Rachelle Gerodias Returns to the Stage This October in “Madly Filipiniana”
September 24, 2018
Rachelle Gerodias sings immortal classics in a concert of Philippine traditional music and art songs in the madcap, nostalgic Madly Filipiniana
It was time, Rachel Gerodias was told. She had taken a hiatus from the stage after marriage to Byeong In Park, and subsequent motherhood had claimed her focus and energies. The country’s premier soprano and her husband were having dinner with friends Miguel Miñana and Rommel Serrano when the former declared that she was now at her best and ready for the next phase of her career.
The concept of a musical spectacle evolved, which would combine immortal Philippine classics set against a backdrop of nostalgia circa 1920. Madly Filipiniana was conceived, the name born of Floy Quintos’ imaginings to present kundimans with a twist, conveyed immediately by the title. He is the writer and director of the concert.
Things escalated as friends were tapped for what is now a fund-raising benefit to support children who excel in music but are financially challenged.
Rachelle discovered her gift for song in church. As a child, she would join her parents for choir practice at the Unida Evangelical Church and was drawn to Christian gospel music. “I dreamed of singing like Sandi Patty, who was a classically trained gospel singer,” she recalls. “Although some of her songs were too difficult for me because her soprano range was too high for my untrained voice, I was inspired to sing these challenging songs in our church.” Her passion for singing was nurtured as a member of the high school glee club. That and winning the grand prize at a solo gospel singing contest made enrolling at the UST Conservatory of Music as the natural course to take.
It was in college when she performed Rosita in Rolando Tinio’s Filipino adaptation of Puccini’s La Boheme at the main theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. This was her first professional fully staged opera and a turning point in the direction towards a career in opera. “I decided to train abroad to prepare myself for an international career,” she says. Rachelle earned her master’s degree in voice performance and literature from the Eastman School of Music. “I continued to study opera at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts earning my Professional Diploma in Opera.”
Tragedy in Hong Kong
The opportunity to launch her career in Europe was overturned by a turn of events while she was in Hong Kong. “I had to perform while I was suffering from allergies and completely lost my voice the next day,” she narrates. “I was diagnosed to have a polyp in my vocal chords.” She returned to the Philippines to have the polyp removed and was forced to rest her voice. All engagements were cancelled.
It was a low point in her life. “I questioned God and wondered if I would ever sing again.” After a few months, her prayers were answered and she regained her voice. “I found a new purpose in life and a desire to help develop an audience for classical music in our country, awaken a love for kundiman, and help train our local singers. For more than 20 years, I have served as a member of the UST voice faculty. In 2013, I produced my first CD album entitled “Philippine Art Songs” featuring well-loved kundiman and classic Filipino songs with Dr. Raul Sunico on the piano.”
Rachelle has been invited to perform abroad and has essayed the lead roles in operas staged in Austria, Singapore, Korea, China, Vietnam, Taiwan and Hong Kong. She has performed in concerts, as well.
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The forthcoming Madly Filipininaa will, however, be unlike any other concert she has done. Going by the posters and publicity material, it will show a different, even edgy Rachelle. “Floy Quintos and I chose the songs,” she intimates. Professor Raul Sunico, her husband Byeong in Park, whom she describes as a fantastic vocal coach and Jett Pangan will be performing on two of the three nights, accompanied by a chamber orchestra. They will be joined by Ryan Cayabyab on October 13. Also sharing the stage is the Lalilayan Folk Dance Troupe.
“The concert will be a coming together of fashion, theatrics and dance in an unpredictable and visually stunning concert of classic Philippine music,” Rachelle says. “It will be divided into four acts from the early 30s and 40s to the present.” The first part is set amidst the glamor of the Manila Carnival era. It progresses to the second suite, now in the time of the Commonwealth. The third part is a faith tribute while the fourth is a funky pastorale. It will close with a spectacular paean to the nation.
“Rommel Serrano volunteered to include his Kalalayan Folkloric Dance group, as well as to do all the period costumes,” Rachelle says. “Gino Gonzalez and Robert Blancaflor will do the sets. John Batalla will light design and Rards Corpus will be the sound engineer.
“Madly Filipiniana is my all-Filipino classic music concert.” Rachelle says. She pauses before continuing. “It has been a desire to give back to my community, especially to my church where it all began for me.” And at that moment, it became even clearer why it was truly Rachel’s time.
Madly Filipinana will be staged On October 14, 2018 at the Maybank Performing Arts Center