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Philippine Madrigal Singers’ 60th anniversary tour

“The most beautiful sound on earth” coming to Winnipeg this spring!

Intensixty Madz

by Oscar Pantaleon Jr.

Winnipeg choir lovers are in for a rare treat this spring when the Philippine Madrigal Singers will be in town for a concert on May 5. The choir will be touring Canada coast-to-coast from April to July as part of IntenSIXTY: The Philippine Madrigal Singers’ 60th Anniversary Celebration.

Throughout its six decades of existence, the Philippine Madrigal Singers has received both critical and public acclaim. “That is the most beautiful sound on earth,” an accolade one rarely hears, was bestowed on the Philippine Madrigal Singers by one of the jurors of the 1997 European Grand Prix (EGP) for Choral Singing in Tours, France, where they eventually won.

The EGP is the Olympics of choral contests and is open only to the grand prize winners of the six toughest European choral competitions in the previous year. The Philippine Madrigal Singers won the EGP again in 2007. This distinction of having won the prize multiple times belongs to only a handful of ensembles. To this date, the Philippine Madrigal Singers is the only Asian group in this elite circle of winners.

The choir has also received recognition beyond concert halls. In 2009, UNESCO named the Philippine Madrigal Singers as Artist for Peace for “putting fame and influence at the service of UNESCO’s ideals and efforts to promote cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue, and a culture of peace.”

Fondly called the Madz, the Philippine Madrigal Singers has been joining – and winning – choral competitions since the 70s. The Madz is one of the world’s most awarded choirs, having won all the top prizes in most of the prestigious international choral competitions: Arezzo and Gorizia in Italy, Marktoberdorf in Germany, Spittal in Austria, Neuchatel in Switzerland, Tours in France, Varna in Bulgaria, Debrecen in Hungary, and Cantonigros, Tolosa and Torrevieja in Spain.

Prof. Andrea O. Veneracion, Philippine National Artist, is the founder and first choirmaster of the Philippine Madrigal Singers. In 1963, she gathered colleagues and friends at the Abelardo Hall of the UP College of Music to sightread madrigals during their lunchbreaks and after classes. After just a few years the Madz debuted at Carnegie Hall, representing the Philippines in the Choruses of the World choral festival. “The audience was so mesmerized that you could hear a pin drop,” Madz alumni would recount to the younger members.

Originally established as the University of the Philippines Madrigal Singers, the choir is also known as the Philippine Madrigal Singers. The Madz acquired its second official name after being designated as a resident company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines where it enjoys the same status as the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, Ballet Philippines, and Tanghalang Pilipino, among others.

The Madz specializes in the madrigal, a polyphonic song-form popular during the Renaissance. This has inspired the choir’s unique style of singing while seated in a semi-circle without a conductor. The madrigal, however, is only one of various genres in the broad repertoire of the ensemble: classical music, Filipino and international folksongs, contemporary and avant-garde music, opera, and even pop music.

In addition to tours, competitions, and festivals, the Philippine Madrigal Singers conducts outreach performances throughout the Philippines and informally represents their country as ambassadors of goodwill. The Madz goes on international concert tours twice a year on average, making them one of the world’s most travelled choirs.

Currently directing the new generation of singers is Mark Anthony Carpio, who became the second choirmaster of the Madz in 2001. Mark will be leading the choir in its upcoming concert and festival tour of Canada. Notable among their stops will be Podium 2024, Canada’s national bilingual choral conference and festival in Montreal in May, after their stint in Winnipeg.

Ticket information and link to online sales of their Winnipeg concert will be released on March 15 by JYU events via social media.

Oscar Pantaleon Jr. is an alumnus of the Philippine Madrigal Singers. He was a second tenor of the Madz from 1987 to 1996, singing in festivals, competitions and command performances in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. He now lives in Winnipeg and is the artistic director and conductor of the Musica Singers of Manitoba.