The Filipino church-based choral group Kammerchor Manila took home the Choir of the World Award at the 2023 Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod Competition in Wales on July 8.
The grand prize: The choir achieved the Luciano Pavarotti Grand Prize under the direction of conductor Anthony Go Villanueva, reaffirming the Philippines’ prominent position in the global classical music scene.
At the competition, the choir sang a rendition of the religious anthem “Cast Thy Burden Upon The Lord” by Alejandro Consolacion II and a contemporary take on the Latvian folk song “Atsalums” by Jēkabs Jančevskis. The songs showcased the choir’s ability to perform intricate breathing techniques effectively.
Filipinos “sing from the heart”: “The Philippines is known for producing good singers,” Villanueva told Tatler Asia. “We sing from the heart. Our language is very warm, so when we sing, we are adapting that tenderness. That is our biggest advantage when it comes to choral singing.”
About the choir: Kammerchor Manila, based in the Parish of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Quezon City, was founded in 1992 by Fidel Calalang, Jr., who mentored Villanueva and imparted valuable insights into interpreting music and leading choir members.
Over the years, the group established itself as one of the country’s leading church choirs, showcasing versatility by performing a wide range of genres, including classical madrigals, traditional folk songs and contemporary pop music.
As a nonprofit organization, Kammerchor Manila reportedly had to explore various means of raising funds for travel expenses to the U.K. According to Villanueva, preparing for overseas concerts or competitions typically takes about two years and involves a complex logistical process, including securing sponsorships, finalizing travel plans and applying for visas.
Not the first time: The Choir of the World Award at Llangollen has also been previously earned by the Philippine Madrigal Singers and the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Singers, both of which are connected to Kammerchor Manila’s roots.
Villanueva was a member of the UST Singers when they first won the award in 1995, making his emotional return to the stage in Wales a full circle in his career.