Halo-Halo Festival 2016

By Virginia Balanon

Sandok Production’s Halo Halo Music Festival, on its third year of promoting Philippine culture through music and arts, featured a two-day musical extravaganza with the Festival of Voices on August 5 (Day 1) and an Open Mic Melbourne gig on August 6 (Day2).

This year’s Halo Halo event fostered the fusion of music, culture and community as it afforded a venue to showcase excellence, expression and collaboration on two occasions: the Festival of Voices featuring the world renowned University of Santo Tomas Singers (USTS) and the Open Mic Melbourne, a free platform for fresh talents and experienced ones to perform, motivate and share a common passion that is, music.

Festival of Voices presents The UST Singers

Philippine pride and music champion, the UST Singers played the lead in the Festival of Voices held at the Melbourne City Conference Centre in the CBD. This Melbourne concert marked their 31st international concert tour as well as their first show in Australia.
During their concert in Melbourne, the group’s repertoire consisted of religious, folk and love songs as well as OPM. Among the crowd’s favourites included “Go The Distance” with bass-soloist and USTS President, Nikki Lauron; “You Could Drive a Person Crazy” with soloists Sophia Chikarat, Irene Quiso-Ednave, Cheska Radojevic and Kristel Deocampo; George Canseco classic “Ikaw” with soprano soloist Sophia Chikarat; folk songs “Atin Cu Pung Singsing”, “Paru-parong Bukid”, and “Libis ng Nayon”; and their spectacular finale song “Piliin Mo Ang Pilipinas”.

The event was graced by Victorian Multicultural Commission Commissioner Tsebin Tchen, former Honorary Consuls Virginia “Gigi” Kalong and Raul Hernandez, FILCCA founder and former president Marina Garcia-Ruivivar and Filipino Community Council of Victoria Chairperson Perla Luetic.

The Filipino Chaplaincy Choir of Melbourne (FCCM), under the musical direction of Theresa Medina, also participated as supporting act in the event warming up the audience with their performance of “O Sanctisima”, “Valse” and the inspirational “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

Founded in 1992 by distinguished music conductor Professor Fidel Gener Calalang, Jr., the group was awarded four First Prizes at the 47th Llangollen Musical Eisteddfod in the United Kingdom. In 1995, the UST Singers won the prestigious Choir of the World Grand Prize making them one of the world’s best choral ensemble.

Open Mic Melbourne supports passion in music

A new addition in this year’s Halo Halo Festival is an Open Mic show held at Yarraville’s Kindred Studios.

Open Mic Melbourne is a showcase of fresh, raw talents and skills undiscovered in the field of musical performance. Melbourne-based professional singer-musicians were also invited to support the event and inspire new discoveries. The event was aimed at providing a venue for aspiring artist-musicians to perform on stage and be motivated by, as well as learn from, those who are experienced and active in the Melbourne music scene.

The gig kicked off with the performance of a 15-year old Karate blue-belter Kayla Lacey who sang “Must Get Out” and “How Will I Know”. Kayla has always been interested in music and hopes that one day, she would learn to play an instrument.

Exuding with brilliant musical talent, Sophia Rutaquio, 14, was the youngest artist during the night. With her guitar, Sophia played acoustic versions of Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” and Ed Sheeran’s “Photograph”. Currently taking music lessons under musician-composer Rolando Limun, this promising artist will, no doubt soon conquer the Melbourne music scene.

The exciting duo of Michelle dela Peña and Arthur “Thor” Cortez of MiGen Jrs, accompanied by the talented Indonesian guitarist Rian Riansyah, sang “Grow Old With You” and their own rendition of Maroon 5’s “Sugar”.

The charming Karen Esco captivated the audience with her acoustic mashups of Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love”/ Gnarles Barkley’s “Crazy” and “Thinkin’ About You/Cater To You/Until the End of Time”, accompanied by Rian Riansyah on guitar. She also performed one of her original songs “See The World”.

The amazing members of Dose Band rocked the stage with their cover songs “Wild” by Troye Sivan and “Let It Go” by James Bay. Dose Band consists of Rami Abelgas, vocals; Hani Balod, guitar and vocals; Sham Marcos, percussion; Matt Alfel, second guitar; and Brix Aquino, bass.

On her first ever performance on stage, 21-year old singer-composer Beloved Abe braved the Open Mic event with her unique rendition of Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time” and two originals – a Tagalog hugot song “Bitter Song” and “Autumn Night”, a song about unrequited love.

Reigning Miss Latina Australia 2016 Georgette Sophia Vega proved that she is beauty and talent rolled into one when she delivered an outstanding performance, singing Meg Mac’s “Never Be” and another cover, “Gone”, accompanied by Jeremy Power on guitar.
Young diva Vanessa Cox of Best of the Best also conquered the stage with her latest EP, an original song about lost love “Still Breathing” and a cover by Ben Gibbard “I Will Follow You Into The Dark”. She also nailed Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie”.

Melbourne’s acoustic duo Acoustasy pumped up the night as they performed a hit song by Felix Jaehn “Ain’t Nobody”, Calvin Harris “This is What You Came For” and a selection of John Legend songs. Acoustasy is a partnership of acoustic princess Zabrina Araya and acoustic guitar prince Jeremy Power. With Vanessa Cox, the duo also did an impromptu acoustic version of Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel”.

The jamming continued with impromptu performances from artists and people from the audience. Emil Milan braved the stage with a Side A Band favourite “Forevermore” accompanied by Dose Band. Accepting the challenge, Johanna Nonato of the Filipino Chaplaincy Choir of Melbourne showed her rock star side as she belted out “Zombie” by The Cranberries.

The highlight of the night was the special participation of the distinguished UST Singers who performed “My Heart and I”, “Circle of Life” and Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” with their founder-conductor Prof. Calalang.

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