Saturday, March 31, 2012

PPO VII: Gerodias and Bruckner

Soprano Rachelle Gerodias

Rachelle Gerodias, soprano
Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra
Olivier Ochanine, conductor

Johann Strauss II Overture from Die Fledermaus
Giacomo Puccini Sì, mi chiamano Mimì from La Bohème
Gian Carlo Menotti Hello, Hello from The Telephone
Georges Bizet  Les Dragons d’Alcala & March of the Toreadors from Carmen
Nicanor Abelardo Nasaan Ka Irog
Angel Peña Iyo Kailan Pa Man
Lucio San Pedro (arr.) Lulay
Anton Bruckner Symphony No. 4 in E flat major Romantic

The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra returns to its regular performance venue at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater) for its latest season concert. Since previous concert was held at a different venue and featured a guest conductor, it seemed ages ago when I look back at their last performance when everything seemed normal with Olivier Ochanine, PPO’s principal conductor/music director at the helm.

I arrived at the Cultural Center of the Philippines when the pre-concert lecture given by Herminigildo Ranera, PPO’s associate conductor was about to begin. He surprised me when he mentioned Die Fledermaus since I had no idea at first where that came from. To my surprise, additional short pieces were included in the first half of the concert: the overture from the aforementioned Die Fledermaus and a couple of pieces from the opera Carmen. I didn’t know about the inclusion of these pieces before but I didn’t complain since I’d rather have additional pieces than having something cut from the programme.

For me, the main draw of this concert was soprano Rachelle Gerodias whose one night as Violetta in the recent production of La Traviata wasn’t enough for me. I knew that she would sing arias and kundimans for this evening but it wasn’t until almost a week prior to the concert that I knew what her specific repertoire would be. And I was glad that there was a Puccini aria (Sì, mi chiamano Mimì from La Bohème) which basically made everything else just a bonus. I’ve always wanted Gerodias perform in a Puccini opera and hearing her sing Mimì’s most beautiful (and flirtatious) aria in the concert still wasn’t enough. Another side from her which I’ve never seen before was humor and this she exhibited via her next number which was Hello, Hello from Telephone by Gian Carlo Menotti. I’ve never heard of this work before but it was a fun piece that even had Olivier Ochanine playing along at the beginning. Then after the short Carmen pieces, Gerodias returned with a change of clothes to a terno (Filipino formal wear) which was fitting for the kundimans that followed. Showing the affinity for kundimans more than the operas which she is more known for, Gerodias sang Nicanor Abelardo’s Nasaan Ka Irog, Angel Peña’s Iyo Kailan Pa Man and Lulay from an arrangement by Lucio San Pedro. She gave a heartfelt performance especially with Iyo Kailan Pa Man which she did exquisitely. There were foreigners among the audience and I believe that they were moved by this piece despite not understanding the lyrics. Gerodias’ performance that evening made me want to see her in a full length opera once again but I had to wait some months for that to happen.

Rachelle Gerodias and Olivier Ochanine

Finally, it was time for Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 in E flat major which is subtitled Romantic by the composer himself. Ochanine had been very enthusiastic about this piece leading to its performance so I’ve had high hopes. And since the previous PPO concert featured very familiar pieces, I’ve had more time to get acquainted with this piece realizing that I wasn’t familiar with it at all in the first place. My first impression of the piece was that it was a horny one with the horns and the rest of the brass section figure prominently throughout the piece. Unfortunately, there were multiple hiccups by the horns (always a problem in orchestras here) that made me a bit bothered. I guess I’ve learned to like the piece because I’ve already listened to it many times that the horns faltering at times let me down. I’m really glad that I studied this piece since it would’ve been very difficult for me to sit through the performance that lasted for about an hour or so if I hadn’t done so.

After this long piece, the orchestra as well as Olivier looked very tired and exhausted. Most of the audience probably felt exhausted as well even if they just watched and listened. So there were no encores again this time. One point of interest during this concert was the presence of several audience members who belong to the blind and deaf community. I could imagine the blind still appreciating the music that they were able to hear but it was difficult for me to figure out how the deaf were able to take in the performance. Yes, they were able to see the orchestra moving and someone did the sign language for them during Gerodias’ performance. I think that it would’ve been better for them if a special concert was held for them that incorporated a more visually engaging element like video/light projections along with the orchestra playing. It was very nice to see them experience the show and I do hope that they come back again in other performances.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Jekyll & Hyde

I’ve seen all of Repertory Philippines’ productions for this season but remarkably, they’ve all been straight plays so far. Seeing them at Onstage at Greenbelt 1 in Makati has been a very enriching experience with me surprisingly liking the plays offered by the company this season. But at the back of my mind, I knew that I need to have a heavy dose of music since I am more of a musician than a theater person. Finally, that moment came when I saw my first ever musical from Rep Philippines via their production of Jekyll & Hyde during its preview night.

