Christmas this year will be without the traditional "noche buena" with the family for Philippine-born conductor and choral arranger Roberto Delgado. For days now, he has been rehearsing nightly with the Earth Choir to prepare the singers for a performance on Christmas Day, December 25, at the Recital Hall of the National Concert Hall in Taipei.
Delgado will feel a bit of the Christmas spirit though. His arrangements of Christmas carols like "Deck the Hall," "Jingle Bells Calypso," "A Christmas Carol" and "Do You Hear What I Hear?" will be heard at the choral concert in Taipei.
The choir founded by Yiu Chang-fa and Hong Chyi-lin nearly 25 years ago is singing strictly in English this time, according to Delgado.
"I am requiring them to memorize all the lyrics," said Delgado. "I am making them work very hard. But they will eventually be able to deliver themselves well."
Delgado came to Taipei only a few months ago to participate in the 2005 Cheer Formosa International Choral Festival. He brought over the San Beda College Chorale from the Philippines. The male singers were warmly applauded especially for their rendition of "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's "Turandot." Two of the singers will join the Earth Choir at the Taipei concert.
Delgado, who served at one point as the resident arranger of the famous Philippine Madrigal Singers, was the conductor when the San Beda College Chorale won the "Olympic Champion" honor in Pusan, South Korea, in 2002. The group went on to become the most active and most awarded male choir in the Philippines.
Meanwhile the Earth Choir has built a reputation for being good in both classical and modern music. Several of the singers in the choral group are music teachers with a passion for choral singing.
"To mark our 25-year milestone next year," said Hong, "we will go on tour around Taiwan. We are also going abroad to participate in international choral festivals like the one in Granada. We will be very busy."
Delgado has been asked to help arrange music for a children's operetta. But the project will have to wait till next year. Hong wants to promote the development and creation of new children's operettas.
Hong's admiration for Filipino music talents has led her to repeatedly invite Filipino musicians to collaborate with the Earth Choir. Her own daughter, also a choir member, is now even attending music classes at the University of the Philippines.