Tenor Allan Palacios Chan aims to bring the Kundiman to the mainstream


'Classical music has a small audience; we are a minority in the industry.'

‘Classical music has a small audience; we are a minority in the industry.’

By Maricar CP Hampton

Tenor Allan Palacios Chan has one yearning and that is to bring the traditional Filipino love song, the Kundiman, to the mainstream.

The Kundiman is a beautiful Filipino classical music with soft, soothing rhythm and is known as a song of love and courtship.

“I try to promote the kundiman where I see it might make an impact,” said Allan in an interview with The FilAm Metro D.C. “I always want my audience to leave knowing something different than they did before they walked into the concert hall. I believe the goal of the singing artist is to change the world by providing even just a glimpse into its beautiful possibilities.”

A family vacation in Manila introduced him to this musical genre.  Little did he know he would be singing it before American audiences and that speaking about it like an expert

“When I went to the Philippines I found this video; I had no idea that there is a Filipino classical repertoire. I said this is something I should totally do,” he shared. “I went to the National Bookstore and found some books on the Kundiman and ever since then I have been performing it and promoting it.”

He said, “I know in the Cincinnati East Coast I am pretty much the authority in Kundiman I haven’t met anyone who sings this. And I think it’s a shame I think more people needs to perform it; it’s really beautiful music.”

Allan, who is from Woodbridge, Va,  is currently finishing his Doctorate of Musical Arts at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He is a full tuition scholar.

At age 7 his mom enlisted him in the church choir.

“That pretty much started it for me,” he said. “I still sing in church today. If I could do sacred concerts for the rest of my life, I would totally do it. I will never leave church music. I sort of feel it’s part of my ministry.”

Allan’s musical milestones include winning the Conductor’s Award for the annual Annapolis Opera Competition in Annapolis, MD.   He has performed with the Cincinnati Opera chorus for three consecutive years.  He also performed the role of Damon in Cincinnati Chamber Opera’s inaugural performance of Handel’s “Acis and Galatea.” He has also performed Bill in NanoWork’s production of Samuel Barber’s “A Hand of Bridge,” and performed the role of the Mortgage Broker in the production of “The Bubble” in the 2013 Cincinnati Fringe Festival.

Professing his love for the Kundiman would later lead to a discussion of classical music and a lament about its miniscule following.

“Classical music has a smaller audience; we are a minority in the music industry,” he said. “Because of the lack of interest in classical music as compared to more mainstream music, there is a lot less money (to be made). It is more difficult to be a classical musician.”

Among Filipino audiences, he said classical music has a “small but mighty” following.

“I think it is because of education. I don’t really think it’s taught that much in schools,” he said.

It would be great to bring classical music to mainstream Philippine music. He said, “I look at people like Mario Lanza and Josh Groban and see this idea could definitely work back home in the Philippines.”

Among the great composers, his favorite is Mozart. His tenor role models are   Fritz Wunderlich, Jussi Bjorling, and Luciano Pavarotti.

“I also love Maria Callas. She, to me, is the epitome of the singing actor,” he added.

Allan migrated to the U.S. with his family when he was 3 years old.  His family began to build their connection with the Filipino American community.

Allan Palacios Chan on the struggle of a musician:  'I’m doing it and I’m loving it more and more.  Photo --Dion Trinidad/Firestarter Group (FSG)

Allan Palacios Chan on the struggle of a musician: ‘I’m doing it and I’m loving it more and more.
Photo –Dion Trinidad/Firestarter Group (FSG)

“I’ve always been very well connected with the FilAm community, especially in and around my hometown of Woodbridge,” he said. “I grew up with the kababayan kids, and often performed cultural shows with dances like Tinikling, Sayaw sa Bangko, etc. I’ve always maintained a healthy connection with the FilAm community especially through my performances for the Philippine Embassy.”

Allan recently opened a studio where he teaches voice.

“I love teaching I started a year after I graduated from my bachelors. I realized it’s something I love to do. There’s a certain thrill I get with when I help a student with his/her performance.”

Allan comes from a musically inspired family. His brother and two sisters play the violin, piano and saxophone. His mother, a travel agent, plays the piano as well; his dad, a construction estimator, dabbles in the harmonica and violin.  It is only Allan who is making music into a professional career.

“We have been very musical but I’ m the only one that pursued it as a career.  Which gives me the musician duties during ceremonies or parties. I am the go-to musician,” he said.

In May 2016, he should be wrapping up his doctoral studies. He plans to move to New York City or Europe to advance his career.

He shared how he feels about trying to make a go of his career.

“A lot of musician teach as well as perform, do other jobs wait on tables, babysit in order to make ends meet. At the end of the day we make it happen.  It’s tough. If you want to be in the field you’ve got to be obsessed otherwise there’s no point because you will struggle. I’m doing it and I’m loving it more and more,” he said.

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