The Canticle Singers present Bravissimo,
a celebration of music without borders.
Baritone Cipriano “Zip” De Guzman Jr, hailing from the Philippines, might have toured many countries, performing to audiences in each and often returning with awards – but he considers himself, deep down, a shy person.
“So I really like performing on stage, whether in a concert or in an opera, because once I set foot on stage I feel like a different person. That stage is mine and I am free to showcase the result after long hours of rehearsals,” he says.
Zip first started singing as a boy soprano in school, when he was 10, after having to hang up his dancing shoes.
“I had asthma, I couldn’t tolerate the long hours of dance rehearsals. So I decided to join the choir instead. I became the lead boy soprano,” he adds.
Now, Zip is the first Filipino opera scholar at the Birmingham City University in England where he is pursuing a masters in vocal performance and pedagogy.
He is one of the six soloists who will be performing at the Bravissimo shows at Universiti Malaya in Kuala Lumpur later this week. It features a showcase of 20 songs from past and present, presented by The Canticle Singers – a voluntary community choir established in 1992.
With a song selection ranging from the operatic and classical to more recent tunes, The Canticle Singers founder and music director HK Chong comments that Bravissimo is a celebration of “both classical as well as non-classical elements performed by soloists and a concert chorale.”
The six soloists from Malaysia and the Philippines, and 20-member choir, will be presenting numbers from operas such as The Merry Widow and Carmen to Broadway pieces (The Lion King, Sweeney Todd).
“We would like to show that classical and non-classical can both proudly share the same stage together,” says Chong. There is also a number from an Asian musical that will be performed – but they are keeping mum on which one!
The Bravissimo setlist is mostly in English, with a few in French, German, Italian and Tagalog.
Ang Mei Foong, one of the soloists from Kuala Lumpur, points out that combining classical and non-classical numbers in one production might be considered unconventional in Malaysia but that is not so in many countries abroad.
“We are creating a different platform to present music and to attract different segments of the popuation,” she says.
“With arts and music, it doesn’t need to be in a ‘proper’ concert hall, it doesn’t have to consist of pure classical numbers, the singers don’t even have to be in fancy costumes.”
Ang has been involved in singing performances since her kindergarten days. At 17, she enrolled herself for formal classical singing classes, then got a scholarship to pursue her singing in Taiwan.
After spending a year in Rome, she went on to obtain her masters of music performance from the University of Melbourne.
“I did not actually win in many of the local competitions, though I was usually the consolation prize winner,” Ang relates of her early performances.
“To a certain extent, I am glad that I faced many ‘failures’ in the early years because it kept me moving, forced me to continue growing, and more importantly, made me realise how much I love music and how determined I am in making music my career.”
Elsewhere, soprano Kay Balajadia-Liggayu from the Philippines divides her time between song and law. She is a practising lawyer and mother of three.
Starting out as a Business Economics major, she switched to music after a year and a half of study.
With years of experience under her belt, Kay says that she is “comfortable in all genres of music, except hard metal and rap.”
Of the show’s title, Chong highlights that Bravissimo is an Italian word used to express highest praise.
“And it is this level of praise that we would like to accord to the composers and lyricists of the pieces that we have selected for the concert. I think we have a really great collection and variety of numbers.”
Bravissimo is a benefit concert in support of SUKA Society, a registered non-governmental organisation dedicated to protecting and preserving the best interests of children. The show is one hour 40 min in duration, with a 15-minute intermission.
> Bravissimo is on at The Experimental Theatre, Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur on Aug 29 and 30 at 8.30pm. Tickets are RM68 and RM88. For purchase, call 03-7957 6088 or visit www.ilassotickets.com. Tickets can also be bought at the following locations: iLasso Tickets HQ in Petaling Jaya, Rock Corner outlets at 1Utama, The Gardens, Subang Parade, KLCC and The Curve, Victoria Music center outlets at Sungei Wang, Amcorp Mall and Tropicana City Mall, KL Live at Life Centre Kuala Lumpur and PJ Live Arts at Palm Square,