Friday, April 27, 2012

Sponge Cola to perform at the Beale Street Music Festival

Armo, Yael, Ted and Gosh of Sponge Cola

The Philippines is the country being honored in Memphis in May International Festival 2012. One of the highlights of this month long event is the Beale Street Music Festival happening on May 4-6, 2012. And since the festival is saluting the Philippines this year, it is only fitting that a Filipino band gets to shine on stage. And that privilege to perform in this music festival goes to no other than, Diamond selling pop-rock band Sponge Cola. A press conference was held recently at Shakey’s, Tomas Morato in line with the band’s upcoming high profile gig.

Band members Yael Yuzon, lead guitarist, Erwin Armovit, bassist Gosh Dilay and drummer Tedmark Cruz are geared for another milestone in their career as they take part in this festival alongside big name artists like Pitbull, Alisson Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas, Evanescence, Megadeth, Herbie Hancock, Al Green and Little Richard (who replaces the injured Jerry Lee Lewis) just to name a few.

Yael Yuzon holds a copy of Araw Oras Tagpuan

Performing at the Horseshoe Stage on May 4 and 5, the band plans to play songs from their four studio albums (PalabasTransit and Sponge Cola, and Araw Oras Tagpuan) and also their debut EP. They also mentioned that they would be performing covers like an Eraserheads and an APO Hiking Society song during their sets which will last for about an hour. The turnout of the Filipino community will also decide the number of songs in Filipino that they will perform although Yael stressed that language isn’t a barrier when listening to music. Yael also added that he’ll be playing the keyboards (hearing this pleased me a lot) during the festival which is something that he doesn’t usually do normally. One thing that Yael does normally is to talk a lot (but still very amusing) and he wants to cut back on the spiels during the festival. He recalled a gig that went on for hours but they only played like 15 minutes worth of songs and some of them were just snippets at that since he actually talked more.

Yael takes a snapshot of the Beale Street Music Festival poster

I do admit that it took me a while to warm up to Sponge Cola’s music but now, I’ve been seeing a lot more of Yael and the rest of the band. And this coming May 4-5 at the Horseshoe Stage, music fans who flock over to Memphis will finally get to see and hear why Sponge Cola has become one of the most popular, enduring and very fun bands in the country. And I couldn't be happier knowing that Filipino music (OPM) will be heard by a wider and diverse audience during the Beale Street Music Festival.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Radio Republic serves OPM 24/7

I’ve always been an ardent supporter of Filipino music (also known here as OPM) and it is a conscious decision that I feature mostly local recording artists and their respective albums in this blog. Alas, I find it lamentable that local music rarely gets any airplay in mainstream radio here. Fortunately, OPM has found a new ally via Radio Republic, the newest online media station that broadcasts only Filipino music 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Formally launching this week, Radio Republic will not only play OPM 24/7, but it will also broadcast talk programs via live video streaming featuring various Filipino recording artists and musicians from all possible genres. Twinky Lagdameo, the Chief of Strategy and Business Development, told me that Radio Republic stemmed out of 7101 Music Nation’s aim in developing and nurturing the Filipino music talents and skills. 7101 Music Nation also conducts Elements, an annual songwriting/singing camp attended by music industy A-listers (Ryan Cayabyab, Gary Valenciano, Aiza Seguerra, Jed Madela, Noel Cabangon and a lot more) held in Dumaguete, Negros Oriental. And out of this desire to help and promote Filipino music by providing them an outlet to be heard, that Radio Republic was born.

Jay Durias and Ryan Cayabyab discuss the opening number of Muchikahan

So far, Radio Republic has been on air (but not yet 24/7) for a couple of weeks and I was very fortunate to see firsthand how things went during the initial broadcast of Muchikahan with Ryan Cayabyab (aka Mr. C) and Jay Durias. The show during this dry run featured the show’s first ever guests, Baihana, (Mel Torre, Krina Cayabyab and Anna Achacoso) a trio with wicked harmonies clearly influenced by jazz groups of the 50’s and 60’s. Watching the show sent me back through memory lane many years ago during the time when Ryan Ryan Musikahan was still shown on television. Muchikahan feels like Musikahan with its nice blend of casual talk and intimate music performances. The addition of Jay Durias was a welcome element since it was nice seeing him interact with Ryan Cayabyab and also deliver a pun or two. I told Mr. C after the show that it would be very interesting how he and Jay would handle succeeding guests especially if it is someone from a different genre.

Speaking of genres, there are other programs that caters to specific genres like hip-hop/ RnB and rock but all music genres are welcome in Radio Republic as long as they are Filipino music. I am very curious if Filipino orchestral music will be featured in the future knowing that Ryan Cayabyab will be premiering an orchestral work early next year. It is indeed an exciting time for OPM with lots of new and veteran recording artists releasing more original material and record labels having more faith in them. And now, there’s a new online channel that provides an outlet for the music. People say that OPM is dead, but with Radio Republic around, OPM is not only alive, it’s also having a revolution.

