THE MULTITUDE. Over 500 individuals raise their fists with overflowing pride as they lead the entire Thomasian community in the singing of the “40,000 Voices for UST” repertoire. Photo by JOHN DANIEL J. HIRRO

A SEA of pastel colors and a buzz of excitement filled the entire stretch of the University’s open field as dusk fell last Jan. 27.

Then, with the first wave of the conductor’s baton, music from the UST Symphony Orchestra and the voices of some 40, 000 Thomasian erupted to drumbeat the University’s new century.

The event, “40, 000 Voices for UST’s 400” gathered the University’s children to sing—in varying voice ranges—a repertoire that featured melodies of praise (Catholic), folk songs (Filipino, past), pop anthems (contemporary), and Thomasian hymns of pride, which collectively embodied the University’s identity.

A vision, a feat

Conservatory of Music professor Herminigildo Ranera, the event’s conductor, told the Varsitarian that Fr. Isidro Abaño, O.P., executive director for Quadricentennial Activities and Highlights, approached him in 2007 with the idea, which he said he couldn’t refuse.

“Initially, of course I was elated—imagine, you’ll be conducting [for] ‘40,000 voices!’ The plan was to end the Quadricentennial (celebration) with a bang and, at the same time, if possible, to enter the Guinness Book of World Records,” Ranera said.

But months before the event, University officials discovered that there was already a record executed in India, where 60,000 individuals gathered to sing as one. This did not discourage UST in pushing through with the plan as “40,000 Voices for UST’s 400” would be a first in the country.

Ranera arranged the pieces used for the event and was in charge of the overall orchestration, which was led by students of Music and the different University choirs such as the two-time “Choir of the World” UST Singers, the Conservatory Chorus, Liturgikon, Coro Tomasino, and other college-based chorales.

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“Early in December, they (the choirs) had their scores already. They practiced the songs before the year ended… Not only that, we recorded the songs; we recorded the different voices to help the singers so they could download the [voice] parts and as a whole,” Ranera said.

The community singing—which featured songs in both English and Filipino—commenced with an instrumental introduction from the UST Symphony Orchestra, which led the crowd to the first song, “Holy Art Thou.” The Filipino part of the program followed with “Leron Leron Sinta,” “Magtanim ay ‘di Biro,” the Ilokano courtship song “Pamulinawen,” and “Pen Pen de Sarapen.”

Songs by popular ‘70s group Abba resounded in the campus to imbibe the contemporary Thomasian with the songs “Thank You for the Music,” “I Have a Dream,” and “Chiquituita” The well-received segment of the program was succeeded by the congregational singing of “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee,” the Quadricentennial song “Ako’y Isang Tomasino,” and the UST Hymn.

The actual 40k

During the performance, some 500 individuals were on stage to lead the participants, who were represented by different colors—pink (soprano), yellow (alto), blue (tenor), and orange (bass). LED screens and songbooks guided the sea of singers throughout the performance.

“The challenging [part] was how to put these [40,000 people] together… [During the dry run], it was difficult to synchronize the different voices because not all the participants attended,” said Ranera.

Though they encountered minor problems in its execution, the organizers thought it was a huge success.

“It was memorable, fleeting, grand, and noble. It is very difficult to beat. Upon seeing UST singing in chorus, it proved that we are unified, that we are solid, that we’re one family—one community singing,” said Ranera. Rafael L. Antonio and Alyosha J. Robillos

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