Learning and singing harmonize

30 December 2003

SAN JOSE, Philippines — Participants in a choral concert tour here also conducted intensive training on the use of the arts and choral music for both the Baha'i community and the wider society.

The tour by members of the international Melody of Carmel Baha'i choir ran from 20 to 30 December 2003.

The conductor of the choir and one of those involved in the training sessions was Franco Aquino, whose great-grandfather, Felix Ricardo Maddela was the first Filipino to become a Baha'i, in 1938.

The training project, originally planned only for participants from the Nueva Vizcaya region, soon became a national one because of widespread interest.

Many amateur singers, ranging from the age of 11 to 57, came from all parts of the country to learn how to enhance their musical skills, and the practical steps of starting a choir.

Other sessions were dedicated to chanting and to the role of music in children's classes, devotional meetings, and other activities of the Baha'i community.

"Following the workshops and seeing the impact of the tour, the local Baha'i youth felt inspired to start choirs in their own communities," said Mr. Aquino, who lives in Haifa, Israel where he is a volunteer at the Baha'i World Centre and conducts its choir.

"Other participants are also planning to perform in the provincial fair in Solano," he said.

Some members of the choir.SLIDESHOW
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Some members of the choir.

Members of the newly formed Melody of Carmel Baha'i choir came from Canada, Fiji, New Zealand, the United States, and Zambia, as well as from many regions of the Philippines.

"With 60 singers, this is the largest Baha'i choir ever to have performed in the Philippines," said Mr. Aquino.

The members of the choir spent five days preparing together for the tour and learning the 16-song repertoire.

Entitled "Echoes of Love," the tour featured choral arrangements of Baha'i prayers and other Baha'i holy texts set to music.

Choir member, Bonnie Ellis, a librarian from Canada, who has been a staff member at the Baha'i World Centre since 2001, said that the Baha'i writings have a unique potency, firstly because they are the word of God, and secondly because when set to music, they move the hearts of people.

"Baha'u'llah says that music is like a ladder whereby man gets closer to God," said Ms. Ellis. "People always remember the music most [from an event] because it moves them."

The group also sang songs that arose from a variety of ethnic traditions, as well as some pop songs and folk tunes, including a song in Filipino.

The concerts also featured a traditional dance from Fiji, performed by the Iloilo Baha'i Youth Dance troupe, and a solo violin performance.

Melody of Carmel's three public performances were in San Jose, Solano, and Cabarroguis. A colorful parade welcomed the choir to the town of Solano.

Local dignitaries attended the events, and admission to the concerts was free for the general public.

The concert in San Jose was recorded and will be broadcast in the near future by the Radio Baha'i Philippines. Local radio stations also interviewed some of the members of the choir.