon. And finally, the singing of our university hymn “UP Naming Mahal.”
It raised goosebumps seeing some 2,000 people in the audience and more than 200 UPCC members and alumni on stage, raising their voices with much fervor and pride. In the hall were the distinguished members of the UP community. And when the hymn ended and you saw the sea of arms up in the air at those precise moments, the feeling was indescribable.
Diversity at its best, each one unique, yet singing together, many voices each contributing to the sound of a people committed to service and excellence, to the values that UP has ingrained in us.
As my fellow UPCC performers and I faced the audience, and sang together, the hall magnificently reverberated with many voices, singing as one, one hymn. It was such a proud moment. Mabuhay!