Cris Villongco and Michael Williams

My first encounter with Jekyll & Hyde happened when I heard the song Once Upon a Dream used during the end credits of an Australian network’s coverage of the Winter Olympics back in 1988. The song stuck with me despite not knowing where it came from. It was only a few years later when I found out that the song was from this musical. Since then, I also got to hear and eventually liked a couple of other songs from the musical like Someone Like You and of course, This is the Moment. So after Next Fall and Leading Ladies, it was finally time for Jekyll and Hyde.

Kalila Aguilos

Although I was really looking forward to hearing the music, the first thing that got my attention inside the theater was the set design. The set was that of a Victorian operating theatre where the chorus spent a lot of time at the risers watching the action happening on stage as if they were an extension of the actual audience inside the Onstage theater. Or it could possibly be the other way around with the actual audience being the extension of the chorus.

Jett Pangan and Junix Inocian

Moving away from the chorus and on to the leads, Jett Pangan (Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde) was a revelation to me since I’ve never heard a vibrato from him before. And he did employ that vibrato to full effect when he sang his character’s signature song This is the Moment. Playing the lead which is basically a dual role, Jett Pangan had to dig in deep into his arsenal of acting chops. The other Jekyll/Hyde, Michael Williams mentioned during the post-show conference that he thinks that Pangan possesses this gravity and I think that this gave Pangan presence throughout his performance. But too much of this gravity meant that for me, he was too much Hyde and not enough Jekyll. It was hard for me to see what made his character beloved by his fiancée Emma that was played by Cris Villonco.

Jett Pangan

While it was difficult for me to see the connection between Jekyll and Emma, it was easier when it came to the other woman in Jekyll/Hyde’s life which was the prostitute Lucy played by Kalila Aguilos. The contrast between the two women was clearly seen as Cris has more refined features and voice while Kalila is more raw and edgy. The contrasting vocals were highlighted very well during the duet In His Eyes in which the two had to work hard shifting between registers while still keeping in character in order to get through this difficult number. Someone who didn’t seem to work hard at all was Junix Inocian who made his return to the Philippine stage with this production. Playing the role of Utterson, Dr. Henry Jekyll’s trusted friend and lawyer, Inocian went through his part looking like he didn’t exert any effort at all. He was just simply Utterson.

Junix Inocian

Oddly and quite remarkably, the one thing that gave me the lasting impression in this production was the set. Thankfully, director Menchu Lauchengo-Yulo explained that the set design was among her vision for this musical which is totally different from the original staging. She said that while the chorus was normally off stage in the original production, she gave the chorus a more substantial role here with them being the narration, situation and eventually the emotion. She stressed that she gave the source material a different execution to make it Repertory Philippines’ own take of Jekyll & Hyde. And I think that this was truly the reason why this was such a compelling production. I thought that I knew what I was getting into since I know most of the songs and the story itself, but the very unique and interesting execution really caught my attention.

The cast of Jekyll & Hyde

Now, I do want to have another take of this musical and see Michael Williams, the other Jekyll/Hyde. It’s a good thing that the musical held at Onstage in Greenbelt 1 has been extended up to April 22, 2012 at . Here are the remaining dates and their corresponding Jekyll/Hyde for the rest of the show’s run:

Michael Williams as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde

March 30, 2012, 8:00 PM
March 31, 2012, 3:30 PM
April 13, 2012, 8:00 PM
April 14, 2012 8:00 PM
April 21, 2012, 8:00 PM
April 22, 2012, 8:00 PM

Jett Pangan as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde

March 31, 2012, 8:00 PM
April 1, 2012, 3:30 PM
April 14, 2012, 3:30 PM
April 15, 2012, 3:30 PM
April 20, 2012, 8:00 PM
April 21, 2012, 3:30 PM
April 22, 2012, 3:30 PM

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Robin Nievera's Overwait Media Launch

Robin Nievera

Robin Nievera has waited long enough. After a year’s stint in being a MYX VJ, he finally gets to make his mark in the music recording scene as he releases his debut album entitled Overwait. This album released by Polyeast Records consists of 10 tracks that were actually composed by Robin that show a side that was different from the music of his parents, Martin Nievera and Pops Fernandez who are considered icons in the Philippine music scene.

