Monday, July 15, 2024

The Future of Choral Music in Dumaguete

by Ivan Anthony A. Adaro | October 30, 2022

“Music is competitive to begin with, and sometimes, competition brings out low self-esteem,” Dr. Elizabeth Susan “Sue” Vista-Suarez, the current Dean of the College of Performing and Visual Arts (COPVA) and a full-time professor at Silliman University, shared in an interview with the Weekly Sillimanian. She expressed that she does not want a competition; but rather, a sharing of talent where one can be able to grow and find meaning of their inner selves with and through music. With Silliman’s rich culture, elevating the choral music of Dumaguete – a haven filled with budding artists – is a way to pave the path towards international excellence and recognition in the field of choral music performance.

Amidst the bustle surrounding Silliman University’s 121st Founders Week celebration, the Elizabeth Susan Vista-Suarez (ESVS) International Choral Festival – or the ESVS, for short – was formally launched at the Claire Isabel Luce Auditorium last Aug. 25, 2022. The ESVS is a project of the Silliman University Culture and Arts Council (SUCAC), directed by Asst. Prof. Diomar Abrio, with the ultimate goal to make the ESVS an important avenue for choral music in Asia and the world, as well as provide a venue where singing in harmony becomes an instrument in fostering unity and peace. 

The event stemmed from a simple, yet genuine idea – one that is built from the pure intention of honing one’s commitment, craft, dedication, and gratefulness for the love of choral music. According to Dr. Sue, a group of her students wanted to do something to be in touch with the world outside of Dumaguete and Silliman – to be in line with development in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic. But most importantly, her students wanted to do something in honor of Dr. Sue’s life and musical talent. “At first, I was really shocked when I heard their idea. However, I was really touched when they said that they wanted to do it because I felt that I was able to reach into their inner selves through my music and that through it, they are able to, in turn, express it”, she shared.

ESVS is named after Dr. Sue who is an internationally renowned choral conductor, scholar, and performer. Her philosophy in creating choral music – “timpla” – has influenced a great number of choral groups in the Philippines and led them to many national and international tours, stages, and performances. “Timpla”, which in English is translated to “Seasoning”, is a term that best describes Dr. Sue’s philosophy in creating, conducting, and performing music. Her music has always been known to be different and unique in a way that the sound created is distinctive from others. “Just like cooking, it is all about making sure that the seasoning is well balanced and lami [tasty] – and the same goes in my music. It is all about balancing the tone, the diction, the articulation, and making sure that the music really shines through”, she shared. Because of this, her music has come to be known as “lami og timpla” across the locality and throughout the years.

The ESVS is a culmination and celebration to recognize the rich culture of music here in the island – a type of music that accentuates and defines why Dumaguete is indeed a haven filled with budding artists. It seeks to inspire recognition and appreciation for choral music, hone unique talents and encourage participation in world-class choral performances, and help individuals reach their full potential through wholesome practice and performance. The festival is set to commence next year, 2023, around late July or early August in Dumaguete wherein the city will be filled with workshops, seminars, concerts, and performances. Choirs and international musical groups from around the globe will also take part in the festival’s events. All of which to bring beauty and light to the celebration of choral music. Currently, SUCAC are funding for preparations, making invitations for international musical groups, and creating events that can help hone the potential of its participants. 

“Music is an art. Life is not literal. The musical score that you see is not the one that you have to necessarily follow. You have to put life into it and find a way to really express the music and let it reach the inner selves of the listeners”, Dr. Sue expressed. She encourages her students, budding artists, and everyone out there to believe in themselves and to recognize their talents – to see a greater purpose beyond oneself. She also added that great attitude and pure dedication are two most important values artists should carry within themselves in order to shine. Most importantly, she shared that music is all about coming together in harmony, as well as sharing and enjoying what you have to the world.


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