PHOTO: Randy Iblasin

– Rachel Luna Peralta

With the theme “Music is Life,” Cantata Macau 2019 gathered 11 choirs from Macao and various countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Singapore, mainland China, and Hong Kong for the 1st Macao International Choir Competition and six additional groups for the 4th Macao International Choir Festival held on November 8-10, 2019.

The Opening Ceremony and Sacred Music Category Competition were held on November 8 at the Our Lady of Fatima Church. Three Philippine choirs bagged the Gold Awards for this category: namely, Quorista, GenSan Youth Choir, and Rizal Technological University (RTU) Himig Rizalia, who ranked first, second, and third, respectively. Meanwhile, Silver Awards were given to three other Philippine choirs, Anima Christi Chorus, CLSU Maestro Singers, and the University of Cebu Chorus, and one Sri Lankan choir, The Senior Choir of Visakha Vidyalaya. The day concluded with a Sacred Festival Concert.

The second day competitions at Escola de Sao Paulo Auditorium included Open Category, Folklore Category, and Children’s Category. In the Open Category, RTU Himig Rizalia, Anima Christi Chorus, and Quorista landed on top 3, respectively, followed by CLSU Maestro Singers, and The Senior Choir of Visakha Vidyalaya. The Folklore Category was dominated again by Philippine choirs Quorista, RTU Himig Rizalia, and GenSan Youth Choir in top 3, respectively, followed by Indonesian choir PSM Uni Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta, Paraňaque National High School Glee Club, and The Senior Choir of Visakha Vidyalaya. Meanwhile, only two groups competed in the Children’s Category and it was topped by Paraňaque National High School Glee Club from the Philippines followed by Choi Nong Choir of Macao. A Festival Concert capped the day’s events.

The third day gathered all participating choirs in a Workshop conducted by two members of the jury, Prof. Robert Delgado (Philippines) and Prof. Victoria Vakulishyna (China), followed by a Festival Concert and the Grand Prix Competition. The Philippine choir, RTU Himig Rizalia, emerged as the Grand Prix Winner and was awarded a Gold Trophy, a Certificate, and cash prize of 50,000 MOP.

Other choral groups that made special appearances as festival performers include Coro de Fundaçao Rui Cunha (Macau), The Harmonics (Hong Kong), St Gabriel’s Vocal Ensemble (Singapore), and Longjiang Old Cadre University Concentric Choir (Mainland China), GenSan Youth Orchestra, and Phisix from the Philippines.

“Cantata Macau aims to promote Macau not just a gambling city but a city of religious and music-loving people. Music is a universal language, so despite differences in nationality and culture, we become one with our brothers and sisters around the world and understand each other better through music,” says Barrie Briones, Founder, Chairman, and Artistic Director.

The members of the jury include acclaimed choral arrangers, musical conductors and directors namely Stephen Lik-Hin Lam (Hong Kong), Roni Sugiarto (Indonesia), Prof. Victoria Vakulishyna (China), Terrence To (Singapore), Prof. Robert Delgado (Philippines), and Maria Theresa Vizconde-Roldan (Philippines).

“I think, to [be able to] call this a full-fledged music festival, we need to attract at least 1,000 performers – about 40 choirs. So this is one dream we have. We hope to achieve that target in 3 years. One of the objectives of the Festival is to mark Macau as a destination for music tourism. We need to attract not only participants but also other connoisseurs of music together with the performers. We would love to retain the Catholic flavor of the festival. The Catholic Church has been promoting art and culture in the West for centuries. We need to continue patronizing classical music in the future as well,” concludes Fr Jijo Kandamkulathy, CMF, Co-Founder and Head Organizer.

Cantata Macau was founded by a Macao-based Filipino musical conductor, Mr Barrie Briones, together with Fr Jijo Kandamkulathy, CMF, and Ms Patricia Ho.