Members of the media (television, radio, print and online) were treated to a performance of tracks from the album and more by Robin and his band (Joseph Wu on guitars, Bret Meneses on bass and Michael Gemina on drums) during a recent media launch for the album that was held at Rockville, the bar owned by Journey vocalist, Arnel Pineda. Also present during the launch to show their support for Robin were Pops Fernandez and contemporaries Zia Quizon, Paolo Valenciano and Yael Yuzon.

While watching the performance, it’s pretty obvious that Robin’s music doesn’t sound at all like the stuff that his father Martin used to sing in his youth. Robin’s sound leans towards rock with a lot of blues flavor. But there are tracks in the album like Sexy Strut and Blindsided wherein Robin sounds a lot like his dad. I did close my eyes numerous times and tried to imagine that it was Martin who was singing. And yet, when I open them, it’s Robin who was on stage jamming with his guitar impressively despite having very little formal training with the instrument.

Being the son of music icons, it’s expected for Robin to be asked if he were in some way influenced by his parents. He says that he is a huge fan of his parents’ work but his music was also influenced by the time he grew up with hence his work sounding a lot more recent. He mentioned that he really pushed for having all original material in his album although he didn’t know how he convinced his label to go on with it. There was lot of talk between him and the label and from the low of six, they eventually agreed to have the 10 tracks that are now in the album. Since Robin believes a lot in his own material, he does want to perform his songs live whenever he goes on tour and does shows.

Yael Yuzon of Sponge Cola

I did put the album Overwait for a few spins and one track that really got my attention was Sound Tripping. While the lead track In 3’s featured an old school triple meter, Sound Tripping has an irregular meter especially with the initial verses. It took me a while to wrap my finger around it but I did figure it out. It must be a challenge to perform it live especially for the drummer. Another track that I had to put on repeat was the acoustic Delight showing that Robin can slow the pace down and show a little tenderness. The album is now available at record stores nationwide and also at MyMusicStore Philippines.


1. In 3’s
2. Sexy Strut
3. Lost
4. Smile
5. Delight
6. Beautiful
7. Sing Along
8. Sound Tripping
9. Blindsided
10. Untitled

Monday, March 26, 2012

28th Sampung Mga Daliri, Atbp.

Lech Napierała 

Sampung Mga Daliri is an annual concert presented by the University of Sto. Tomas Conservatory of Music that has been ongoing for 28 years now. The main draw for this concert has always been the 10 grand pianos on stage that are played simultaneously by 10 (sometimes even 20) pianists composed of faculty, alumni and students from UST. And more often than not, the pianists are accompanied by various music groups from the Conservatory guaranteeing a diverse and entertaining program that the general public can enjoy. This is not like most concerts at the Cultural Center of the Philippines wherein more serious and sometimes inaccessible pieces are performed. In Sampung Mga Daliri, one just needs to show up, relax and just enjoy the music.

This year’s edition offered something different through the guest appearance of Polish pianist Lech Napierała. For someone like me, his performance was the one that I was really looking forward to since I’ve yet to see a Polish pianist perform live. And since he is Polish, I expected him to play Chopin. It would be very interesting to see and hear his pieces played from that perspective. For so many years, I’ve seen and heard French pianists play Chopin. Yet, if one recalls the composer’s history, Chopin left Poland for France early one but his latter works like the Polonaises composed while he was on French soil spoke much of Polish nationalism.

I learned that Napierała only managed to squeeze a trip to Manila and subsequent appearance in this event while in the middle of an Asian tour. For a moment, it felt strange to have just one pianist amidst the many pianos on stage inside the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater). He performed just two pieces by Frédéric Chopin namely Impromptu No. 2 in F sharp major, Op. 36 and Polonaise in F sharp minor, Op. 44. The pieces were contrasting enough to provide variety in this otherwise short set lasting for only 15 minutes or so. And for someone like me, this was clearly not enough. But a little of something is better than nothing at all. I do hope that he will be able to find time to perform a full concert here soon.

Lech Napierała  being interviewed

Going back to the ten grand pianos, the UST pianists and other performing groups like the UST Symphony Orchestra, Rondalla Ensemble, UST Jazz Band, UST Wind Orchestra, UST Guitar Ensemble, USTeMundo and Voice Faculty delivered a crowd pleasing repertoire ranging from the classic The Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss II, Pomp and Circumstance, March No. 1, Op. 39 by Edward Elgar to folk tunes like Katakataka and Ahay! Tuburan and jazz standards like Begin the Beguine by Cole Porter. One of the highlights and the most applauded number of the evening was the 1812 Overture, Op. 49 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. This piece is famous because of the use of finale with the cannons, chimes and brass fanfare but for this performance, bass drums and tam-tams were used to play the cannon part. And at one point, a mallet from one of the drums broke and flew across the stage making it seem like an actual cannonball got fired from the cannons. This piece closed the first half of the concert and people did talk about the “cannonball” during the interval. The grand finale of this concert always featured the ten pianos with the UST Symphony Orchestra backed up with a choir made up of members from the Liturgikon Vocal Ensemble, Coro Tomasino and Conservatory Chorus Classes. They performed a selection of songs that included an ABBA medley that was probably influenced by the recent staging of Mamma Mia! earlier this year. Also performed during the finale was a medley of Filipino folk songs and Alleluia and Sing Unto Him from “Judas Maccabeus” by George Frideric Handel.

