Choirmaster of the Philippine Madrigal Singers.
If you had to give an aspiring vocal ensemble just one piece of advice, what would it be?
Listen to each other! It would help a lot in blend and intonation. By listening to each other you get to learn from each one as well Those who are lacking in a particular skill can learn from those who have. And since listening is a skill, you get to develop it by always actively doing it.
How you were introduced to ensemble singing?
I was a fan of the Philippine Madrigal Singers before I became a member. Together with my friends we would “imitate” the way they perform. I used to go carolling with just a few friends during Christmas season. We would go from house to house and sing carols to the families we visit.
What’s the first thing you look at when you open a score for the first time?
The style of writing, compositional technique. Whatever piece of work it is, I always try to look at what makes it different from other pieces I’ve done.
How rigidly do you like to keep to a score in performance?
For classical works, yes, I try to follow all the indications in the score as close as possible. For contemporary works, I would try to communicate with the composer, as much as possible, anything I would do differently.
If and when you have to programme a concert, what factors influence you most?
I always consider two factors, the interest of the target audience and the enjoyment of the singers. Most of the time, one would weigh more than the other but never too much.
What, for you, are the marks of a great composition for vocal ensembles?
The length of the phrases: each part can be sung by one person without sacrificing the phrase. Tessitura of each part: each singer sings in the comfortable register for the dynamic level being asked.
What, in your opinion, makes a great ensemble singer?
A great ensemble singer is one who is able to balance well with the others and is able to modify his/her tone colour in order to blend with the rest of the group.
Do you have any pet-hates when you hear choirs or vocal ensembles perform?
Should I have? =) Performing without relating to the audience, choirs who seem to perform only for themselves.
Is there anything that you do when you perform, rehearse, compose or conduct that others might find unusual? (quirks, tricks, useful tips)
Sit down on a semi-circle without the conductor. After more than 50 years, I still get feedback on how unusual we perform.
Are you able to say why you particularly love choral music?
It’s probably one of the easiest if not the easiest way to make music with others.
Do you have a favourite choral composer and, if so, whom and why?
None. I look at a work not by virtue of the composer but by how the work was written.
Is there a piece for choirs or vocal ensembles you’d like to recommend to us that we might not have heard of before?
I can’t think of anything in particular right now but would love to hear you do more works by Asian, Filipino in particular, composers.
Is there anyone or any group in the world of choirs and vocal ensembles that you admire particularly, either current performers or groups from the past?
Aside from the King’s Singers, I like listening to Chanticleer.
Do you have a guilty pleasure? If yes, will you tell us what it is?
I like playing video games. Very much.
Read all the KS Q&As on the Ensemble Hub Dropbox.
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