Young Voices of the Philippines (YVP) Shine in International Choral Pilgrimage



Jesuit Music Ministry’s (JMM) youngest artist, the Young Voices of the Philippines (YVP), recently took its talents to the global stage, embarking on an exciting international choral pilgrimage in Italy to cap off an eventful May 2024.

After a send-off concert titled “Visita e Canti di Speranza,” (Bisita at Awit ng Pag-asa) held at the Nativity of Our Lady Chapel of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral of Cubao last May 20th, the award-winning scholar choir of the Treble Choir Association of the Philippines’ first stop in Europe was at a thanksgiving mass at the Basilica di Santa Cecilia in Rome on May 23rd. After their mass, they were permitted to visit the tomb of Saint Cecilia to perform “Sent Heavenward,” a prayer of Saint Cecilia with music composed by one of the YVP members, Sophia V. Roldan.

On Friday evening, May 24th, the talented singers carefully selected from different choirs across the Philippines performed at a ‘Concerto de Ringraziamento’ (Thanksgiving Concert) at the Basilica di Sant’Antonio al Laterano, which was met by an appreciative audience and a warm welcome from Franciscan Fathers. 

The highlight of the journey began on Saturday, May 25th when YVP joined around 70,000 other children coming from over 100 different nations in the Italian capital’s Olympic Stadium for the grand opening program of the inaugural World Children’s Day- an initiative of Pope Francis calling for two days of prayer, reflection, and celebration in honor of boys and girls, emphasizing the importance of education and care for the youngest members of our society.

The event started with the Opening of the Children’s Village at Foro Italico of the Olympic Stadium, where YVP performed faith-based songs and a Filipino folk song called “Inday sa Balitaw”, which received thunderous applause from the audience. On the first day, Zecchino d’Or, their local choir, consisting of adults and children, sang “Siamo Noi” conducted by the composer Msgr. Marco Frisina. All the children present, including YVP, sang along. The program also featured some of Italy’s best-known singers. Additionally, a dialogue with the Holy Father was conducted, where 10-year-old Nelyja Paulene Abesamis represented the Philippines and had the rare privilege of joining Pope Francis up on stage.

The World Children’s Day festivities continued the very next day, May 26th, as the youthful choristers who regularly serve at the Cubao Cathedral sang along with Piccolo Coro dell’Antoniano and other children’s choirs during the Papal Mass at the historic St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in celebration of the Sunday Mass in honor of the Holy Trinity. YVP studied the mass songs for a month as the text was in Italian.

After the Eucharistic celebration, the Holy Father greeted the boys and girls
from around the world and invited several children to join him on the altar. Seven of those children were YVP members. They sat with Pope Francis while the famous Italian Actor Roberto Benigni gave an inspiring speech to the children.

“Our participation in this event aligns with our mission to promote our culture and heritage globally and provide opportunities for holistic growth to our choir members,” shared YVP conductor Dr. Maria Theresa Vizconde-Roldan in a previous interview.

“We believe this experience will enrich them holistically and inspire them to continue serving the Church and society,” she added about the “once in a lifetime opportunity to represent our country and share our culture with the world” for the young wards she mentors, alongside her husband, YVP Artistic Director and co-founder Prof. Jude Roldan.

Before participating in World Children’s Day, YVP joined the 2023 Golden Gate International Choral Festival in San Francisco and triumphed in the four competition categories: Historical, Folk, Gospel/Spiritual, and Contemporary. YVP also made history as the first-ever Filipino children’s choir to perform at the iconic Carnegie Hall’s Isaac Stern Auditorium in New York City.

Meanwhile, Sunday night, May 26th had a uniquely Filipiniana theme as YVP staged a free concert for our Italy-based kababayans at the Basilica di Santa Pudenziana, as part of the Grand Santacruzan 2024 celebration. Organized by the Sentro Pilipino Chaplaincy of the Mission for the Filipino Migrants-Diocese of Rome, the Pinoy fiesta also saw the celebration of the Holy Mass presided by Pope Francis’ newly-appointed special envoy to the National Eucharistic Congress, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle.

It was a delightful Monday evening on May 27th, as YVP sang before the ‘Parrocchia Santi Antonio e Annibale Maria’ at the Piazza Asti in a free concert called, “Visita e Canti di Speranza” (Visit and Songs of Hope). The next day, the children were taken to Assisi to visit the tomb of the millennial Saint Carlo Acutis. They sang at the mass for the pilgrims and were able to view the incorruptible body of the saint. They were also fortunate to sing at the tombs of Saint Francis and Saint Clare in Assisi, where pilgrims were moved to tears by every song they sang.

On May 29th, the Young Voices of the Philippines had a memorable experience. During the regular Papal Audience, they performed songs alongside a symphonic band from Italy and Mexico just before Pope Francis gave his catechism. After his speech, YVP sang a special blessing song for the Pope, and he replied, “Thank very much you, thank you very much! You sing good, good, well! God bless you all. Pray for me, don’t forget”. He even made a thumbs-up sign to YVP’s sopranos while they were singing.

After a few restful days, YVP once again regaled the local Filipino and Religious community with a concert on May 30th held at the Santa Monica Chapel in Piazza del Sant’Uffizio, entitled, “Ako ay Piilipino,” one of the highlights of the 2024 National Heritage Month celebration. All of their concerts in Rome received standing ovations.

As they conclude a memorable and milestone stint in Rome, the Jesuit Music Ministry congratulates the Young Voices of the Philippines for ably representing the talent and artistry of Filipino children to the rest of the world and wishes them greater successes to come. Cantamus in Animo Grato!

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