La Traviata

Floy Quintos, Arthur Espiritu, Andrew Fernando, Rachelle Gerodias, Daesan No,
Yun-Kyoung Yi, Raul Sunico, Jae-Joon Lee and Jae Wook Lee

Yun-Kyoung Yi, soprano
Rachelle Gerodias, soprano
Daesan No, baritone
Andrew Fernando, baritone
Jae Wook Lee, tenor
Arthur Espiritu, tenor
Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra
Jae-Joon Lee, conductor
UST Singers

Finally, the time came when I get to experience my first ever full opera production. I just didn’t imagine that the opera would be La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi. The opera’s story revolves around the courtesan Violetta who is the object of affection of Alfredo. They eventually fall in love with each other but loving a courtesan has its share of problems. And one such problem is Alfredo’s father, Giorgo Germont who is not in favor of his son’s scandalous relationship with Violetta since it has affected the marriage chances of his daughter. A plot such as this has been told many times in different ways throughout the years. No wonder I was told that La Traviata is indeed a good introduction to opera for someone like me who is new to this artform.

My preparation for watching this opera began right after the press conference by listening to an audio recording of the work, trying to grasp the basic plot and then watching Yun-Kyoung Yi’s recital that also featured Arthur Espiritu which made me anticipate the opening night a lot more. A couple of days before the opening night, I was able to sneak in and take a peek at their rehearsals over at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater). I noticed that the set design was not as lavish as one might see from productions overseas that have the benefit of a higher budget. There was much use of sheer white fabric hanging from above the stage. But the light design that used projected images made the fabrics and even the curtains look a lot more luxurious and interesting. What I saw was already a dress rehearsal and yet it still looked very rough with some members of the chorus not yet in their costumes. I wanted to stay a lot longer but I decided to be patient and not to spoil myself. It would be a lot better for me to experience the whole production with the rest of the audience on the actual performance night itself.

Baritone Daesan No

La Traviata ran for three consecutive nights with the Korean leads performing on the first and third nights while the Filipino leads performed on the second night. Stage direction was by acclaimed director Floy Quintos while music direction was by Maestro Jae-Joon Lee who also conducted the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra. Also appearing in the opera were the UST Singers playing the part of the chorus. This production was presented by the Cultural Center of the Philippines in cooperation of the Opera Guild Foundation of the Philippines and Dae-Jeon Opera Company.

The Opening Night

The opening night of La Traviata starring the Korean leads Yun-Kyoung Yi, Daesan No and Jae Wook Lee brought to the Cultural Center of the Philippines a very diverse audience. Members of the diplomatic community like the Ambassador Luca Fornari of the Embassy of Italy and his wife Silvana Novelli-Fornari were there to enjoy the opera alongside some very enthusiastic young music students from the University of Sto. Tomas. Some well dressed members of the audience looked like they’ve been to numerous opera performances before while some were just like me who are total newbies. But the atmosphere was that of excitement and eargerness to see and hear how this production would turn out. To those who say that there is no audience for opera here in the Philippines, the scene at the main lobby before and after the show would only make them eat their words.

Soprano Yun-Kyoung Yi

So many superlatives had been said about Yun-Kyoung Yi and her performance as the tragic courtesan Violetta proved once again that she deserved those praises. A force of nature with her unearthly projection during Sempre libera and an exquisite showcase of restraint and elegance during Addio passato, she was clearly the star in this opera during the opening night. Jae Wook Lee, as the young, love stricken Alfredo did manage to portray a brash youth ready to throw caution to the wind in the name of love. And this worked well with Daesan No whose arresting presence as the stern Germont was a nice contrast to the impulsive Alfredo.

I admit that I find sopranos the most exciting to listen to since the range of their voice has the most opportunities for composers to explore. But on the other end of the spectrum, I usually find baritones and their repertoire quite boring. So credit should be given to Daesan No’s performance and his insanely powerful voice since he had me really engaged in a baritone’s performance. I guess it also helped that I wasn’t able to hear him during the rehearsals since his part came in later in Act II and I left the rehearsals just after a couple of numbers from Act I. I didn’t know what to expect from him and I was caught unaware and was totally impressed by this pleasant surprise when I finally got to see him.

