“You’re mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”– Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
I stumbled into the Philippine Madrigal Singers as Alice fell down that mystical rabbit hole into Wonderland – with uncertainty, awe, and wonder. It was a world I’ve never imagined I could one day be a part of. But it was also new, unfamiliar, and in the beginning, very intimidating. The Madz Wonderland never rests. There is always something new, a piece of music, a place, a person, a culture, a language, a word (many strange words have been conceived in this semi circle) . It is dynamic as it is exciting, and the initiation to the group as a trainee is whether or not you can keep up with its dynamic pace whilst delivering the standard of excellence.
The first thing you notice after recovering from the awe is that the concept of time is warped. You have another clock to measure time with. In this wonderland, you measure time by the number of pieces you’ve memorised, by how many hours left you have to memorize x before the concert; not knowing if you will make it until you make it, knowing that there is really no other option. The hours always seem too short but mostly just enough when you’ve acquired the discipline and skill to arrange all the music into your head, sometimes within minutes, as any Madz member would know.
From the outside, it looks like time stops and you look like you’re in Neverland to the rest of the world.
Your clock is not really in sync with the people around you – figuratively, because you come home from a major concert at 1am and wake up at 10-11am; and literally, because you travel different timezones a lot. The truth is, time is extremely fast when you’re in the Madz. In fact, time never stops for anyone. Only when I look and stop at some point do I realise how much songs we’ve sung, how many concerts we’ve done, how many places and countries we’ve travelled, how many people we’ve met, and how much we have evolved mentally, musically, emotionally, spiritually and yes, very much physically. Hahaha
You come home from a long concert tour and you see that not much has really changed around you, yet somehow, something inside you has immensely transformed. Just like Alice coming out of wonderland, it is difficult to explain to others the elation of being inside this musical and magical semi-circle, the relief of still having your head intact, and the triumph and glory of having escaped and defeated the big-headed Queen of Hearts – which sometimes happens be the music and limited time you are challenged with… and sometimes the Queen of Hearts is basically that member who scrutinises not only your notes, but the essence of your presence in the semi-circle (each choir has this kind of person, and I must note, it is important to have these kinds of people as they keep the standard high) .
You are never really the same person you were once you embark on this journey. With only sheer curiosity and passion leading the uncertain path, little did I know then how this one decision could continue to shape the course of my life even until today.
Last Sunday, instead of feeling like Alice visiting wonderland again, I felt as though Wonderland visited my world, where all the characters and stories resurface and reunite, but very much aware of present time, and how it will all shortly come to an end.
Thank you Madz, for this wonderland experience. I now return to my daily life, carrying it along with me, and paying it forward by sharing what I have learned, in music and in life, to the people I teach and come across.