Arts & Culture

A Pinay soprano conquers Singapore

Stefanie Quintin singing at the Baroque festival in Singapore.

Petite Baguio girl Stefanie Quintin is going places. Last seen officially, she was a soloist in the Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s (SSO) Chamber Series called “Baroque Festival: Royal Fireworks.”

Last Oct.7 the 27-year-old soprano performed at the Victoria Concert Hall with Sofi Jeannin conducting the SSO. Jeannin is currently the chief conductor of the BBC Singers.

Quintin shared her admiration of the woman conductor: “Maestra Jeannin is also a singer, a mezzo-soprano, so she knows how it feels to sing with an orchestra. During our first rehearsal, I was so anxious, but she was very kind and encouraging so I eventually became comfortable. She definitely had the orchestra in her hands during the performance. I was so lucky to have been given the opportunity to work with her.”

She said the hall was quite full “with a few Filipinos in the audience. During the autograph session, those who came to me were some of my friends who were living in Singapore, Singaporean nationals who also had background in singing, and some expats, too.”

Asked what led to her discovery in the island state, this University of the Philippines music graduate narrated how Prof. Eudenice Palaruan, current conductor of the Singapore Symphony Chorus and her former music theory teacher and choir conductor at UP, asked her if she could sing for the Baroque Festival.

Her love for Baroque music clinched the decision for her. She said that love “started when Sir Eudenice taught a piece by Bach eight years ago. We were studying one of Bach’s motets—Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied. I was overjoyed at the musical knowledge that I was gaining while learning the piece. From music theory to music interpretation based on a historical music practice, my heart and mind were full!”

Quintin continued, “I feel a different kind of satisfaction every time I perform Baroque music. Whether it be by Vivaldi, Händel, Purcell or Bach, there is something unique in their music, despite their having different compositional styles.”

She said she is “forever be grateful to Sir Eudenice for he ignited in us, me and my friends in college, the love for Baroque music.”

Before the concert, there was a promotional video making the rounds of Facebook and featuring Quintin, a lover of the music of Bach, Purcell, Vivaldi, Massenet, Verdi, Stravinsky, among many, giving advice to young singers.

She repeated her words of wisdom: “Sing with your own voice. Filipinos have this innate talent of copying or imitating sounds by manipulating the vocal tract. I have a theory that our ancestors had the vocal capacity to imitate animal sounds. Ha ha! Most young singers today can copy the voice of Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and many more biritera pop stars. Without even thinking too much about technique, they can copy the sound that they can hear, and it sounds exactly the same.”

Soprano Stefanie Quintin at the Victoria Concert Hall, home of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

She recalled when she was starting to sing classical songs. “I listened to various recordings of opera singers, and I imitated their voices. I ended up sounding like a cow! Ha ha ha! It eventually hurt my instrument because in order to create a ‘big’ sound, I was retracting my tongue. That caused laryngeal depression which then led to unnecessary muscle tension.”

She called her advice as “pretty much like an advice for myself, a reminder to myself to keep it slow and not force my voice to sound bigger than it should be.”

Asked to compare the classical music scene in Singapore and Manila, she answered, “Oh, we’re far behind. They have classical music events every single day! And they happen simultaneously! During our first rehearsal, there were three batches of kindergarten students who observed our rehearsals. They sat still and listened to our music. It was overwhelming because they were appreciative, and they also knew when to clap.”

She observed that music education in Singapore is really strong. “I believe their schools give enough importance to the arts. When I was in Singapore three years ago for a cultural exchange program, we went around schools to give outreach performances with lectures about our repertoire. Our holding rooms were music rooms with complete music instruments. I immediately felt envious. When I was growing up, our schools didn’t have enough music instruments for our classes. Over there, they have facilities for their music classes, complete with instruments, and good music teachers.”

But she hasn’t given up on her country. In November, she will be performing at the Fifth International Rondalla/Plucked String Music Festival which will be held in Silay, Negros Occidental.