I came out of the performance feeling very exhilarated not just because of the amazing performance but also realizing that I finally had my first opera experience. I would’ve been satisfied and very happy with the experience but I wasn’t done yet. I planned to watch both casts and that meant returning on the next evening to see the leads portrayed by a Filipino cast.

Filipinos Take Centerstage

When I was on my way for my second night of La Traviata, I got a bit worried that the Filipinos’ fascination with foreigners, especially Koreans of late would mean that there would be considerably less people on this performance. I would feel very bad for Rachelle Gerodias (Violetta), Andrew Fernando (Giorgio) and Arthur Espiritu (Alfredo) if this had been the case. I was glad to be mistaken since this evening not just equaled the opening night’s turnout but it had a more star studded audience with Ryan Cayabyab, Armida Sigueon-Reyna and no other than Imelda Marcos in attendance.

The Filipinos playing the leads didn’t disappoint and they brought in a different approach and dimension to the opera. It was also my first time to see Rachelle Gerodias in an longer role that had some meat and I saw and heard in her a spirited and vigorous Violetta showing why she is one of the leading and celebrated sopranos in the country today. I’ve seen and heard Andrew Fernando before when he was one of the soloists during the PPO’s performance of Verdi’s Requiem a year ago. So I knew what to expect from him. But one thing that I didn’t expect was learning after the show that he actually had a viral infection which I didn’t notice at all during the actual performance. For me, the revelation for this evening was Arthur Espiritu who didn’t look like he exerted any effort at all in reaching those high notes and then exhibiting moments of utter despair and helplessness as he realizes that Alfredo and Violetta’s love affair was coming to a tragic end.

It would not be fair to compare the two sets of leads and decide which was better. Although there were numerous discussions among people afterwards with both the Korean and Filipino leads having their own share of those who preferred one performance over the other. But for me, all I could say was that I pity those who weren’t able to watch both casts since seeing both gave me a more complete La Traviata experience. I also found it interesting that on the second night, the male members of the chorus got mustaches and beards which they didn’t have the previous night. I also noticed the change in the ending lift during the dance sequence by Ballet Philippines’ principal dancers Jean Marc Cordero and Candice Adea. There were also some changes in the minor roles like a new performer and performers switching roles as well from the previous night as well.

As expected, the after show frenzy that accompanies events such as these was as bustling as the night before. The presence of Imelda Marcos made the meet and greet a lot more interesting since she has this uncanny way of drawing attention to herself and away from the performers. But the performers did get to meet Mrs. Marcos at the after show cocktails. With or without Imelda, the mood and atmosphere was still so upbeat that I decided to come back for a third viewing on its closing night. I’ve seen the opera twice already, so why not come back and complete all three performances?

The Closing Night

Watching the same opera for three nights in a row has got to be one of the craziest things that I’ve done so far in my years of watching concerts/shows. I guess that seeing La Traviata for two nights would prompt anyone to do the same if it was only possible. I managed to be back for a third night and got myself seats at the parterre box section which had a great view of the stage. By then, I somehow knew the opera like the back of my hand and there was nothing else for me to do but to absorb everything and enjoy the evening knowing that it was already the last performance. The last night was better than the first one with the Korean leads making up for the slight wobbles that they’ve had before.

Tenor Jae Wook Lee

I guess that I was one of the few who were able to watch all three performances of La Traviata. Maestro Jae-Joon Lee was one of those who expressed his surprise and gratitude when I congratulated him for the third time since I always did after every performance. This experience definitely made me want to see more opera productions in the future. Thankfully, there are more scheduled for this year. This production went for a more traditional approach and I do hope that the others will try to push the envelope more and experiment with the staging and interpretation.

The cast of La Traviata

Seeing the Koreans perform for the second time made me wish that there was another show featuring the Filipino leads. Good thing that Rachelle Gerodias was scheduled to perform a couple of weeks with the PPO after this. It was also announced that Andrew Ferndando (and Arthur Espiritu as well) will be part of the upcoming opera productions coming soon. I’ve yet to hear from someone who watched La Traviata on any night regretting doing so but I’ve heard from some people regretting seeing only one night or regretting missing the opera completely. The only bad thing that I can say about the opera was hearing a handful of people singing Violetta’s songs after the show although they clearly do not have the chops for it.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Yun-Kyoung Yi’s Song Recital