Here is the schedule of the original programs of Radio Republic. There are replays of the shows during the week as well.

Mondays at 9:00 PM
Java Jam with Dylan Vizcarra
A live jam show which serves as a venue for brewing some of the most exciting and unexpected blend of sounds.

Tuesdays at 9:00 PM
Muchikahan with Ryan Cayabyab and Jay Durias
A lighthearted blend of music, talk and everything in between hosted by master musicians Ryan Cayabyab and Jay Durias. Watch them jam with some of the best names in OPM today.

Tuesdays at 11:00 PM
The Swag with Joy Hendrickson
Delivers the freshest list of the must-sees and must-knows in the hip-hop and RnB arena.

Wednesdays at 9:00 PM
Rock Bato with Wolfgang frontman Basti Artadi
The most definitive and authoritative show on Pinoy rock. If it's on the show, it's got to rock.

Thursdays at 9:00 PM
Live at 2299
It's your front row ticket to the best live acts in the nation. See your favorite artists in all their live glory for an all out, no holds barred live performance.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

French conductor Michaël Cousteau returns for songs and symphony with the PPO

April 28, 2012, 8:00 PM
Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater)
CCP Complex
Pasay, Metro Manila

Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra
Michaël Cousteau, conductor

Arias by Offenbach, Mozart and Bizet
Cesar Franck Symphony in D minor

It was during the last concert of the 2008-2009 Transymphonia Season when French maestro Michaël Cousteau conducted the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra in a concert entitled French Connection. This concert featured an all-French repertoire with Dr. Raul Sunico playing Camille Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 5. And after three years, Cousteau returns once again to conduct the PPO in a concert called Songs and Symphony with the PPO this April 28, 2012, 8:00 PM at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater). This concert is the culminating activity of the week long voice masterclass given to Filipino singers by two voice experts of the Paris Conservatoire de Rayonnement Régional: Stephane Werchowski and Florence Guignolet. The concert will feature arias by Offenbach, Mozart and Bizet and also Cesar Franck’s Symphony in D minor.

Conductor Michaël Cousteau

Songs and Symphony with the PPO is a FrancoPhil event  organized by the Embassy of France, the Alliance Française de Manille and Rustan's, with the support of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Air France-KLM, BPI, Pernod Ricard Philippines, the Philippine Choral Directors Association,  le Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Paris (département supérieur pour jeunes chanteurs, le jeune choeur de Paris).

The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra

Ticket prices:
P600 Orchestra Center
P500 Orchestra Side
P300 Balcony I
-50% student discount
-20% senior citizen, AFM members and for persons with disabilities discount

For inquiries:
CCP Box Office 832-3704, 832-3706
TicketWorld 891-9999

Monday, April 23, 2012

Forbidden Broadway spoofs its way to Manila

May 11, 2012, 8:00 PM
May 12, 2012, 3:00 & 8:00 PM
May 13, 2012, 3:00 PM
May 18, 2012, 8:00 PM
May 19, 2012, 3:00 & 8:00 PM
May 20, 2012, 3:00 PM
May 25, 2012, 8:00 PM
May 26, 2012, 3:00 & 8:00 PM
May 27, 2012, 3:00 PM
Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium
RCBC Plaza, Makati

There has been a surge of musical theater productions here in Manila in recent years with both local and foreign touring companies staging popular Broadway. So it comes as no surprise that a show that spoofs and pokes fun at these musicals will eventually find its way in local shores as Upstart Productions presents Forbidden Broadway. This show will be staged from May 11-27, 2012 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza in Makati. Four of local theater’s most promising talents, Liesl Batucan, Caisa Borromeo, OJ Mariano and Lorenz Martinez will juggle multiple roles as they sing about 30 songs from around 20 shows in this musical revue under the direction of Joel Trinidad. And I got to see and hear three of the songs performed by the cast during the press launch of Forbidden Broadway at the Chihuahua Mexican Grill.

Joel Trinidad

Originally conceived, written and directed by Gerard Alessandrini, Forbidden Broadway has gone through many versions since its debut back in 1982. The one that will be staged here in Manila is Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits and it will poke fun of the most popular musicals of all time like The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, Les Misérables, Mamma Mia!, Cats, Hairspray, and Rent to name a few. Unfortunately, one musical that has stamped itself deeply into the hearts of Filipinos, Miss Saigon, is not included in this version. For a musical theater newbie, appreciating the show might be a daunting task but Joel assured that it’s not really necessary to have an extensive knowledge of musicals in order to enjoy the show. But someone who knows his theater rather well will enjoy the show in a whole different level. And since Manila has seen its fair share of musicals over the past decade or so, it feels like it’s the right time for a show like this.

