By Cristina Arzadon
For generations, this campus-based choral continues singing their way to national audiences after captivating the community with their world-class performances.
Originally known as the Ilocos Norte National High School Youth Choir, the Samiweng choral group started making raves in the national music scene after placing first in the prestigious National Music Competition for Young Artists in 1993. It won another first prize trophy in 2002 in the NMCYA finals youth choir category.
But beginning 1970s, the choral has earned a reputation as an accomplished chorus in the community for keeping the Ilocano culture alive through their rendition of traditional music before various audiences in the Ilocos Region.
Composed of more than 20 members, the group is carefully selected from among students who audition to be able to participate in rehearsals and performances. The Samiweng Singers is a choir of equal voices. Male students who have not reached the cambiatta period (or changing voice) are qualified to become members.
The choral has been under the direction of Robert Caluya, also the school’s coordinator for culture and the arts, beginning 1993 when he took over as choir conductor after working as an assistant to former choir mentor Sonia Morales.
It gave the school its first NMCYA trophy when it won first place in the regional competition with Morales as conductor.
Caluya recalls that the choral worked miracles when it bagged its first national NMCYA trophy in 1993 because the singers had barely enough time to rehearse their contest pieces.
“I just returned from a short stint abroad and I was told that we were competing in the national level,” he said.
Caluya went to the motions of rehearsing seven contest pieces and advised the choral to memorize them in time for the competition.
The chorale’s several winning performances have been immortalized in video clips that were later posted at the You Tube for the world audience to see.
Rhea Mae Delgado, a former choir member who is now a nurse, recalled that the choral regaled the audience with their interpretation of the the Latin piece “O Sacrum Convivium “ (a Latin prose text honoring the blessed sacrament).
“It was quite a memorable piece. Our conductor (Caluya) was (even) caught in awe because we didn’t take time to practise it. We just looked at each other and agreed to interpret the song accordingly and we made it,” Delgado said in her website posting.
Shortly after winning its national award, the choral stood beside foreign choir groups that performed before a packed audience in the International Youth Music Festival in Manila.
In 2004, the winning choral recorded a CD copy of its repertoire ranging from classical, renaissance and OPM. The album is not commercially available but has been replicated for the benefit of the school alumni who would always ask for copies during homecomings.
The Samiweng group had since been consistently invited to perform before various audiences in Davao, Bulacan, at the Intramuros and at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
At present, the school maintains three choir groups namely the INNHS youth choir (a mixed choir), the Samiweng Singers (composed of Soprano and Alto singers) and the Coro Ilocano (another mixed choir).
Caluya founded the Coro Ilocano and was first organized in 1996. The original members were alumni of the INNHS youth choir. It has been performing locally and abroad.
The Coro Ilocano auditioned and was one of only four qualifiers from the Philippines including the Kilyawan Boys Choir, Himig Singers and Las Piñas Boys Choir to the World Choir Games in Garz, Austria last July.
The choral later backed out from the international competition due to fund shortfalls. The Las Piñas choir bagged two gold medals in two categories namely the Music of the Religion and the Childrens’ Choir.
Caluya is hopeful that the present crop of Samiweng singers would continue the tradition of bringing beautiful music to the community.
“The Samiweng singers have dedicated themselves to performing beautiful and inspiring choral music and will continue to share their joy and enthusiasm for great choral classics to the community,” he said.
Caluya, who underwent workshops with renowned music professors from the University of the Philippines, has started mentoring new conductors to direct the Samiweng singers and the youth choir. He acts as conductor emeritus for the three choral groups.(IlocosTimes)