MVP #1: UP MedChoir

MVP (Meet our Varsity Players) is a series by UP Medics featuring the captains and leaders of our college’s dear varsity teams. Most people associate the word ‘varsity’ with sports teams, but by definition it is not limited to just sports. The word ‘varsity’ is defined as “the principal team representing a high school or college in a sport or other competition” in the Oxford English Dictionary. In that sense, it includes teams that represent a high school or college (or university, at that) in non-sports events, such as debates and choral or dance competitions.

To break the incomplete interpretation of the word ‘varsity’ that is predominant in our collective subconscious, we begin this MVP series by featuring the President and Choirmaster of none other than our beloved UP MedChoir. Let’s get to know our varsity teams!

UP MedChoir’s president, Eunice De Leon (Class 2021), and choirmaster, Yam Remoto (Class 2019). Photo courtesy of Markyn Jared Kho (Class 2020)/The UPCM Collective.

We were fortunate enough that UP MedChoir President Eunice De Leon and Choirmaster Yam Remoto agreed to answer our interview questions. We asked about their most recent win in the 7th Bali International Choral Festival, where they represented the college and the country, and about balancing their lives as medical students and choir members/leaders. Through their answers, we can feel their love and passion for choral music and genuine appreciation for the choir members – feelings so pure and infectious that maybe you’ll feel it for yourself too!

UP MEDICS: How would you describe MedChoir’s performance in the competition portion of the latest Bali International Choral Festival?

Yam: The songs the choir sang in the BICF were the most heartfelt performances to date. Technicalities aside, it is the joy of singing which drove the choir to create such beautiful harmonies. Despite the stage fright, the difficulty of the pieces, and the room full of strangers, what mattered most was the shared passion for choral music which I believe shone through and made a mark on our audience.

Eunice: It was surreal and very unforgettable. Everyone poured their heart and soul into the songs, and I can say that they are performances we will always be proud of.

UP MEDICS: Aside from the BICF7, what (if any) other events or competitions has MedChoir participated in recently? Are you planning on joining any other competitions in the near future?

Yam: The UP MedChoir sings in various events, the biggest ones involve concerts such as one in collaboration with UP MedRhythmics, entitled “Art of Med”, and benefit concerts such as the most recent cooperation with Tahilan Residence and Study Center “Healing Through Music”. The choir also actively participates in local choral festivals like the 1st UP Manila Choral Festival hosted by the UP Manila Chorale, meeting other people with the same passion for singing. The most recent competitions that the choir joined was during our Europe Tour in 2016 in Wales, Germany, and Italy. The choir will continue to sing in gigs, festivals, and concerts.

UP MEDICS: What do you think are MedChoir’s strengths?

Yam: The choir’s strength greatly relies on its members. I believe the UP MedChoir members differ from other choir singers because of the qualities that they have as medical students. These members enjoy learning and continuously help each other also by teaching. They look out for each other. They make time for the things that matter to them. The shared appreciation for music and medicine truly brought us together not just a choir but as a family.

Eunice: Definitely the members. Our members are some of the most passionate and dedicated people I know. These people and their love for music and the org are the reason why MedChoir keeps going.

UP MEDICS: What do you think are the weaknesses of MedChoir or the areas that need most improvement?

Yam: We hope to balance out the number of members of each section as more trainees and friends join this year. We would also like to try more challenging pieces and continue expanding our repertoire.

UP MEDICS: Does MedChoir have regular training sessions? If yes, how often, and what strategies do you use during training? If no, do you plan on changing that? How do you think this affects your team?

Yam: The UP MedChoir holds rehearsals after class around three times a week, always in consideration of exam and duty schedules. We start off with vocalisation exercises and learn and polish the pieces as the members sit with their respective sections. Oftentimes, section heads hold sectionals (special rehearsal time dedicated singing and learning with their own sections), finishing off with a tutti (all sections singing together). We also hold quartet exams (one of each voice performs the assigned songs in a small group). This encourages all the members to develop their technique and bond with other members of the choir.

UP MEDICS: How long have you been singing in a choir? What made you start choral singing? Did you start out with choral singing or with solo singing?

Yam: I never considered myself a singer, but I really love music and beautiful harmonies. I occasionally sang in mass with a small choir in high school. But it was in MedChoir that I really learned and appreciated the intricacies of choral singing.