OJ Mariano, Caisa Borromeo, Liesl Batucan, Lorenz Martinez

One of the special treats that makes this staging unique is the inclusion of guest stars like Lea Salonga, Aiza Seguerra, Nyoy Volante, Cherie Gil, Jett Pangan, Gabe Mercado and more. There would be one guest performing just one number in every show date but who’s appearing when is a question that can only be answered by watching the show itself. It’s this element of surprise that adds another level of excitement to the show.

The members of the cast with the exception of Lorenz Martinez are already familiar to me since I’ve seen them in previous productions. I’ve last seen Liesl in Next Fall. I’ve seen Caisa and OJ (and Joel as well) in Rivalry. I also saw OJ in Disney’s The Little Mermaid. One more thing that made me really interested in Forbidden Broadway is the inclusion of my friend, pianist Dingdong Fiel who will be playing right onstage as opposed to being in the pit which is the norm for most musicals. Another familiar face, Onyl Torres handles the musical direction just like in the recently concluded run of Jekyll and Hyde.

Forbidden Broadway is presented through special arrangement with and all authorized performance materials are supplied by Theatrical Rights Worldwide (TRW), 1359 Broadway, Suite 914, New York, NY, 10018. (866) 378-9758.

Ticket prices:
P1100 Orchestra Center
P1000 Loge Center
P900 Orchestra Side
P800 Loge Side
P700 Loge Rear
P600 Balcony

For inquiries:
Upstart Productions (0917) 528-5678,

Friday, April 20, 2012

Philippine Madrigal Singers set to shine in A Ray of Light at the CCP

April 21, 2012, 8:00 PM
April 22, 2012, 5:00 PM
Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater)
CCP Complex
Pasay, Metro Manila

Philippine Madrigal Singers
Mark Anthony Carpio, choirmaster

The Philippine Madrigal Singers is set to brighten up the summer with a concert entitled A Ray of Light happening on April 21, 2012 at 8:00 PM and April 22, 2012, 5:00 PM at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater) at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Led by choirmaster Mark Anthony Carpio, the Madz will give the world premiere performance of works by  Matthew Maniano and Jed Balsamo. Other pieces two be performed on this two date concert will be works by Thomas Weelkes, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Ryan Cayabyab, Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson and more.

The Philippine Madrigal Singers

Ticket prices:
P1500 Orchestra Center
P1000 Orchestra Side
P700 Balcony I Center
P600 Balcony I Side
P400 Balcony II Center
P300 Balcony II Side
-50% student discount
-20% senior citizen discount

For inquiries:
CCP Box Office 832-3704
TicketWorld 891-9999
Ethel (0917) 906-1503

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

PETA and Repertory Philippines celebrate 45 years with Care Divas

April 27, 2012, 8:00 PM
April 28, 2012, 3:00 & 8:00 PM
April 29, 2012, 3:00 & 8:00 PM
Onstage Theater
2nd Level, Greenbelt 1, Greenbelt
Paseo de Roxas cor. Legaspi St., Ayala Center
Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines

I thought that crossovers only happen in comicbooks but a crossover of sorts is also happening in the theater scene in here as Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) and Repertory Philippines combine forces and bring Care Divas for an encore run happening this April 27-29, 2012 at Onstage in Greenbelt 1. Finally, the Makati crowd who found it too cumbersome to travel all the way to Quezon City where Care Divas was formerly staged will find themselves with no more excuses not to catch the musical during this very limited, one weekend special run.

I admit that I’ve never seen the whole production of Care Divas before since I am indeed one of those who found it cumbersome to travel all the way to the PETA Theater Center. I’ve heard that it is a hilariously funny musical written by Liza Magtoto and I’ve seen how hilarious it is when the cast performed an excerpt during the 2010 Gawad Buhay! Awards. Alas, that was my only exposure to the show until just recently when I saw the cast perform two numbers from the musical during the press launch. And the performance just reaffirmed how hilariously funny and musically memorable this musical truly is.

The musical tells the story of Chelsea, Shai, Thalia, Kayla and Jonee, five transgender overseas Filipino workers in Israel who try to bear the hardships of being caregivers by day by becoming drag queen performers by night. I was very intrigued when I find out that this will be set in Israel since I’m a friend of the Embassy of Israel. Now I look forward to see how the Filipino gay culture and the Israeli setting go together in this production. And my interest was further heightened when I listened to the original cast recording featuring all of the music from the musical. I am extremely pleased with what I heard which was memorable tunes, very witty world play with the lyrics and yes, even a hint of Jewish music. These small doses that I’ve seen, heard and read made me understand why this musical has been one of PETA’s biggest hits and also why Rep chose to stage this among the material that PETA has produced so far.

