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I AM WRITING THIS, very quietly, inside the technician's pit of the SFX, the state-of-the-art recording studio of Jesuit Communications housed in the lush campus of the Ateneo de Manila University. In this room, I'm keeping company to Robbie Grande, one of the country's top sound engineers. Before him, the record button flashes bright red and the sliding controls are seemingly in disarray to provide the necessary sound quality. On the flat-screen monitor, a row of audio tracks running, creating several wave bars of different colors. From the audio monitors comes a familiar melodic line, with a rather new texture in terms of arrangement and sophistication, but still homely and nostalgic-one that brings back memories of Peñafrancia processions, Auroras, and the many Mays when little children adorned Mary's feet with fragrant petals. The chorus of voices enters, subtly and carefully, like a chisel carving out a statuette out of aged ebony. The song is Julito Regalario's Tara, Kagurangnan Maria, the Bikol translation of the Archangel's Ave Maria.

This makes the difference. And I wish to provide you with the foretaste.

The Ateneo de Naga University Choir, led by its conductor, a dear friend, Joseph Reburiano, is brewing Kamurawáyan sa Diyós [Glory to God], an album of new and revisited treasures of Bikol sacred music. The collection includes five tracks of new Mass responses from Kagurangnan, Mahérak Ka (Kyrie) to Kordéro kan Diyós (Agnus Dei), a new arrangement of the Himno a Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia, and a rekindling of the classic Namomòtán Taka, O Kagurangnan, Inâ, and Hesus, Tinápay nin Buhay. It features Awít ki Kristong Hadê, the choir's dedication to Ateneo's Church of Christ the King; and, Inâ nin Kabikólan, the hymn for the tercentenary celebration of devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia.

To hear the choristers sing as they record in jubilation is to wallow in the rich possibilities of musical tradition in Bikol-something that many of us fail to recognize. We have good artists, but we need visionaries. Music is a most sublime art, able to communicate characters, visions or dreams, even before the conception of ferrying it to those who listens.

In Kamurawayan sa Diyos, expect a rather riverine variation of the Resuene vibrante-grand and proclaiming but not unrestrained. The listener will suspend celebration and relish the entwining of voices and instruments until the end of the song, and then, it's time to jubilate. In Inâ, a popular Marian love song by the Baaoeño Jesuit Fruto Ramirez, we are brought into a sweet serenade of the Blessed Mother as AdNU Alumnus Floyd Tena sings it with utter sweetness and lyrical. In Hesús, Tinápay nin Buhay, another song my Father Fruto, Joseph attests that a good art-conceived in faith-is sans frontieres as he gives union to the Bikol sacred and the western baroque.

The Mass responses are simply touching. My personal favorite is the soothing Kordero kan Diyos which has a solo part sung by one of the choir members, Lemuel Jay Janculan, who owns perhaps one of the most mellifluous and silvery male voices I've ever heard. Kordero's choral part is equally lovely and penetrating-just proper to the Eucharistic nature of the song. The cover song, Kamurawáyan sa Diyós (Gloria), is melodiously grand-perhaps in an attempt to give personification to the greatness of God and the wonders of His creation. Much like how Manley Hopkin gave image to "God's Grandeur" in the beautifully challenging restraints of human language.