The Filipino Choir of St Francis (aka Kiko Choir) began singing at St Francis Church in Melbourne in 1992. This was shortly after the very first Filipino Mass was established by resident priest Rev Fr Ed Wood, together with local Filipino volunteers.
The Choir officially registered as The Filipino Choir of St Francis Incorporated in September 2018. The association members include working professionals, students, and retired citizens in Victoria and the Philippines.
As a volunteer organisation under the leadership of Spiritual Director Rev Fr Alfred Yap (SSS), the Kiko Choir supports the responsibility of ensuring that the St Francis’ Filipino Mass is a safe and inclusive gathering for Filipino’s in Australia, their families, and friends.
The Kiko Choir members are WWCC-verified, and they lead the congregation’s singing of Gospel songs from the Philippines, Australia, and around the world.
Prior to COVID-19, Kiko Choir members would get together twice a month to practice their musical repertoire for the Mass, followed by fellowship, a modest salo-salo and some light entertainment. They look forward to their upcoming return to performing at St Francis in the near future.
In an interview with The Philippine Times, Lorenza Ricacho, Musical Director of the Kiko Choir, reflects on the challenges and triumphs experienced by the Kiko Choir in 2020.
1. How has COVID-19 affected the Kiko choir?
Prior to COVID-19, our members used to get together twice a month to practice our musical repertoire for the mass. This was also our chance to catch up and bond with each other by trying out new restaurants, attend gym classes and see local festivals. After our monthly mass, we would hold a fellowship at the monastery hall for all churchgoers, where a modest salo-salo is shared and we would have a short program consisting of singing, folk dancing, modern dancing, games and raffles. Our day would finish with a group meeting with celebrations of our member’ birthdays, wedding anniversaries and other accomplishments.
Whilst the onset of COVID-19 significantly changed the way we do things, it certainly was not a deterrent in achieving our objectives. We increased our social media presence by establishing our Kiko Choir accounts in Youtube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We leveraged technology to continue to bring the Filipino mass to the community.
We continued to engage those in the community as readers and altar servers. Our member recruitment never stopped, with 5 members joining during lockdown.
2. What are some of the things that the choir has been doing this year?
Our team bonding continued through regular well-being check-ins with members, vocal workshops, dress-up game nights and Prayer meetings.
The group has also released a number of online tributes to honour our front liners (Pagkakaibigan video), celebrate the Philippine Independence Day (Ang Bayan ko and Isang Dugo, Isang Lahi, Isang Musika), Mother’s Day (Ugoy ng Duyan), Father’s Day (Not All Heroes Wear Capes), Feast of St Francis (Make Me A Channel), Rosary month (Aba Ginoong Maria) and to send our thoughts and prayers to the Philippines after Typhoon Rolly (I Believe/Ave maria).
It is however without its challenges. Practicing on your own is not the same as practicing with the group. Each part of the song is recorded by the Music Director and provided to all members, members then record their parts and submit these for consolidation and video editing within a given deadline. This also means that each member should have access to two devices to be able to complete the recording.
As part of our #kikolaborasyon initiative, our various activities have allowed our members to engage with the Filipino congregation and the wider Melbourne community in the following manners:
• Participation in the Herald Sun’s Run for the Kids charity to raise funds for the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal
• Yearly commitment to the Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help with the Ringwood Filipino Community
• Supported the Filipino Chaplaincy in the Black Nazarene mass
• Close working relationship with the Jesuit Music Ministry in the Philippines for our song line up and joining their 50th anniversary celebration
- Working closely with SBS Filipino Australia for radio invites
4. What are your hopes for the future?
We continue to work with the Blessed Sacrament Congregation at St Francis’ Church with regards to a potential return date. We will however ensure that our return is safe for our members, congregation and to all volunteers involved.
We greatly look forward to the time when we can all sing together again. There is magic when you hear all the different voices come together in a live setting.
We would love to keep our #kikolaborasyon alive by singing and promoting camaraderie with other groups here and abroad. We plan to organise more singing engagements to spread our love of singing to the community.
We want to keep playing a part in raising the profile of the Filipino culture through ongoing involvement in various Melbourne events such as Australia Day Parade.
We plan to hold fundraising events for various groups in need.
More importantly, we are motivated by hearing from the congregation that our singing helps them with their devotion. That is our main mission and we will continue to do so.
Watch Kiko Choir’s performance of ‘When You Believe’
For the song choir members are:
Soloists: Jade Pamela Elumbaring, Aizel Villaremo
Sopranos: Caz, Leah, Louvelle, Marissa, Nikki, Yza, Judy
Altos: Cassie, Jewel, Khimiana, Lyann, Misha, Nelsie, Lori
Tenors: Bret, Denny, Joe, Joey, Jaypee, Niño
Bass: CY, Jekey, Ram, Vahid, Von
The Kiko Choir is under the direction and coordination of:
Director of Music: Loricel Ricacho
Audio Engineer: Jennifer Rose de Guzman
Director of Photography: Joe Parayno