The encore run of Care Divas will be brought to life by the original cast themselves with a few changes: PETA artists Melvin Lee, Vincent De Jesus, Phil Noble, Buddy Caramat, Dudz Teraña, Jason Barcial and Eric dela Cruz. Featured guest artists are: Paul Holme, Ricci Chan, Jerald Napoles, Myke Salomon, Angeli Bayani together with Miguel Hidalgo and Dominic Miclat-Janssen. Veteran actress and Repertory Philippines’ Children's Theater Artistic Director, Joy Virata joins the cast as Adara and Sara, roles formerly portrayed by PETA President, Cecilia Garrucho.

The Care Divas with Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo

The show is directed by Maribel Legarda and is joined by a creative team that includes costume designer John Abul, lighting designer Jon Jon Villareal, visual artist and set designer Leo Abaya and contemporary dancer and choreographer Carlon Matobato.

Ticket prices:
P1100 Orchestra Center
P800 Orchestra Side
P500 Balcony

For Inquiries:
PETA Marketing and Public Relations Office 725-6244, 410-0821, (0917) 576-5400,

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Russian pianist Sofya Gulyak and The Rite of Spring end PPO's epic season

Pianist Sofya Gulyak

March 16, 20128:00 PM
Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater)
CCP Complex
Pasay, Metro Manila

Sofya Gulyak, piano
Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra
Olivier Ochanine, conductor

Johannes Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15
Igor Stravinsky The Rite of Spring

Two epic pieces close out the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2011-2012 season this April 20, 2012, 8:00 PM at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater) of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Leeds International Pianoforte Competition 2009 winner Sofya Gulyak of Russia will be the guest soloist performing Johannes Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1. On the other hand, Olivier Ochanine conducts Igor Stravinsky’s revolutionary piece The Rite of Spring capping a season featuring pieces that pushed the orchestra’s limits.

The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra

Sofya Gulyak was in the original PPO 2010-2011 season lineup but as many know, performers and programmes are subject to change. An updated season lineup then showed that it she would no longer be performing with the PPO. She was able to visit the country though back in October 2010 for a solo piano recital. This event was not only well received by the critics but was also well attended as well. Seeing her play Chopin and Schumann, I wished that she would be able to perform a piano concerto with the PPO as previously planned. And it seemed that I wasn’t the only one who had the same sentiment since people who watched Gulyak’s recital before were very thrilled when I informed them about her return to the country.

Conductor Olivier Ochanine

As for Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, it will be my first time to see this groundbreaking piece performed live. It will be a great task for Olivier Ochanine to conduct this piece since it’s very well known that the initial audience didn’t react to this music well when it premiered. This piece is rarely performed here in the country which means that there will be a lot of people who would be seeing and hearing it live for the first time as well. I’m looking forward to this one since this is the remaining Stravinsky ballet music (Firebird and Petrouchka) that I’ve yet to see a live performance of. I know that it will require a lot more from me (and the rest of the audience) to fully grasp this piece but I am up to the challenge.

Ticket prices:
P1000 Orchestra Center
P800 Orchestra Side
P500 Balcony I Center
P350 Balcony I Side
P200 Balcony II
-50% student discount
-20% senior citizen discount

For inquiries:
CCP Marketing Department 832-1125 loc. 1806
CCP Box Office 832-3704
TicketWorld 891-9999

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Philippine Spanish Dance Connection Project

Late last year, I was told that several Embassies and cultural institutions would be bringing dancers and dance companies here to perform and conduct workshops. I expected that these would happen by the middle of this year. It turned out that things got to a quick start even before the first quarter wrapped up when Ballet David Campos kicked things off by performing new versions of two ballet classics. This ballet company based in Barcelona, Spain has strong connections to the Philippines. David Campos, founder and artistic director of the company is married to Filipina Irene Sabas-Campos, co-founder who is also the associate artistic director and ballet mistress as well. Four Filipino dancers are also members of the said company (Elline Damian, Aileen Gallinera, Eduardo Espejo, Karina Campos). Hence, this event organized by Ballet David Campos of Barcelona, the Spanish Embassy of the Philippines, Instituto Cervantes, Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Institut Ramon Llull was called the Philipine Spanish Dance Connection Project. The project was also held in cooperation with Centunion, Mapfre Insurance Corporation, Ayala Land, San Miguel, Mercedes Benz and Ollé Beltrán.