Yun-Kyoung Yi and Raul Sunico

Yun-Kyoung Yi, soprano
Arthur Espiritu, tenor
Raul Sunico, piano

Antonio Vivaldi
     Alta Aria del Vagante from Juditha triumphans
     Agitata da due venti from La Griselda
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart L’amero from Il Re Pastore
Giuseppe Verdi Merce, dilette amiche from I Vespri Siciliani
Gioachino Rossini Una voce poco fa from Il Barbiere de Siviglia
Two Vocalizzi per Soprano
     Renzo Rossellini V. Andante, con abbandono (come una Berceuse)
     Ettore Pozzoli VI. Adagio, con molta calma
Gioachino Rossini Si, ritrovaria io guiro from La Cenerentola
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Il mio tesoro from Don Giovanni
Reinhold Gliere Concerto for Coloratura Soprano and Orchestra
                      I. Andante
Ambroise Thomas A vos jeux, mes amis from Hamlet

Back in 2009, Korean Yun-Kyoung Yi performed with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra and had a solo recital which became the talk of many music enthusiasts. I was among the unfortunate ones who failed to see both performances back then. But fortunately, Yi came back again to the country to play Violetta in La Traviata which got the music lovers talking once more. But before that, she had a solo recital held at the Philam Life Auditorium in which I finally experienced for myself why people talked about her.

I got a bit worried if I would really appreciate this recital since I wasn’t really familiar with the concert repertoire which I only found out on the night itself. I knew beforehand that Dr. Raul Sunico would be accompanying on the piano but it was also during this time when I realized that tenor Arthur Espiritu would also be part of the recital as well. I did find it very peculiar that the audience cheered so loudly upon the entrance of Yun-Kyoung Yi on stage and she had not sung a single note yet. I thought that there must be a reason why people behaved this way.

I immediately found out the reason since her voice was indeed phenomenal. Helped by the hall’s superior acoustics, her voice projection seemed inhuman. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know majority of the arias that she performed that evening since I was captivated by her voice. She even made me appreciate the leaps and turns of Agitata da venti due by Antonio Vivaldi which is from the Baroque era and music from that time doesn’t really appeal to me that much. Most of the first half was devoted to music that showcased runs, turns and all that vocal gymnastics but she showed her versatility, range and control during the second half that had a more subdued and restrained selection of pieces.

RAd and Yun-Kyoung Yi

Arthur Espiritu sang two arias which were totally alien to me. As I’ve said, I didn’t expect him to be a part of the recital so I wasn’t prepared for him at all. But his performance did prepare me for his portrayal of Alfredo in La Traviata. I’ve already heard him twice but I still find it hard to believe that his speaking voice doesn’t offer any clue that he is actually an operatic tenor. I thought that Arthur and Yun-Kyoung Yi would do a duet but they didn’t.

One other thing that I thought would happen was that the entire Concerto for Coloratura Soprano and Orchestra (well, it was just the piano that night) would be performed. I asked Dr. Sunico before the concert if both movements would be performed but he couldn’t give me a definite answer. Unfortunately, it was only the first movement Andante that Yi performed. I was really hoping that she would do the second movement Allegro which is truly a showstopper. But the last final piece of the night, Ambroise Thomas’ A vos jeux, mes amis from Hamlet made me forget about my initial disappointment since this is like a showstopper that morphed into an aria. She clearly deserved all the praise from her previous performances and I knew that I’d be telling people about how great she is as well.

The audience wouldn’t let the night wrap up without her singing an encore and she delighted everyone with her rendition of Frühlingsstimmen by Johann Strauss II and Iyo Kailan Pa Man, a lovely kundiman by Angel Peña. Maestro Jae-Joon Lee, who obviously watched the recital, told us afterwards that Yun-Kyoung Yi only learned how to sing the kundiman for just two days. And the talk about this kundiman lasted for more than two days since many were moved to tears by Yi’s performance.

Yun-Kyoung Yi says goodbye

After the concert, people still couldn’t get enough of Yun-Kyoung Yi as she was mobbed by people congratulating her and asking to have photos with her as well. She accommodated a lot of her admirers to the point that her companions had to wait for her at the parking lot. Sadly, she had to dash off to join them but it’s a good thing that there was still La Traviata to look forward to after that. And the blog entry for that one is coming next.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tria Bascon Wanderlust Album Launch

Tria Bascon and Moreno Donadel

Armed with years of experience entertaining audiences in various five star hotels and luxury cruise liners all over the world, Tria Bascon makes her presence felt in the local recording scene via her debut album entitled Wanderlust released by Universal Records. Feeling that the time was finally right, Tria delivers a jazz album boasting of 13 tracks personally picked by her that reflect her journey as an artist and ultimately take the listener to a musical trip around the world as well.

