Dubai Vocal Ensemble’s Fermel Fuentes talks to Benita Adesuyan about why singing is good for you and how to join in.
Dubai Vocal Ensemble is a 30-piece Filipino choral choir that belt out a mixture of classical music, pop, jazz and folk music. The group began in 2004 with just seven members and has grown in number and popularity, winning a number of musical accolades along the way. This year they have added to their trophy chest awards for 2013 Choir of the Year Grand Champion, and were also winners of The Score, Dubai.
But as Fermel Fuentes, external coordinator and long-term member of the group explains, winning trophies and performing is satisfying but winning hearts is even better.
What makes Dubai Vocal Ensemble unique?
We are a Filipino choir, male and female, but we sing a variety of music. Ranging from classical choral music, to pop and ethnic songs. We enjoy singing a mixture of musical styles, and have even performed a version of Lady Gaga’s ‘Poker Face’ as a cappella. For us the concept of a choir is to come together and share our passion for music. We are all experienced singers, yes, but not necessarily classically trained. Our group is very supportive so even those who have not had a great deal of experience can learn and get better.
Why is it important to have a Filipino choir in Dubai?
I am away from my family, like many Filipino expat workers here, and I needed some balance in my life and an opportunity to meet other people. When I first came to Dubai I was spending a lot of time and money going out, but I felt I needed some comradery and a creative outlet. Music is a passion and it’s to be shared. It’s also so good for your health and wellbeing. It helps to stimulate brain activity and prevents memory loss, and it makes you feel good when you express yourself and use the power of your own voice. The Filipino community in Dubai is very established and I think it’s important for people to see that we’re doing something good in the community and we are making something of ourselves here. We have won choir competitions like The Score’s Choir of the Year, where we competed against singing groups and choirs from all over the UAE. For the contest we sang Ralph Manuel’s ‘Alleluia’, the Visayan folk song ‘Rosas Pandan’ and the ethnic song ‘Kruhay’, which is sung in the Kinray-a language from the Antique province of the Philippines. We sing in a number of different languages. When you sing choral music sometimes it is written in Italian, Spanish, German, as well as ethnic dialects. It’s a challenge that we enjoy, even if some of the Filipino languages can sometimes be quite hard to pronounce.
What role does singing have in the community?
People love music, and there is something uniquely powerful about the human voice that touches audiences in a different way to other musical instruments. Perhaps it is because it’s an instrument that we all possess. Whether you are a listener or a performer, music can calm you or affect your mood – make you smile or cry. We are quite a young group at the moment, we are all aged 20 to 30, our oldest member is 48 and when we perform to older audiences they are often surprised at the power of our sound.
Where can we see you perform?
Christmas is a busy time, we are performing carols at Dubai Festival City from Tuesday 17 December to Saturday 21. We are also supporting Susan Boyle at the Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Friday December 13. We do some performances for free and for charities: applause is better than money.
How can we get involved?
In the New Year we will be looking for new members to join us and what we need are Filipino singers who are committed. We rehearse at 6am on Friday mornings at St Mary’s Church, which is really early especially as everybody works during the week, but that’s the first test – if you can make the rehearsals regularly. We have some very experienced musicians in the choir so less technical singers can be helped and guided. We like to hear strong voices, but the key to a good choir is making sure the voices blend together harmoniously so we become one voice. We are a really friendly and sociable group of people who love coming together to sing and perform.
For more information on Dubai Vocal Ensemble performances and future auditions, visit www.dubaivocalensemble.wordpress.com
Choirs for all in Dubai
Dubai City Sound
Dubai City Sound is an all-female choir that specialises in four-part barbershop style singing without musical accompaniment. Novice singers are welcome but you should be able to hold a note and harmonise.
Dubai Chamber Choir
A classical choir that performs music from the likes of Bernstein, Handel and Mozart. Founded in 2003 it is a multicultural, chamber choir, so numbers are kept small.
For information on auditions and performances contact Debra Dixon at email@example.com