Adventist Group is
‘Choir of the World’ Winner
Pavarotti Trophy goes to Adventist University of the Philippines group.
By Girlie Mae Andrada, Ray Puen, BUC News
Achoir from the Adventist University of the Philippines (AUP) won three top awards at the 2011 Llangollen Inter national Musical Eisteddfod festival in Wales, United Kingdom, held between July 4 and 10, 2011. After gaining first place in both the Mixed Choirs and Chamber Choirs categories, they went on to win the renowned Choir of the World title and the Pavarotti Trophy on July 9. The Llangollen Eisteddfod, with noted Anglican cleric Terry Waite, CBE, as its president, is among the world’s most prestigious choral competitions.
WINNING CHOIR: Members of the Adventist University of the Philippines (AUP) Ambassadors choir onstage at the 2011 Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod festival in Wales, United Kingdom. The group won three competitions, including the top prize, Choir of the World which includes the Luciano Pavarotti Trophy.The trophy was made even more special for them as the event organizers moved the starting time of the Saturday-evening competition to accommodate the Sabbathkeeping choir. After winning the first two categories, and gaining entry to the final, the group had already decided that it would not compete during the Sabbath hours. However, after praying about it, the group was delighted when the competition was moved to 9:30 p.m.––well after sunset.
That does not mean they wasted their Sabbath: during the competition they enjoyed the exceptional hospitality and friendliness of the Welsh people who accommodated the group in homes in the village. In return for their kindness and hospitality, the group organized a Sabbath concert for the villagers. While the rest of the competitors were busy rehearsing and preparing for the competition, the Ambassadors, the official name of the choir, were witnessing by singing and sharing their faith with the community. They answered many questions about Adventists, as many of the locals had never heard of the church. Tenor Zhean Manalo said people reported “it was the first time that they had met people like us, that we were ‘different,’ and how deeply we touched people’s lives.”
The choir, led by Ramon Lijauco, Jr., arrived in the United Kingdom on July 7, the night before the first competition. Despite jet lag and fatigue from the 12-hour flight, the group competed with top choirs from all over the world and won the first prize in the Chamber Choirs and Mixed Choirs categories. The minimum requirement for Mixed Choirs is 30 voices; the maximum for Chamber Choirs is 29 voices. An alto volunteered to drop out in order for the group to qualify to compete in the Chamber Choirs category.
HAPPY SINGERS: Members of the AUP Ambassadors choir smile after receiving the Luciano Pavarotti Trophy at the 2011 Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod festival in Wales. Standing with the group is Terry Waite, CBE, president of the festival.For the Mixed Choirs category, the group sang “Agnus Dei,” by Krzysztof Penderecki, and “Itako,” an original composition by conductor Lijauco. For the Chamber Choirs competition, in which they surpassed both Mansfield University Concert Choir from Mansfield, Pennsylvania, United States, and the CF1 choir from Wales, they sang “Amor de mi Alma,” by Z. Randall Stroope, and “Bagbagto,” by Nilo Alcala. On Saturday evening they went head-to-head with five other choirs for the most prestigious award, the Choir of the World 2011 title and the Pavarotti Trophy. Printed adjudication notes read: “We were in no doubt this is a quality corporate instrument of very high caliber, based on a strong individual vocal culture molded toward a clearly understood choral sound.”
The AUP Ambassadors are the official chorus of the Adventist University of the Philippines. Elton Wallace, an American Seventh-day Adventist missionary, founded the group in 1957 as an all-male chorus. In 1971, under the leadership of Minerva Arit-Penaranda, the group began accepting female members.
The group has actively promoted Adventist education by visiting churches all over the Philippines and other countries in Asia and the United States. In 2006 the Ambassadors joined the World Choir Games in China and came home Champion in the Gospel and Spiritual categories. This has inspired them to join more choral competitions, not only to win medals and trophies but also to raise the profile of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the music community, the latest being the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod festival.
Raising the US$80,000 (£50,000) needed for the 32 members of the choir to travel was a challenge, but one that did not daunt their spirits or their faith. Since the Eisteddfod they have continued to share their faith––and completed their fund-raising with invitations to sing in St. Chad’s Church, Wrexham, followed by a concert at the Stockport Seventh-day Adventist Church, then a flight to Aberdeen, Scotland, where a series of concerts were arranged by a local pastor, Lorance Johnson. This was followed by four mid-July concerts in the London area.
Highlights of the competition can be viewed online at the Llangollen TV web site.