Composer and Filipino music scholar Matthew Welch is collaborating with the San Francisco Girls Chorus (SF Girls Chorus) to create Tomorrow’s Memories, a new evening-length, one-act choral-opera scored for girls that brings to life the 1924-28 personal diary of a young Filipina immigrant, Angeles Monrayo. Set to premiere in October 2021 in San Francisco, the work will be the culmination of nearly three years of close collaboration between Dr. Welch and the SF Girls Chorus.
The 1920s was a significant and turbulent time for California’s early Filipino community. Not only were Filipino immigrants navigating life in a new country, a 14-1 gender imbalance between men and women resulted in many traditional cultural, social, and gender norms of the Philippines rapidly becoming obsolete. Monrayo’s diary spans a period of the mid 1920s, during which Monrayo’s family emigrated from the Philippines to Hawaii and then to Stockton, California, where she became the family’s breadwinner as a young teenager. It is a rare and important historical document that offers a woman’s perspective on that period of Filipinx American history.
Although not ethnically Filipino, Dr. Matthew Welch’s life-long interest in the cultural and musical traditions of the Philippines stems from the maternal side of his family, generations of whom lived in the country in 1901-45. In 2017, he was awarded an Asian Cultural Council Fellowship that enabled him to spend time in the Philippines studying Filipino classical music, engaging with local musicians, and researching an opera based on his great uncle’s wartime memoir. He has continued to pursue his studies of the Philippines while building a very active career, producing nearly 40 works of symphonic music, choral music, opera, chamber music and solo works. While he has worked in opera for 13 years, this is his first project with young singers. He and the SF Girls Chorus also have recruited a talented Filipinx-American creative team for the project that includes stage director Sean San Jose, visuals creator Joan Osato, and choreographer Alleluia Panis.
The SF Girls Chorus, led by Valérie Sainte-Agathe, is one of the world’s leading youth vocal ensembles. It has won five GRAMMY Awards and showcased music with international scope. Tomorrow’s Memories will be performed by its 40-member Premier Ensemble.
Photo by David Welch Photography