Sleeping Beauty

I’ve always liked the music from the ballet Sleeping Beauty. The ballet’s score that was composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was the main reason why I got interested in watching this performance in the first place. I’ve seen Ballet Philippines perform this ballet a few months back and when I heard that Ballet David Campos would be performing a new version of this piece, I decided to see it just to hear the Tchaikovsky music once again. I didn’t mind at all even if I knew that there wouldn’t be a live orchestra during the performance.

I was warned by some people to be prepared for a radical version of Sleeping Beauty since they know that I am somewhat a purist. But I assured them that I am ready for whatever surprises that the company had to offer. I added that I’ve already seen some very unusual contemporary dance performances before so there was no need to worry about me not getting the performance. I knew that as long as there was the familiar music by Tchaikovsky, I would be okay. But there were indeed many surprises in this version, the most notable was the clever use of technology through video screens in front and at the back of the stage. One thing that I never expected with a ballet performance was the use of special effects. And there were indeed neat effects like fairies flying and arrows firing that somehow felt like watching a movie in 3D because of the two screens. While the technology gave this production a literal modern twist, there were still nods to the classical aspect as the dancers still showed of their technical chops in some of the dances like the Pas de deux with Elline Damian as Princess Aurora and Vincent Gros as the Prince. The story also departed from the traditional as an entire section was devoted to what Princess Aurora could’ve dreamed of while she was asleep for a hundred years. And her century of sleep did take the story into the 21st century with contamination suits, flat screen television and even a Sleeping Beauty ballet within the ballet itself. There was also humor in this staging with Puss in Boots having a rat in his mouth and also hinting that he ate the unfortunate blue bird as well. I was surprised also to see Vincent Gros, one of the guest dancers, since he doesn't have the typical physique of a danseur. And yet he managed to do leaps, pirouettes and partner work just like any principal danseur out there.

I was pretty pleased with this ballet with it's nice and interesting mix of the classic and the innovative. The smart use of technology left me at awe and the dancing sections (Pas de deux and the Blue Bird pas de deux) satisfied my desire to see some difficulty in the dancing. My only disappointment was that the Rose Adagio, my favorite piece of music from the entire ballet didn’t make it in David Campos’ version.

David Campos


I went back the next evening when it was Giselle’s turn to be staged. If Sleeping Beauty was a fairy tale that ended in a happily ever after, Giselle ended in a sad and tragic note. This version is a modern take of the classic ballet and none could be more modern and contemporary than club music which was indeed used in here aside from the Adolphe Adam music. And Giselle, played by Ailleen Gallinera wasn’t the naïve peasant girl in here, but was an awkward woman who looks like Betty La Fea. Albrecht was played by the dashing Jesús Pastor, also one of the guest dancers, and he displayed tremendous turning ability with his numerous pirouettes.

Betty La Fea wasn’t the only reference to modern pop culture. The Wilis which were the vengeful spirits who are out to exact revenge on the men who had wronged them, looked and moved like Sadako from the Japanese horror film The Ring. One Sadako was scary enough but in here, there were a lot since all of the women in the company were dressed as such at one point. Again, this production used technology with the video screens just like in Sleeping Beauty. One memorable part was when the video that was shown made it look as if Giselle was running at a subway station although she was just running in place on stage. Since this version of Giselle was grounded in reality, the effects brought by the screens didn’t have the wow factor in them compared to Sleeping Beauty which had a fantasy setting.

The setting, the costumes and some of the music and dances may be modern but there were also throwbacks to the classic ballet like Giselle’s famous variation during the first act. I failed to recognize if there were other portions like this since I wasn’t really familiar with the entire Giselle ballet in its original form. There was more emotional depth in this ballet since the themes are more mature in nature like love, betrayal and revenge. I got a bit worried during the performance since there were kids among the audience and the ballet had some violent and scary moments especially the death scene. Overall, despite its shorter length compared to Sleeping Beauty, there was more emotional hook in here and the production catered to more adult sensibilities.

One thing that made me really glad during the two nights that I was able to watch was seeing a lot of children (some of them members of dance groups) at the shows. After watching Sleeping Beauty, these children along with a bunch of adults as well mobbed Lisa Macuja who was there to watch the entire run of this dance project. And she had a very good reason to be there since Elline Damian, Aileen Gallinera and Eduardo Espejo were founding members of Ballet Manila, the ballet company owned by Lisa Macuja herself. And after I watched Giselle, it was David Campos' turn to be mobbed by the people at the lobby who wanted to have their photos taken or their souvenir programmes signed. This was just the first of a handful of dance projects happening in here. I am not a dancer but I like to watch dance performances and after having a taste of what Spain had to offer, I can't wait to see what the others had in store.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Juris Bloggers' Meet Up


Juris has been always known in the Philippine music industry as a singer with one of the most pleasant sounding voices. Her stint with her former band M.Y.M.P. brought her to the spotlight but their albums featured tracks mostly made up of cover songs. Juris then went on to pursue a solo singing career and this was when she started to explore her music horizons. Her platinum selling debut album Now Playing contained a lot more original songs and only just a couple of covers. Now, enjoying married life and her second and latest album entitled Forevermore, I had an opportunity to have a laidback, casual and somewhat intimate chat with Juris herself during a bloggers’ meet up that was held at The Kitchen of Cakes and Coffee in Tomas Morato, Quezon City.