Eunice: Two years, since I joined MedChoir last 2016. Back in high school, we had this inter-section choral competition every Christmas a la TRP. I really enjoyed participating in them every year, but I had no prior singing experience, and I wasn’t confident enough to join the high school choir. Fast forward to college, I finally decided to pursue my interest for choral singing and tried auditioning for MedChoir.

UP MEDICS: What is your voice classification? What do you think is the most challenging part about being in that classification?

Yam: I was classified as Alto 1 when I started out in the choir. The main challenge for altos is mastering the ability to support the leading melody while singing out enough to give the harmonies the soul it needs. I very much enjoy being an alto!

Eunice: Soprano 2. In most songs, the responsibility of carrying the main melody is given to the Sopranos. In some, however, the Soprano 2s are given supporting lines instead while the Soprano 1s are given the melody. The key is to be adaptable and know when to lead the song.

UP MEDICS: How long have you been part of MedChoir? Why did you decide to join?

Yam: I auditioned for the UP MedChoir when I was in LU1. The members then sang in the college opening ceremonies, and upon hearing the beautiful music, I wanted to be part of something that special. It was a nerve-wracking decision, but it was definitely worth it.

Eunice: Two years. I’ve always been interested in choral music, and I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. 🙂

UP MEDICS: How do you think being part of MedChoir has affected your life?

Yam: After a stressful day of classes and – more recently – hospital duties, it became my go-to place to detox. It helped me become more confident not just in performing, but also in dealing with others. It allowed me to go to unbelievable places I never thought I’d be able to go to, like Singapore, Indonesia, and Europe. It gave me the opportunity to meet people whose friendships I would cherish for a lifetime.

Eunice: I owe a lot of my personal growth to MedChoir. Thanks to MedChoir, I am able to explore my skills and try a lot of new things I never thought I’d be able to do before.

UP MEDICS: Why did you decide to be President/Choirmaster? How does being in that position differ from the other members of MedChoir? (Does it entail additional tasks/responsibilities or an entirely different role?)

Yam: I became the conductor of UP MedChoir when I was in LU5, after the previous choirmaster graduated in 2016. Becoming conductor means taking charge of the musical decisions and teaching the members during rehearsals. I believe that the main responsibility of a choirmaster is to continue to encourage growth and keep the passion for music alive in everyone.

Eunice: I was appointed just this year, for AY 2018-2019. While the choirmaster leads the artistic side of the choir, the president is in charge of the organizational side. This mostly entails guiding and overseeing the committees and their activities, coordinating gig requests, presiding over meetings, and making sure that the org keeps on growing as we achieve our goals for the year.

UP MEDICS: How do you balance being President/Choirmaster and being a medical student?

Yam: Planning is key. It is important to map out important choir events (and the accompanying preparation time), duty schedules, and study time. I highly appreciate the fact many members of the choir help out in teaching as well.

Eunice: There’s really no way around it but to manage time wisely. I try to set priorities and goals each day, and make sure that I’m keeping track of all the tasks I have to accomplish. I don’t have to worry much, though, as my work is made much easier by our very dependable and hardworking executive committee. 😀

UP MEDICS: If you had a chance to be trained in singing by anyone (currently living or not), who would you choose to train you? Why?

Yam: I would love to have been trained by the late Ma’am Andrea O. Veneracion, UP Madrigal Singers’ founder and first conductor. She is a great musician, but more importantly, I aspire to be able to inspire others on loving the wonderful art of choral music the way she has. 🙂

Eunice: Aside from Ma’am OA, it would be an honor to be personally trained by Ma’am Anna Abeleda-Piquero. I admire her passion for the choral arts.

UP MEDICS: Free space!!! Anything else you want to say, shoutout/s, quotes of your choosing, etc.

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Thank you for this opportunity, Medics! <3

UP MedChoir performing in their latest concert, How Great Thou Art, held on October 26, 2018.
Photo courtesy of Markyn Jared Kho (Class 2020)/The UPCM Collective.

It is an honor to have such passionate people represent our college. We enjoin everyone to support UP MedChoir as they continue to bring us beautiful music and moving performances – and championship trophies!

Bakbakan and Palarong Medisina are just around the corner, too, so stay tuned for the next installments of MVP featuring the captains of our many sports teams!

Photos courtesy of Markyn Jared Kho (Class 2020)/The UPCM Collective. Many many thanks to UP MedChoir’s Eunice De Leon and Yam Remoto for taking the time to answer our questions!

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