Composer, choir master and pioneer in blending Filipinos indigenous elements in liturgical music
August 2, 1935 – August 8, 2020
SR. MARIA ANUCIATA STA. ANA, SPC (known as Sor Ata; 1935-2020), was a composer, choir master, and pioneering figure in introducing indigenous elements to religious music. This was after the Catholic Church, through Vatican II, opened its doors to local culture brought by Vatican ll. Her amiable personality facilitated her training of musicians and choirs. She could command choirs with a wave of her hands and a calming smile.
Provincial Superior Sr. Lilia Therese Tolentino called her the “most prolific composer in the congregation.” The song that Sr. Ata once composed in Tuguegarao City, during one of her postings, has travelled to parishes, schools, and cities all over the Philippines. Sino ang Makapaghihiwalay sa Atin has touched hearts with its lyrics and kundiman-like melody. The Filipino diaspora introduced her song to their new homelands. There are thousands of solo and choir covers on YouTube of her love song cum liturgical hymn.
Aside from her work as composer, she was also the Dean of the College of Music and the Performing Arts (CMPA) of St. Paul University Manila. The Commission on Higher Education recognized the CMPA as center of excellence for her innovations like the country’s first Doctor of Musical Arts program. She also established a music therapy program for children with disabilities.
As choir master, Sr. Ata made historic celebrations more vibrant like the funeral mass for Corazon Aquino and the installation of Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, the 32nd Manila Archbishop. Among her awards were: Pioneers of Philippine Liturgical Music 2005, Father Louis Chauvet Heritage Music Award 2015, Patron of the Arts Award 2019, and Father Jose Burgos Awards 2020.
CPMA teacher Oliver Rodriguez calls her a life-giver; she revives the community by reinvigorating the musical life of its members.
San Beda Law dean Fr. Ranhilio Aquino described her music as being able to capture the modality, the temper, and the color of the Filipino soul.
His Eminence Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle one wrote to her, “As a pioneer in our country, you have animated the spirit of the Filipino faithful around the world through your compositions—as it is hoped by the Second Vatican Council; and as an esteemed educator, you have honed several homegrown talents, who through their performances, celebrate God’s gift of music.”
Hers is a family of musicians. Her uncle is Nicanor Abelardo, the musical prodigy in whose honor the main theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines was named.
Sr. Anunciata’s journey has ended; her music continues to travel and touch hearts. The talents she nurtured perpetuates her legacy by spreading the Filipino brand of liturgical music globally.