My first impression of Juris as she arrived at the venue was that she is a very shy woman. She did admit that she was indeed shy as she recalled her days as she was starting out as a reluctant singer who didn’t like performing at all. She never imagined herself ending up as a singer in the first place but now, she has grown more comfortable with her career as time went on. But she said that she wants the support of her backing band rather than be alone on stage. But she did manage to perform for the bloggers a portion of her latest single. She said that one thing that changed with her throughout the years was that she has become more vocal. And indeed she was very vocal in expressing her desire to meet and collaborate with Bono of U2.

Forevermore which is released by Star Records contains 13 tracks, two of which were already released digitally in Korea. The first single from this album that recently turned gold is Kahit Di Mo Sabihin that was written by Jonathan Manalo. I do think that the second single will further boost sales of this album towards platinum certification. Produced by Aiza Seguerra and written by former Sugarfree vocalist Ebe Dancel, Magkaibang Mundo is a beautiful and yet haunting song that juxtaposes Juris’ soothing vocals with Ria Osorio’s sublime arrangement. This track indeed stands out among the rest in this album and Juris can’t contain her joy of having one of her idols compose a song for her.

Also coming in the horizon for Juris is her foray towards penetrating the Asian market. An all English album produced by Singapore company S2S is set for release very soon (recording has already wrapped up last year) that will hopefully expand her base of listeners. She already had some tracks released digitally in the Korean market. And with this upcoming album set for international release, hopes are high for Juris as she prepares to make herself known as the Soothing Voice of Asia.


1. Dreaming Away
2. Forevermore
3. I Believe in You
4. Don’t Say Goodbye
5. Bliss
6. Magkaibang Mundo
7. Sabihin Mo Lang
8. Minsan Lang Kitang Iibigin
9. Kahit Di Mo Sabihin
10. Not Like You
11. If You and Me
12. Wishes
13. Kahit Di Mo Sabihin (full length)

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Erik Santos Bloggers’ Meet Up

Erik Santos

I’ve seen Erik Santos perform during J.P., ang Gig ni Rizal which gave me a glimpse of how he would fare if he ever decide to try musical theater. Well, he eventually did and I was able to catch the preview night of Disney’s The Little Mermaid where he played the role of his namesake Prince Eric. I’ve also been to his PowER IKons concert where he paid tribute to music icons hoping that one day, he’d be an icon as well. I’ve also bumped into him on several occasions when I watched other concerts and shows. But remarkably, I’ve never had the chance to know Erik more as a recording artist (he is dubbed as the Ultimate Serenader and Prince of Pop before that) until recently when he had a bloggers’ meet up held at the Kitchen of  Cakes and Coffee at Tomas Morato in Quezon City.

During this afternoon, Erik eagerly answered questions regarding his seventh and latest album Awit Para Sa’Yo, his thoughts about branching out musically and in other fields, and ultimately, his long term goals as an artist and as an individual. His latest album under Star Records containing 14 tracks (nine originals and five covers) by local composers displays his strength as a balladeer. Erik mentioned that plans to stick with ballads since that is what he does best and what basically put him to where he is right now. But he is willing to explore in the arrangements of these songs. He does experiment a lot and go outside of the box during concerts and other live performances like doing some fast songs and attempting to dance as well. And when he was asked, Erik stated that he is open to recording a track or two that sound and feel different from his previous songs. But as far as recording a whole album that is radically different, he said that that isn’t the direction that he wants to take.

A different direction that Erik did take late last year was venturing into musical theater. He recalled that his stint at musical theater taught him not to be late and to be mindful of other people’s time. He also learned to do his homework and give his all because at the end of the day, he believes that he is only good as his last performance. He added that he plan to do more musical theater work but he hopes that it’s a meatier role and a different one compared to the one that he just played. As for the future, he plans to put up a business but he refused to divulge more details about it. He does see himself as a family man with kids about a decade from now. Ultimately, he wants to be like Basil Valdez in terms of recording and be like Martin Nievera in terms of concerts and other live performances. He is also looking forward to celebrating a decade in the showbiz industry which happens next year.

