As the lockdown continues, the elderly have been encouraged to follow safety protocols which have kept them isolated in their own homes. To help them cope during the pandemic, acclaimed Chinoy singers, Sherwin Sozon, Hubert Sy, Imee Monzon-Sy and Helen Benoza, created Dragon Music Season, a musical project wherein Chinoy singers perform and share their talent for a good cause. Together, they give hope to their fellow Chinoys, especially the elderly, during these trying times.
“The main goal of Dragon Music Season 懷念老歌 is to entertain our elderly Chinese-Filipinos who are stuck at home because of the imposed quarantine,” Sozon said. “When I invited Helen, Hubert, Imee, and Harry to join me in the pilot episode, we were hoping for at least ten people to watch the show. That first episode had more than 1,500 live views over YouTube and two Facebook pages. We then thought that the show might last two or three more episodes, but our audience — bless them — kept clamoring for more. We are very fortunate that our roster of singers keeps growing also.”
Before the pandemic, Dragon Music Season was a three-show event conceptualized and produced by Sozon, the co-founder of Lyric Opera of the Philippines, the charter president of the Philippine Organization of Classical Singers, and a member of the Philippine Tenors, and the Aces.
At present, they continue to produce and live stream online concerts every other week to cater to the Chinese-Filipino elderly, inviting different guest Chinoy singers to collaborate and perform Chinese music from yesteryears.
Dragon Music Season singers have talent, skill, and they’re bilingual, which allows them to speak to a bigger audience.
“The standard repertoire for the program is indeed bilingual (Mandarin and Fookien), but we’ve also had Cantonese, English, and Italian mixed in during some of our shows,” Sozon said. “Being multi-lingual in the Philippines is nothing unique though. Most people here know multiple languages and dialects. One advantage I see of being multi-lingual is that it
allows access to different expressions of art and culture. This means being able to understand the original intent of the composer/artist without it going through the sieve of translation.”
Hubert Sy, one of Sozon’s closest friends, has performed at multiple online concerts at Sozon’s invitation. He agrees that being a bilingual singer has its advantages, saying, “Being a bilingual singer opened up a lot of doors for me, I was able to have a wide-angle of songs for my repertoire. It also enabled me to make more friends both here and abroad.”
For Chinoys or even non-Chinoys to become successful and effective bilingual singers like those in Dragon Music Season, Sozon and Sy offered some advice.
“Studying in a good Chinese-Filipino school helped a lot in my becoming a bilingual singer,” Sy shared, who studied at Saint Jude Catholic School. “Another plus factor was the way my parents insisted that we use different languages and even dialects in different instances.”
“In any song, be it in Mandarin, Fookien, Cantonese, French, Italian, or Filipino, one has to have good diction to become an effective singer,” Sy said. “So always do your homework and prepare well.”
Balancing career with passion
Despite their busy schedules, they found the time to make the most of their God-given talents.
“Balancing career and being a singer was difficult but doable,” shared Sy. “Singing will alwaysbe there, just need to take a back seat once in a while.
“The balance, I believe, is achieved in knowing how and what to prioritize,” Sozon added. “Easier said than done though. I had a corporate career before. At the same time, I also had my theater/singing career, my non-profit opera company, and my role as a show producer.
It was a very stressful time in my life. Finally, I sat down and made hard decisions onwhat to prioritize and my life became less crazy.”
Both Sozon and Sy believe that when a person is doing what they love, whether it’s a career, a sideline, or a hobby, they would be unbeatable as their talent is constantly flowing through their veins.
“Study. Learn. Get experience. Repeat,” Sozon advised. “Build on your successes and failures and never give up. God was generous in giving you talent. It is your duty to develop and share it.”
“Just love what you do,” Sy emphasized. “Don’t give up when difficulties strike and always be humble.