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Kundiman, Harana, y Zarzuela in Manitoba

by Ronald Mervin Sison


In celebration of Filipino Heritage Month, on June 6, 2024, for the first time in its history, the hallowed halls of the Manitoba Legislative Building echoed with the sounds of timeless kundiman, harana and zarzuela songs sung in the classical tradition. The intimate performance featured three classical singers – Mexican soprano Paulina Gonzalez, soprano Jasmine Wallace, and tenor Ronald Mervin Sison; maestro Jett Russel Panganiban on piano, and emerging young singer Summer Flora Santos.

The program began with a welcome by Minister Malaya Marcelino, the land acknowledgement let by City Councilor Vivian Santos, and the Filipino and Canadian national anthems sung by Summer Flora Santos.

The repertoire featured compositions by Abelardo, Santiago, de Guzman, Suarez, Silos, and Cuenco; zarzuela by Chapi and Obradors, and Puccini. Many famous pieces were performed, including Nasaan Ka Irog, Bayan Ko, Madaling Araw, Katakataka, Dahil Sa Isang Bulaklak andGaano Ko Ikaw Kamahal.

The KUNDIMAN or “kung-hindi-man” translated to “if it can’t be”; and the HARANA or “serenade” are the foremost classical music traditions of the Philippines. The harana is inspired by 333-years-old Spanish colonial courtship tradition and the kundiman emerged in the late 1800s and early 1900s during the American period as an expression of nationalism and undying love. The lyrics are poetic, artistic, and mostly in Tagalog, but can also be in other Philippine languages, and their composers studied and wrote music inspired by their love of country and by the musical masters of their times.