The tracks in  Awit Para Sa’Yo feature the typical soaring ballad (quiet at first as it builds into an epic climax) that showcase Erik’s vocal range. And it is this type of singing that endears him to mothers (he does acknowledge that they are among his biggest and most loyal supporters). One of Erik’s favorites in the album is Pangarap Ko Ang Ibigin Ka which he really wanted to include in the album. He said that while this song is strongly associated with Regine Velasquez, the arrangement put a different spin on it. Another song that had to go through a different arrangement was Paminsan-Minsan, a Richard Reynoso original. He admitted that this was difficult for him to record since the song was not only just a huge hit in its heyday, but it has also become a videoke staple. One of his own compositions, Hanggang Kailan Kita Mamahalin (Gary Valenciano co-wrote it) made it to the album but he feels that he isn’t ready yet to start writing songs for others although he has written a bunch of songs but for personal consumption only. Lastly, he is pleased though that an original song, Kulang Ako Kung Wala Ka was chosen as the lead single for his album and that it was received well by the listeners. I’ve had his album for sometime now and I admit that his epic ballads do tend to get emotionally heavy. I told Erik personally that it was hard for me to listen to his entire album in one go since I always needed to take a break after a bunch of songs. I feel that the emotions and the epic nature of the tracks will just overwhelm me should I attempt to listen to the whole album in one sitting. I'm just glad that there's the track Langit which is my favorite because listening to it does lift me up to the heavens. Lastly, Erik's songs in this album, especially the last track Muling Buksan ang Puso, make me wish that he sing with a full symphony orchestra. And if he ever does a concert backed up with an orchestra, then count me in since that will truly be epic.

Awit Para Sa’Yo

1. Kulang Ako Kung Wala Ka
2. Kailan Ka Magiging Akin
3. Hindi Na Magbabago
4. Bakit Mahal Pa Rin Kita
5. Sana Ikaw
6. Langit
7. Mula Sa Araw Na Ito
8. Pangarap Ko Ang Ibigin Ka
9. ‘Di Lang Ikaw
10. Hanggang Kailan Kita Mamahalin
11. If You Have To
12. Paminsan-Minsan
13. Sa Iyong Paglisan
14. Muling Buksan Ang Puso

Thursday, April 05, 2012

The Legends and the Classics

Lea Salonga
Cecile Licad
Lisa Macuja
Wilfredo Pasamba
Gerard Salonga, conductor
Ballet Manila

Up to this moment, despite the concert happening more than two weeks ago, I am still trying to sink in the fact that multi-awarded theater actress Lea Salonga, piano virtuoso Cecile Licad and celebrated ballerina Lisa Macuja managed to be in one show. And this show was aptly called The Legends and the Classics. These three women, icons in their respective disciplines have amassed numerous achievements between themselves and have served as an inspiration to numerous young artists, musicians, dancers and dreamers. When they perform individually, their respective shows have always been hot ticket items so when the three of them joined forces for what was just a one night affair, demand for tickets was at an all time high that a second night had to be put up.

I am extremely fortunate to be among those who were able to experience this concert featuring world class Filipino talents. I’ve been to numerous concerts and shows at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and I was surprised to see only a few of the regulars there during the second night and was amused as well by the newbies who had difficulty in finding their respective sections inside the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater). A stellar cast, a unique concept and the festive atmosphere made me believe earlier on that this will be one heck of an experience for me.

I’ve had some clues as to how things would go since stage director Roxanne Lapus gave a brief outline of the flow of the show during the press conference. And it seemed that her vision came to fruition without a hitch starting from the opening number that featured Lea Salonga singing Nais Ko and Cecile Licad and Lisa Macuja with the rest of Ballet Manila eventually joining her on stage. The concert featured a seamless collaboration between the three, with each of them given a moment to shine and then combining to create a pretty darn good picture. Well, it wasn’t just a pretty picture since it was also easy on the ears as well with the live music by FILharmoniKA conducted by the show’s music director Gerard Salonga.

Going to the individual performances, Lea Salonga was her usual self, performing with pristine vocals and technical perfection. She managed to squeeze in some humor when handed a glass of water in between songs by a Ballet Manila danseur stating that this was in her contract. She sang a medley of Broadway songs from roles that she has portrayed (Memory from CATS, On My Own and I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables) before singing a couple of songs from Wicked (For Good and Defying Gravity) which is a more recent hit. She then reminded the audience that she wasn’t just a theater actress but also a Disney Princess as well as she went on to sing a medley of Disney songs (Colors of the Wind from Pocahontas, Reflection from Mulan and A Whole New World from Aladdin). I’m not a huge fan of medleys but somehow they made the solo songs As If We’ve Never Said Goodbye from Sunset Boulevard, Hahanapin Ko and I’d Give My Life for You from Miss Saigon a lot more special. And she made people note the significance of the last song not just on her career but how it tied up with the venue as well. Her Miss Saigon journey started at the CCP where the auditions were held. She said that she sang it in a concert before she left for London to star in the musical and to sing it again after more than two decades on the very same stage was just amazing. So once I heard the all too familiar opening bars of this song, I felt goose bumps all over my body fully realizing the significance of what was happening right before my very eyes. I wasn’t the only who felt this since right after the song was finished, the audience stood up to give Lea a standing ovation.

