THE UNIVERSITY’S annual Christmas concert again turned the Santisimo Rosario Parish from a solemn sanctuary of worship into a hall of great music and a showcase of Thomasian performing arts but with a difference: the presence of members of high society in the audience who turned up to show their support for UST’s forthcoming quadricentennial celebration.

Mounted last December 3 and 4, the latter being the gala night reserved for VIPs, “A Christmas Heritage: Christmas Concert ’08” emphasized the built heritage of UST and was co-chaired by Fr. Isidro Abano, O.P., UST secretary general and UST Museum director, and Maricris Zobel, former model and the wife of industrialist Inigo Zobel.

“I fell in love with UST,” Zobel told the Varsitarian. She said she agreed to co-chair the concert in order to raise awareness about the need to preserve the old architecture found on campus and to raise money for its restoration and conservation. Restoring the campus to its original splendor would be a wonderful idea, she explained.

But before that, the guests had to enjoy the music. And enjoy they did.

The UST Brass and Percussion opened the night with Fr. Manuel Maramba’s arrangement of “Christmas Fanfare.” The UST Wind Orchestra, the first Philippine symphonic band to participate in an international competition, followed with a suite of jazzed-up carols that breathed life into old favorites such as “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “We Three Kings.” They played under the baton of UST Conservatory alumnus Michael Jacinto.

Conservatory students Christian Paul Anthony Nagaño and Marie Anne Dominese sang accompanied UST Symphony Orchestra, the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ resident performing group. They rendered a laid-back “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Give Love on Christmas Day,” which was arranged and conducted by UST conductor Herminigildo G. Ranera.

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The UST Symphony Orchestra, Coro Tomasino and Liturgikon Vocal Ensemble serenaded the audiences with an assortment of favorite OPM Christmas songs.

“Symphonic Bells” by the UST Symphony Orchestra featured yuletide classics like “Canon” and “O Christmas Tree,” interspersed with bell sounds from bells of various sizes. Ranera said that he was fascinated with the sound of bells, which prompted him to incorporate them into classical music and Christmas carols.

Soon after, a triumvirate of sopranos, Nenen Espina-Alfornon, Thea Perez and Naomi Paz Sison, wowed the audience through a compelling rendition of “O Holy Night.”

Highlight of the evening was the breathtaking performance of Handel’s “Rejoice Greatly” and N. Rodriguez’ “Light of a Million Mornings” by UST Music alumna Rachelle Gerodias, widely considered as the Philippines’ top soprano.

A feature in this year’s concert was “A Techno Christmas,” led by UST Music Dean Raul M. Sunico, which melded classical melodies and techno beats. A brainchild of Ranera, “A Techno Christmas” was complemented by dance from the UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe.

Capping the evening off was “Christmas Finale,” a powerhouse performance by all the singers and musicians, including tenors Eugene Delos Santos and Ronan Ferrer, UST Conservatory Chorus, UST Grade School Choir, and Psalterion of the UST Central Seminary.

As the finale sang the first notes of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” the stained-glass angels’ panels slid past to reveal the Nativity onstage. Later, the performers enjoined the audience to sing “Joy to the World” with them.

Adding to the color of the event was the elegantly dressed chapel with its balconies fringed with silver branches and crystalline drops, and a gilded frame specked with stars bordered the two large video displays.

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Onstage, two stained-glass angels facing each other served as the backdrop.

“A Christmas Heritage,” will be aired at 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve on NBN channel 4.

“I congratulate each and every one [of the organizers and performers] for putting [the concert] together,” said former first lady Imelda Marcos, who was with daughter Irene Marcos-Araneta in the audience.

Heritage program

Beneficiaries of the concert were the UST Heritage Conservation Program and the UST Conservatory of Music scholarship fund.

The proceeds would go to the preservation of the UST Main Building and the restoration of artifacts and art works in the UST Museum of Arts and Sciences, the country’s oldest museum.

“We must have an authentic concern for poverty,” Father Abano said in his welcome remarks. “This is not to appreciate what we do not have, but to appreciate what we do have.”

The concert was also supported by former senator and UST Medicine alumna Luisa Ejercito-Estrada, banker-financier Andrew Gan, interior designer Jonathan Matti, and ABS-CBN director Beaver Lopez. Corporate sponsors include Belo Essentials and Globe Asiatique.

Zobel said she was very pleased with the success of the concert.

“We are gearing up for 2011, and we really want to make a difference,” Zobel said. “We can make sure our future will bring our children better education and something to be proud of.”


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