This album, produced by Moy Ortiz of the famed group The CompanY, also features  guest appearances by notable musicians in the field of jazz like Italian jazz/classical pianist Moreno Donadel, all around music man Mel Villena, bossa/latin group Aquarela, crooner Jose Mari Chan and the aforementioned The CompanY.

Tria Bascon with The CompanY

Tria recently had her album launch at the Hard Rock Café in Glorietta, Makati in which I was able to witness. I’ve written before about how young vocalists seem to be uncomfortable and nervous on stage, but Tria’s years of experience manifested itself during her seemingly effortless performance. Her poise, confidence, rapport with the audience and crystal clear voice ensured that the crowd that packed the venue did have all eyes and ears on her. There was nothing else for me to do but to relax and enjoy everything.

Her repertoire for that evening included songs from her album in which some were in a foreign language. This could’ve posed as a problem for non-speakers of the language but Tria was able to communicate well the song through the music. And when she got to sing Magkikita Pa Rin Naman Tayo (trans. We Will Still See Each Other), a song in Filipino written specifically for her by Moy Ortiz, she couldn’t help but get emotional owing to the message of the song about the sadness of departing while looking forward to the day of return. The evening also featured performances by The CompanY and Miguel and Evelyn Juteau of Aquarela. Moreno Donadel, who is now based in Beijing, China also flew in to play the keyboards for this special occasion.

Tria Bascon with Moreno Donadel, Aquarela, and The CompanY

I’ve given her debut album Wanderlust a number of spins and I do appreciate hearing live instruments (brass, winds, grand piano and even an accordion) which is now rare since it’s mainly all about the computer, effects, and autotune in popular music nowadays. The album is indeed a journey throughout the world since there are songs in Portuguese (Anos Dourados), Spanish (Perfidia), Italian (Arrivederci) and French (La Belle Vie). This makes the lone Filipino track, Magkikita Pa Rin Naman Tayo, a standout in the album just like what happened in her performance during the launch. The song has a moving and soothing melody like a lullaby that will resonate with a lot of Filipinos especially those who are overseas and away from their families. She is indeed very excited about this song and couldn’t wait to perform it in her performances abroad when I asked her about it.

Wanderlust caters to a more mature, discerning and sophisticated listener which is not surprising considering that the carrier single is I’m Old Fashioned that has a video featuring actor Carlos Amir Agassi. Most of the songs from this album may be years and even decades old, but they didn’t become classics for nothing and Tria’s renditions of these jazz songs bring out the beauty in them. Tria maintains a busy performance schedule abroad but I do hope that just like what Magkikita Pa Rin Naman Tayo suggests, that we will still see her and more of her music soon in local shores.


1. With a Little Help from My Friends feat. The Company
2. Two for the Road feat. Mel Villena
3. I’m Old Fashioned
4. Magkikita Pa Rin Naman Tayo
5. Anos Dourados feat. Aquarela
6. Nice to be Around feat. Mel Villena
7. Perfidia
8. Arrivederci
9. A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square
10. I Remember You
11. La Belle Vie
12. Baby It’s Cold Outside feat. Jose Mari Chan
13. The Party’s Over

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Zia Bloggers’ Night

Zia Quizon

Zia Quizon has truly become one of the new darlings of the local music industry ever since she released her self titled debut album. Even Lea Salonga herself sang her praises and said that she’s one of the new artists to come out that she really likes. So it’s no longer surprising that she bagged the Best New Artist award at the recently concluded MYX Music Awards 2012.

After some months since her album launch/concert, I got the chance to see her perform once again during the Zia Bloggers’ Night that was held at Club Phi in Metro Walk. Several radio  people and bloggers were there to see her perform. I noticed right away that she appeared more comfortable on stage compared to her performance during her launch although she did admit later on that she still gets nervous before every performance. She performed a short set that included Dear Lonely, Simple Girl and Ako Na Lang which are the singles from her album. Tucked in between these songs was a rendition of My Heart Belongs to Daddy which brought her ever supportive mother, Zsa Zsa Padilla to tears. Zsa Zsa did thank Zia afterwards for fulfilling her dream of becoming a stage mother. As an encore, she performed a medley of songs by Carole King. It was very amusing to see the reaction of the other people who haven’t seen nor heard her perform live before. And I somehow saw in their amazement the way that I reacted when I first saw Zia perform live.