Lisa Macuja actually did a number first before Lea performing the world premiere of Augustus Admian III’s choreography of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet with music by Sergei Prokofiev. Ballet Manila’s principal danseur Rudy de Dios joined Lisa in this number as her Romeo. And right after Lea’s set was the Grande Divertissement from Paquita with music by Ludwig Minkus, with Lisa joined by the rest of the Ballet Manila. It’s remarkable knowing that Lisa is close to retiring and yet she can still keep up with the much younger dancers. Her chaine and piqué turns remain fast, sharp, tight and very secure. I couldn’t contain my gasp when she did what I think were eight well centered turns in an assisted pirouette during the Pas de deux in Paquita. Equally amazing was the move during Romeo and Juliet where Rudy de Dios tossed her in the air. And she quickly had to do two quick revolutions in mid-air before being caught by her partner and they immediately did the next move without skipping a beat. And the 32 fouettés en tournant at the coda of Paquita was such a sight to behold. Lisa started the turns sans the music thus setting the pace for the orchestra. It was amazing to see how focused she was during the turns despite the audience roaring in applause with Lisa still having a long way to go. As expected, a standing ovation from the audience right after this section.

I’ve always wondered if there would be an element of surprise in this show since classical concerts normally have the programme/repertoire announced in advance. And the staples of classical ballet have remained the same and it was usually up to the principal dancers, the company and the rest of the production team to come up with a show that would match up to the world standards. I initially thought that Lea would be bringing in the surprise since she did refuse to divulge anything when I asked her about her planned song selection when I met her during the Kanta Pilipinas music video shoot. Unexpectedly, it was actually Cecile Licad who gave the most unexpected performance of the evening for me. I’ve never seen her play as explosive, playful and irreverent when she did her opening number of Frédéric Chopin’s Andante spianato et grande polonaise brilliante in E flat major, Op. 22. I’ve read a facebook status of Gerard Salonga stating that Cecile wanted a bading (gay) and lasing (drunk) Chopin. I wondered what that meant at the time and only realized what it was all about when I saw the actual performance. And Gerard’s description was spot on. It felt to me like Cecile realized that this was not the usual classical concert with a more discerning audience and decided to take risks, be flamboyant, be crazy (lukaret was the word of the day during the press conference), and ultimately have fun which was how she played Pasquinade, Caprice Op. 59 and Souvenirs d'Andalousie, Caprice de concert sur la caña, Op. 22 by Louis Moreau Gottschalk that followed the Chopin. I think that if she started with the Gottschalk pieces, then I would’ve been more prepared for her unconventional and very surprising Chopin. What wasn’t surprising was yet another standing ovation once she finished her set.

RAd and Lea Salonga

Clearly, the highlights of the show were the collaborations between two of the artists. One such collaboration was Lisa Macuja dancing The Dying Swan with music by Camille Saint-Saëns while being accompanied by Cecile Licad and cellist Wilfredo Pasamba. While Paquita was a display of technical prowess and more designed to impress, this number was more subtle and was meant to move the emotions instead. Then Lea went on stage once again for a medley of Michel Legrand songs (What are You Doing the Rest of Your Life, Windmills of Your Mind and Piece of Sky) with Ballet Manila and Lisa Macuja joining her. And during the climax of this medley, when Lea sang “watch me fly”, Lisa once again showed her unmatched turning abilities with those amazing chaine turns. The finale featured all three again Sana’y Wala Nang Wakas which was how people felt at that time: that the show wouldn’t end and still go on. The show ran for two and a half hours without an intermission and yet it didn’t felt that long at all. After this number, what seemed to go on without an end was the standing ovation by the audience.

RAd and Cecile Licad

Right after the concert, I, along with a pianist friend who watched the concert with me, dashed towards the orchestra pit to congratulate Gerard and tell him how surprised I was by Cecile’s performance. After that, we waited at the lobby to see if there would be the usual meet and greet but I guessed that that wouldn’t be possible since the three would’ve been mobbed. So I decided to drag my friend near the backstage area and wait for the three there. Fortunately, our patience paid off since we were able to have photos and autographs taken with Lea Salonga, Cecile Licad, Lisa Macuja and Wilfredo Pasamba as well. This has been an exhilarating experience and very different from the usual concerts that I see at the CCP. Thank you very much to producer Lisa Macuja and Angela Blardony Ureta for this memorable experience.

RAd and Lisa Macuja
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