Writer’s Recap: Music and joy harmonize in DLSU Chorale’s ‘Saliw Lasalyano: A Choral Festival’

The Lasallian chorale brought their internationally acclaimed melodies back home in Taft for a night of pure musical wonder.

The DLSU Chorale, in celebration of its local and international achievements in the past year, staged Saliw Lasalyano: A Choral Festival last March 16 at the Teresa Yuchengco Auditorium. In this second edition of their festival series, the Lasallian choristers shared the stage with guest choirs from the Ateneo de Manila College Glee Club (ACGC), University of the Philippines (UP) Singing Ambassadors (UPSA), and University of Santo Tomas (UST) Singers. In true dedication toward artistry, the musical gathering also served as a fundraiser for DLSU Chorale’s European tour and upcoming competitions—drawing them one step closer to achieving more milestones in their career. 

A universal language

Conducted by Phoebe Bitoon, the ACGC greeted the sea of audiences with their lively rendition of Buligi by Ryan Cayabyab. A longtime classic among many renowned musical groups such as the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra, “buligi” is a Hiligaynon word that means “to help” or “to assist.” The song symbolized the four universities gathering for one event, as Division Manager for Finance Dana Guillarte pointed out the value of building rapport with one another. “Fostering a sense of camaraderie and unity among all participants was paramount; harmonious relationships are crucial for a successful collaborative effort,” she expressed.

After witnessing an upbeat performance, the audience felt a shift in the air with the solemnity of ACGC’s succeeding pieces, which highlighted the essence of spirituality and faith. Through the American Christian hymn Come Away to the Skies by Alice Parker, the Ateneo vocalists weaved melodies of salvation and union with God. Then, they hit the notes to Arvo Pärt’s Russian Orthodox liturgical song Bogoróditse Djévo, a blend of half-spoken phrases with a full-bodied sonic experience to express exuberant shouts of joy. Once again taking inspiration from a biblical passage, ACGC’s last piece was Richte mich, Gott, which means “judge me, O God.” This arrangement by Felix Mendelssohn perfectly encapsulated human longing for the divine through the language of music. 

The baton was then passed to choirmaster Joel Aquino to introduce the DLSU Chorale. The group opened with two sacred songs of praise, Glong-Ngo Ko by Eudenice Palaruan and Alleluia by Jake Runestad, which were bestowed by a uniquely breathtaking euphonic appeal.

Deriving pieces from the Philippine regions, DLSU Chorale proved that the country’s rich local and tribal music ought to be heard and appreciated by many. Ummah Sallih by John Pamintuan is a song derived from the Qur’an, intoned by an imam or priest and often dedicated to newborns. This was followed by a victory chant from the Itneg tribe of Abra titled Iddem-dem Mallida arranged by Cyro Bon Cloui Moral. It featured a harmonious blend of percussion instruments, animated chants, and foot stomps—effectively translating the chorale’s sweet taste of victory as Grand Prix Champions in the 2023 Busan Choral Festival and Competition in South Korea, which also earned them recognition in Ani ng Dangal 2024.

There could be no other perfect way to conclude such a captivating performance than with one of the classics. With a performance of I’ll Be There, arranged by Arnel De Pano, the mellifluous Lasallian choir reminded the audience why they were gathered in the auditorium that night, which was to give love to one another. 

A shift in tempo

The second half of the show commenced with a masterclass performance by the UP Singing Ambassadors. Showcasing their talent and maturity under the leadership of founder Dr. Edgardo Manguiat, the UP choristers began with Gioachino Rossini’s O Salutaris Hostia, which is a Latin piece of prayer in worship of God that translates to “O, salutary victim.” Continuing with another song of worship, the choir showcased their alto, tenor, and bass with precision through Mozart’s composition Alleluia, arranged by Walter Schumann.

The UPSA’s third Latin piece was Te Lucis ante terminum, composed by Gyöngyösi Levente, sang in an evening prayer. This was succeeded by a playful spin on Ezekiel Saw the Wheel, telling the biblical story of Ezekiel and how he came to be one of God’s prophets. Concluding the UP choir’s performance is a medley close to the hearts of many Filipinos, which Manguiat claims to be one of his favorites. Composed by songwriters that include National Artist Ryan Cayabyab, a Basil Valdez medley that featured his most romantic songs Tuwing Umuulan at Kapiling Ka, Ngayon at Kailanman, Paraisong Parisukat, and Kastilyong Buhangin were arranged by John Pamintuan, and served as an encore to the organization’s 35th anniversary celebration performance. 

The last choral group were no less than lacking in talent and mastery under the baton of founder Fidel Gener Calalang Jr. The UST Singers gave a contemplative performance of Surge Illuminare by Indonesian composer Budi Yohanes Susanto, which mixed the sound of traditional and modern Indonesian sound to create a truly transcendent  number. Composed by Cuban conductor Ernesto Herrera, Agnus Dei also featured the interlocking of ancient and modern a cappella harmonies. 

Described as an African American folksong which showcases rich harmonies and percussive rhythms, Way over in Beulah Lan’ was the next rendition by the UST Singers, taking on the challenge of performing a global choral favorite. Certainly a crowd favorite was a whimsical performance of Plink, Plank, Plunk!, where the singers posed and played to match the fast and exuberant melodies of the song. Following a shift in tempo, the choir’s last piece was a choral adaptation of Wheels of a Dream from the Tony award-winning musical Ragtime. Spread out on stage, the choral group did a dramatic presentation of the American dream, and what struggles transpired during early 20th century America. 

A celebration of music, a celebration of life

At the final leg of the event, the four choral groups gathered back on stage to perform a soulful rendition of The Beatles’ Let It Be conducted by Manguiat as the penultimate song of the show. Afterwards, Aquino returned to give a short speech expressing his gratitude to everybody who took part in making the show successful. 

“Saliw Lasalyano has now become a cherished tradition providing the opportunity and the stage to showcase the artistic brilliance within our choral community in order to shine,” Aquino stated. He added that what made the show possible was the friendship and camaraderie among the conductors who were more than willing to support DLSU Chorale’s bid to compete in Europe. 
Capping the night, the four choirs performed As Long As I Have Music, with the message that despite the trials and tribulations of life, music stays, and it transcends. As for what is next for the DLSU Chorale, the group is gearing up to bring their music across the Philippines and to the international stage. As the show ended, what is left with the audience is the knowledge that music—through its melodies and harmonies—binds everybody together, forming meaningful communities bound by one goal of supporting each other.

Laurence Pontejos

By Laurence Pontejos

Julian Rias

By Julian Rias

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