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The Sound of Charis

In a small private school in Marikina, intermittent laughter from happy young voices would erupt in one room. In front is a slightly built young woman, her hands clasped while she goes through vocal exercises, her clear voice ringing as she warbles “mi-i-i-i-yo-ho-ho” as she demonstrates to her young students how it is done. 

It’s a pretty typical afternoon for Teacher Charity Andres, the music teacher and vocal coach of Charis School, a progressive Christian educational institution that’s developing a reputation not only for academic excellence but for its music school as well. 

Musical Collage at Teatro Marikina

“I grew up in the ministry because my father is a pastor,” she begins, adding that she practically grew up in church – which should explain why her love for music was developed early on. Following her graduation from the Capitol Hills Christian School, she pursued a Bachelor of Christian Education at the Center for Biblical Studies Institute and Seminary in Antipolo where she also finished a four-year Music education degree. 

“I worked as a Christian education and music director after my graduation in 2008,” shares Teacher Charity, joining missions in some provinces in the north to share her knowledge and help train church choir members. During the church mission to the province of Apayao, the young teacher trained and formed a gospel singing team, where she found herself rehearsing both children and young adults for musical performances, in the process also helping develop an ensemble of lyre, bamboo flute and guitar to complement the choir group.  In Cagayan during a Gospel Mission Bible School, the young teacher coached youth campers to perform solos, trios and group performances during their music camp, gratified by the knowledge that she was imparting her knowledge and sharing her God-given talent to young people.

Teacher Charity and her kids after a successful performance at the 12th Coro Cantabile Choir Festival 

Asked how she landed in Charis School, she laughs.  “It was perhaps serendipitous,” she says in the vernacular. “I initially applied to be a private music tutor for the school’s music extension class but ended up handling regular music classes for the school because they needed a music teacher at the time,” she discloses, adding that the job offer came immediately after she held a demonstration.

“I was challenged,” she admits, knowing that she could make a difference and enhance the wealth of talent that she saw in the students, wanting to share with them the exhilaration that goes with performing in front of a big audience. And she should know, being a member of Coro Cantabile founded by UP Madrigal Singers alumni and conductor Sharon Abesamis, where as Soprano 1 and soloist, Charity had the opportunity to perform in Germany, Malaysia, Singapore and other places.

The Charis Glee Club is composed of 25 selected students who love to share their talent in singing 

Things came to a head when, having heard about her work in a Christian school, Abesamis invited the youthful vocal coach to participate in the 12th Et Al Choir “Soul Sing Soul” Festival where 18 groups (including the UP Medicine Choir and various church choirs from various places in Luzon) would perform in a two-day celebration of soul lifting music.

“It was daunting, since we barely had two months to prepare before the performance in September 2015,” Teacher Charity admits, disclosing that forming church choirs was relatively easier because there were lesser procedures. Fortunately, the school was open to and supportive of the idea, so she began by sifting through a hundred hopefuls, from whom she selected 25 choir members who were “good in pitch, intonation and whose voices could stand alone because there would also be harmonization,” she reveals.  

The chorale group members proudly display their certificate of recognition during the Coro Cantabile music fest 

Adding to the pressure was the expectations from the parents who were also excited at the prospect of seeing their kids perform outside the confines of the Charis School community – expectations that were not disappointed when the Charis chorale held their own before the older, more experienced groups, endearing themselves before the audience with an evocative rendition of “Cordillera Soundscapes” accompanied by bamboo instruments, a lively delivery of “Sitsiritsit” and the foot-stomping performance of “Bonse Aba,” an African song of celebration that had the crowd clapping and whooping.

Charis voice coach Charity Andres 

The performance at the music fest was followed by an invitation from the Senate for the Charis chorale to perform before the opening of one of the Senate’s regular sessions – an experience that served as further encouragement for Teacher Charity and her kids to form the school glee club. 

With Senator Sonny Angara before the opening of a Senate session

For sure, the school chorale still has a long way to go, but for now, the young vocal coach is focused on instilling a deeper love for music among the kids, getting them prepared to extend their God-given talents beyond the immediate environs of the school community – and share soul lifting music in places where the Lord would lead them. 

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