Thursday, June 27, 2013

Anything to hear Cecile Licad and watch her play

Her hands           Photos by ANNA LEAH SARABIA
She hums.
The piano she later signed
...and strength!
We never have enough of her.
Admirers cross generations.
How can I forget the Kawit performance of people's pianist Cecile Licad in March of
2012 when it began with a middle-aged woman and a recuperating-from-a-stroke senior trying to wade through the thickets of Dasmariñas and Bacoor in Cavite 
to get to the Island Cove recital venue in Kawit on time? That surreal Sunday 
ended with a towering inferno rated by the fire fighters as a four-alarm 

The memory beats the time Ms. Licad continued playing Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto 
No. 3 in the dark when the lights went out at the Cultural Center
and the orchestra backing her up just ground to a halt. The emergency lights weren't on until five or so minutes later. Then there was the time she and her son 
Otavio, on separate pianos, performed a Poulenc concerto, a favorite of my 
US-based aesthete friend, Benjie Abellera.  

Benjie wasn't with me that evening. Reeking with envy that I was privileged 
to witness the event, he annotated it days later in an email, how 
"the slow movement has the notation that it should be played in the style 
of Indonesian Gamelan music, one of the types of music I enjoy most for its 
ethereal, dreamy and other-worldly quality. It could well be that your dream was accompanied by this type of music! Gamelan music influenced other French composers 
such as Debussy and Ravel. I don't think that any German composers fell sway 
to it. Must tell us something about the French versus the German artistic 
temperament. I would also have loved (to have heard) the Buencamino piece. 
Am trying to learn an Abelardo piano piece which isn't at all easy to play so I may
never get to learn to play it! Have the Licads put their genius to CD?  Wouldn't it
be such joy for all of us if they had done so?"

Back to March 25 last year. It proved to me to what lengths Ms. Licad's 
admirers would go to see and listen to her play Chopin's selected etudes, 
his Polonaise-Fantaisie in A-flat major, Op. 61 and Andante spianato et Grand Polonaise Brillante, Op. 22, the last the recital organizer and foremost Licad  groupie Pablo Tariman didn't fail to point out as the same piece that the actor Adrien Brody played at the close of the Polanski
film The Pianist.  

From the village where I picked him up convalescing friend Rustie was 
wheeled to a spot where a tricycle picked us up to ferry us to the highway, then we boarded a bus that took us to SM Bacoor where we got into a public utility van to Island Cove.

The barker misheard our destination, and we were dropped at the wrong resort. Two more rides (a jeep and a mini bus) 
and we got it right.

Entering the right resort this time, I thought we would also take the golf 
trolley to the venue until R's friend, Tita, spotted him hobbling on his cane 
with me assisting. For a few seconds we rode in air-conditioned comfort in 
time to catch Chopin in Ms. Licad's hands.

The original Island Cove venue, a cockpit outfitted into a performing hall, was crackling and brittle and sparks were flying when the air-conditioner and lights went on during the technicals.The recital was thus moved to a more intimate function room as a precaution
while Pablo fretted over the Borsendorfer as movers carried it like a baby.

Rustie was quickly hustled by other friends to a front seat. At some point I saw his head
bowed low, and I sensed he was shedding tears from the beauty of it all (he was 
indeed). This came after our mishaps that he said was straight out of Keaton's Cops.

A day or two later, Pablo, in typical self-deprecating humor, texted to ask if I saw his life passing by when Ms. Licad interpreted Liszt's Après une 
Lecture de Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonatathe wailing sinners licked by the 
fires of hell. I had no quick retort. 

I did agree with him that Ms. Licad's last recital for that visit, after the 
much-ballyhooed "The Legends and the Classics" and her first-time recital at 
the Holy Angels University auditorium in her father's home province of 
Pampanga, was the most dramatic and the audience's response most heartfelt
that she obliged with more than the usual two encores. 

She beamed, practically glowed, as she gestured with her hand, touching her heart, 
then raising it to the audience that was up on its feet, still not wanting to let her go.

As Anna Leah Sarabia said, "We can't seem to have enough of her."

Anna documented in photos that strange, but in the end, lovely afternoon. 

Meanwhile, there are still a few good seats to this Saturday's (June 29)
Licad concert with the ABS-CBN Orchestra under Gerard Salonga at the CCP 
main theater. 

Her program: Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 and Totentanz for Piano and 
Orchestra. Call 5763132 or 09065104270.
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