Sf Girls Chorus offers opera preview about young Filipino journalist from 1920s



In 1924, Angeles Monrayo, an 11-year-old Filipino immigrant, started a newspaper because “I like to read about myself – what happens to me every day – when I’m an old woman.”

Almost 100 years later, the San Francisco Girls Chorus shares Monrayo’s memories of her immigrant life through music and song. It all started with the Tomorrow’s Memories Community Book Club, a series of monthly virtual and outdoor events that will get audiences to talk about the upcoming SFGC-commissioned choral opera about the life of Monrayo. The virtual book club launched on December 11, and the book club’s first official session, “Family, Food and Legacy Stories,” takes place on January 23 at 11:00 am at Kapwa Gardens, 967 Mission St. in San Francisco. All Book Club events are free but require registration.

The SFGC has commissioned Matthew Welch to create the choral opera “Tomorrow’s Memories: A Little Manila Diary”, which will premiere June 22-25 at the Magic Theater in San Francisco. Magic Artistic Director Sean San Jose will direct the show and 40 singers and soloists ages 14-18 will tell and sing the Monrayo story. The singers will be accompanied by guitarist Florente Aguilar, violinist Patti Kilroy and percussionist Levy Lorenzo. Joan Osato will be making video projections for the show.

The story of an immigrant

Monrayo’s Story, edited by her daughter Rizaline Raymundo and published by the University of Hawai’i Press in 2003, chronicles Monrayo’s life in a Hawaiian intervention camp and her move to California, where she lived in Stockton. and in San Ramon. The pages of the diary are filled with the joys and sorrows of a youngster growing up in a migrant family in the 1920s – we learn about friends made and lost, money made doing odd jobs and times of happiness. and nostalgia. But Monrayo’s story also sheds light on the poverty and racism immigrants endured while working to settle in the United States.

A journal that’s nearly 100 years old can still reflect relatable stories and, as a work of drama, can be an agent of awareness and change, Welch says. Through “Tomorrow’s Memories” we remember the impact Filipino Americans have had in the United States, especially in the West and California.

Bring Monrayo to life

The creation of the opera “Tomorrow’s Memories” has been a collaborative process from the start. Singers, instrumentalists, designers, dancers, songwriters and playwrights all worked together to bring this theatrical work to life, Welch says. The spark of choral opera began with a conversation Welch had with SFGC’s artistic director, Valérie Saint-Agathe. The two were looking for a Bay Area story about the experience and struggle of Filipino-Americans that would be relevant to young women today, he says.

Before Welch composed the libretto, he collaborated with playwright Philip K. Gotanda on a potential narrative that went through the journal entries. He also involved director San Jose in conversations about the narrative. The musical content reflects Welch’s discussions with the three visiting Filipino American instrumentalists – Aguilar, Kilroy and Lorenzo – as well as his own musical research in the Philippines as a member of the Asian Arts Council.

The book club experience

The Tomorrow’s Memories Community Book Club will give audiences a taste of all that choral opera has to offer.

At book club events, the San Francisco Girls Chorus will share clips from the opera that 45 singers recorded separately on their cellphones during the pandemic, as well as clips from their previous video concert “Songs From the Archipelago”, said Saint-Agathe. The solo ensemble will also perform Filipino songs known as kundiman and other traditional styles in Tagalog, she said. Aguilar will accompany them during the performances of the book club.

To date, the SFGC has months of experience creating art across digital lines. At a time when coming together to make art was a challenge, the pandemic has led to collaborations that would not have been possible otherwise, says Saint-Agathe. In March, the group performed live at their virtual gala.

“Forty singers, each at home, were able to sing together live and share music with the world,” remembers Saint-Agathe.

Also in March, The King’s Singers, a British a cappella group, released a video of their choral rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” with the San Francisco Girls Chorus, which premiered while the group was in London and the girl choir was on. in San Francisco.

“Of course being together in a room is definitely what we want to do, but this virtual age has opened the doors to so many opportunities,” says Saint-Agathe.

The first session of the Tomorrow’s Memories Community Book Club will be presented at 11 a.m. on January 23 at Kapwa Gardens, 967 Mission St., San Francisco. To learn more and to register, visit https://www.sfgirlschorus.org/tomorrows-memories-community-book-club.

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Copyright © 2021 by Bay City News, Inc. Republication, rebroadcasting, or any other reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

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