Zia also admitted that she tends to be awkward when doing spiels on stage in between songs and hopes that what she thinks is her lack of charm is what connects her to the audience. Although Zia doesn’t see herself as an actress, she doesn’t want to close doors on acting and that made her mother breathe a sigh of relief since she may have some plans for her daughter that involves her to act. But I do hope that she focuses on singing than in acting but this is just my two cents.

Zia and Zsa Zsa Padilla

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Zia’s self titled debut album is one of the standout releases last year but it was just too short with just six tracks. I do hope that she releases a new album soon with more tracks and hopefully, they will be original material. She has exhibited a knack for songwriting via Simple Girl and I think that she should release more of her compositions since listeners are now more receptive to local singer/songwriters than ever before. I really do hope that Polyeast Records will give Zia a chance to shine musically this 2012 by releasing more material from her. Until then, I’ll put her debut album for more spins.

Zia’s self titled debut album is available in record stores everywhere. It is also available for download at MyMusicStore Philippines. Special thanks to Terranova, Mossimo and Club Phi Bar.


1. So Much in Love
2. Ako na Lang
3. Dear Lonely
4. Mambobola
5. Simple Girl
6. Smile

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Philippine Popular Music Festival (PhilPop) Experience Part 1

The Press Launch

Filipino recording artists and their local releases have been featured here in my blog since I really want to show my support to the local industry. So many quality albums and songs have been largely ignored due to the greater focus of the media and a lot of listeners to foreign material. That’s why I do what I can to spread the word about Filipino recording artists and their latest albums. They do get major points from me whenever they come out with new and original material.

That’s why when I first heard about the Philippine Popular Music Festival (PhilPop), a songwriting competition with Ryan Cayabyab, an icon in the local music industry as its executive director, I got excited and decided to totally support this endeavor 100%. Local television has been flooded by numerous talent competitions looking for new recording artists, dancers, models and even chefs. And it’s long overdue for another songwriting tilt to discover not just new songs but possibly new songwriters as well.

Ryan Cayabyab

PhilPop is a songwriting competition open to all amateur and professional Filipino composers.  The submission of entries online via already started last March 1, 2012 and will continue on until May 10, 2012. Song entries are required to be in MP3 format and there will be no strict genre, form or structure. Lyrics could be in Filipino, English, any Filipino dialect or any combination of said languages. The only limitation is the duration of the song entry which must not exceed four minutes. A individual can either submit an entry as the lone composer or in collaboration with another but one can only submit a maximum of two entries. The complete set of rules are found on the competition website.

There will be three levels of screenings and during the semi-finals; the judges will choose the top 14 finalists. The final performance and competition night will be held on July 14, 2012 at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC). The grand prize winner will receive P1 million in cash and a trophy. The second and third runners up will each receive a trophy and P500,000 and P250,000 in cash respectively. All non-winning finalists will receive P50,000. A People’s Choice award will also be given to the entry with the most number of online and text votes. The winner will receive P200,000 and a trophy.

Ryan Cayabyab, Ely Buendia, Ogie Alcasid and Noel Cabangon

Some songwriters whose work are still unpublished might feel that there should be a separate category for someone like them that is separate from the professionals with published work but I think that having just one category encourages everybody to put on their A-game and submit their very best for this competition. The prizes are great and one million is still one million. But I think that the most important reward of all is to have the winning songs be recorded, receive some radio airplay and eventually be part of the Philippine popular music literature.

I strongly suggest to those interested in joining to follow Ryan Cayabyab’s twitter account since he regularly posts tips and other words of wisdom. PhilPop also has a facebook page where people can check for updates, clarifications and other stuff related to the competition. I’ve had a great time during the launch of this competition wherein Ryan Cayabyab himself put into music some silly lyrics that I wrote as part of a game during the event. I am very tempted to try my luck in this competition but I still have a lot to learn about songwriting. Whether I join or not, I am still interested to hear the songs that will end up as finalists and will guess from there which I think will be my bets to win the top prizes.

Ogie Alcasid
“I'm so happy that a prestigious songwriting competition such as the Philippine Popular Music Festival is being launched! We in the OPM are supporting this show 100%! Mabuhay ang musikang Pilipino!” - Ogie Alcasid, songwriter, multi-media artist, president of OPM

Noel Cabangon
“It’s more fun in the Philippines! The 1st Philippine Popular Music Festival is an awaited competition that will draw the creativity of Filipino composers, old and new. This competition is a welcome endeavor to propel original Pilipino music to be known and recognized globally.” - Noel Cabangon, songwriter and president of FILSCAP

Trina Belamide
“It's been almost a decade since the last Metropop Song Festival.  About time another prestigious songwriting contest was held. This will be very exciting.” - Trina Belamide, songwriter, past president of KATHA
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