Waving the baton worldwide | Global News

Waving the baton worldwide

THE PRIME Note Ensemble began in Saudi Arabia and made its way to many cities in the world.

This is turning out to be a good year for choir conductor Novem Cabios and the Prime Note Ensemble. But 2013 may be even better for the all-boys Filipino Chorale group now based in West Covina, California. For one, they are set to perform at Carnegie Hall’s Isaac Stern Auditorium on March 24, 2013, with the distinguished composer and conductor Eric Whitacre.

Novem, 35, began his music career as a young man in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, playing hymnals on the piano during religious celebrations in the early ’90s.  He continued his education at the Adventist University of the Philippines (AUP) in Cavite City and graduated with a Bachelor of Music, major in Music Education-Piano.


His first piano teacher inspired him to pursue a career in music.


He knew he was going places when he joined a small-town choir competition in his hometown, the Saknungan Choir Festival, and won the grand prize.

The Saknungan Festival coincides with San Jose’s town fiesta on May 1.


Before joining the Prime Note Ensemble (PNE), Novem was already singing his way to success. He was a member of the The AUP Ambassadors Chorale Art Society.

By 2002, he started performing in the United States.  He participated in the US Embassy-sponsored worldwide simultaneous performance of Mozart’s “Requiem” at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, commemorating the 1st anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York City and Washington. He also sang with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra as bass baritone under the direction of  Italian conductor Rugerro Barbieri.

Conducting PNE

In July 2006, Novem participated in the World Choir Games in Xiamen, China. There, he met Medard Obida of PNE, who was also   participating in the choir competition.

“We exchanged contact numbers. After a year, I got a call from Mr. Obida, inviting me to come over to Saudi Arabia to be the conductor of PNE,” he recalls.

Instead of flying back to United States, Novem accepted the invitation and flew to Saudi Arabia were the group was formerly based. The group performed in Paris, France, in 2007. The group also toured  Europe, joining competitions in Belgium, Austria, Spain and Italy.

NOVEM Cabios

In 2009, PNE settled in California and so did Novem.

“I have my own place here in LA. I’m here for good,” he says.

Discipline as a musician

With an excellent tenor voice and piano skills, Novem continuously improves his talent through a disciplined lifestyle, watching his diet and weight. He goes regularly to a gym. In between group practice, he swims and lifts weights.

“Actually everyone must have personal discipline. We rehearse seven times a week if we have an up-coming competition… The whole day on weekends,” he explains.

He says he does not have any problem with anyone in the 20-member group “because everyone is committed to their profession.”

Music must go on

Possibly, only age will get in the way, he says.

“Everyone will retire eventually, but we will surely have replacements so the music will go on,” he says.

“Being a musician is a life-long commitment for me. This is my life. I will be a conductor as long as I can,” he says.

“I want to showcase our talents as Filipinos. Every time we perform, it is not just for us, but for the Philippines as well,” he adds proudly.

Novem and the PNE are planning to hold a concert in the Philippines in the near future so their families and Filipino friends will be able to appreciate the talents the Western world has admire all this time. Presently, the PNE is busy recording an album which will be made available via iTunes and  Amazon by December, he shares.

For the Filipinos who aspire to be musicians, his advice: “Just make a better version of yourself, and enjoy what you are doing.”

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“Love your craft and it will love you back.”

TAGS: choir, Music, Prime Note Ensemble, Saudi Arabia

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