Though they won’t be singing again "Bayan Ko," which brought the house down on their first visit in the Philippines in 2009 and has since garnered 180,000 hits on YouTube, Libera--the world renowned all-boy choral group based in the South London area of the United Kingdom--is set to capture anew the hearts of Filipino music lovers.
For starters, their two-city concert (PICC Plenary in Manila on October 25 and Waterfront Hotel in Cebu on October 28) is billed as "The Christmas Concert of the Year." This is because they will be singing selections from their latest recording under EMI Music titled The Christmas Album.
Most Filipinos start playing Yuletide tunes as early as September and up until the first Sunday of January, which is the feast of the Three Kings.
So it will be quite a treat to hear Libera, with the heavenly harmony of their angelic voices, give a different spin to Christmas staples "Joy to the World," "O Holy Night," "White Christmas," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "The First Noel" (spelled in the CD cover as "The First Nowell").
It’ll also be edifying to listen to both sacred and not-so-familiar carols like "Still, Still, Still," "Carol of the Bells," "Veni, Veni Emmanuel," "Once in Royal David’s City," "Corpus Christi Carol," "In Dulci Jubilo," "Sing the Story," "Coventry Carol," "Jubilate Deo," "While the Shepherds Watched their Flocks" and "Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel)."
In an interview with PEP.ph during the press conference held on October 24 at the AIM Conference Center in Makati City, Libera members Ralph Skan and Liam Connery said they also enjoyed performing "Bayan Ko" in 2009.
Most of the 32 members listed as singers in the CD cover turned up at the event but only Ralph, Liam, Kavana Crossley, Cassius O’Connell-White and Michael Ustynovych-Repa were chosen to participate in the interviews.
Ralph and Liam recalled that learning a Filipino song wasn’t new to them because they also sing in other languages like Latin. Incidentally, Libera means "free" in Latin.
But they only understood the full essence of "Bayan Ko" when their performance received an overwhelming response from the audience.
"It’s a truly patriotic song," Liam pointed out.
During the question-and-answer with various media outlets, all five boys expressed delight in revisiting the Philippines--their third after their debut in 2009 and a promotional tour for their album, Peace, the year after.
Ralph, who’s been part of the three trips, remembered the first one because of the "too hot weather" and the even warmer reception.
Liam and Cassius, both their second time here, shared good memories. "Everyone is nice to us," exclaimed the former as the latter added, "It’s nice to see all the people happy."
Michael, a new member, was stumped when asked about the best part in this visit. "That’s a hard question," he finally said, still cute as a button. "I like the Philippines. Everyone is enjoying themselves."
Kavana summed it up in behalf of the group founded and directed by Robert Prizeman: "Mahal namin kayo!"
Aside from traveling to other countries, Libera members also feel privileged to be able to help other kids through their music.
For instance, proceeds from their concerts here will go to the construction of the Libera Playground located in the Children’s Hour Daycare Complex in Calauan, Laguna.
The donation will benefit 200,000 kids, said Children’s Hour executive director Evangeline Mayuga.
Children’s Hour began in 1999 as a fundraising campaign spearheaded by then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Sir Richard Greenbury of Marks & Spencer and the New Millenium Experience Company.
British Ambassador Stephen Lillie, in his speech at the Liberal event, said that the best way to connect the Philippines and the UK is through children. He noted that most of the Filipinos working in the UK are in the healthcare sector and children there benefit best from it.
Libera is also supporting the British Alumni Association Foundation for Disadvantaged Children.
BAA, a group of Filipinos who studied in the UK, was represented by its chair and former Finance secretary Roberto de Ocampo. He presented a check amounting to PhP150,000 to Libera Playground fund.