WHILE others were rebuilding their lives, running relief kitchens and centers or continuing to appeal for help in behalf of the Bohol quake and super typhoon Yolanda survivors, musicians united, put music and its universal appeal in the service of a great cause.
The UP Jazz Ensemble under Prof. Rayben Maigue opened, with swing-time hits, Ayala Museum's Season's Symphonies Concert Series, a fund-raiser for the Ayala Foundation’s disaster response and preparedness program.
In a commendable format, Lara Maigue narrated the story of jazz, instrument by instrument from a lonely cornet to the thicker texture of trumpets, clarinets and trombones combined. She sang staples like "Alright, Okay, You Win" and "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square." The older Maigue did the demo part, leading the ensemble through a varied repertoire that included Latin-Am rhumba, mambo and samba
Despite a mic, Maigue's voice was thin for the upbeat "Orange Colored Sky," a tune Jacqui Magno could pull off with seeming lack of effort. She strove mightily but was overpowered by the over-enthusiastic percussionists, wind and brass sections. The band members capped the evening by punctuating "The Christmas Waltz" with a hearty chorus of "Ho! Ho! Ho!"
Nevertheless, the vocalist and the band looked like they were enjoying what they were doing as they showed how jazz, adaptable through each era since it began in southern US, is here to stay.
A beloved University of the Philippines tradition is the singing of Handel's glorious Messiah. But this year's was especially moving. The entire program, featuring the UP choirs and the UP Orchestra from different campuses,was dedicated to the students, teachers and staff of UP Tacloban and their families. The few who made it that evening were given a prolonged applause in the standing-room-only University Theater.
The audience was encouraged to go to the table of the UP Foundation Inc. during the intermission. The staff accepted cash and check donations, issuing receipts in the spirit of transparency and in behalf of the Typhoon Yolanda Relief Fund.
Premiered at this benefit concert was the dirge "Kilos, Iskolar" (music by Verne de la Pena and lyrics by Reuel M. Aguila) written for a chorus and soloist. Mary Jeane Eglosa, a Madrigal soprano who hails from Tacloban, led the UP choirs in a chant-like repetition of lyrics that speak of tears that wouldn't dry up in a time of disaster. In true UP fashion (raised clenched fists), the piece ended with this challenge: "Panahon ng pagbangon/ Panahon ng pagtindig/ Kilos, iskolar/ Dumaraing ang bayan."
The talk of the musical grapevine remains "Jamming for Help, Thanking the World," a Fullhouse Asia production to benefit #helpPH at Rockwell Tent, Makati. This was an example of classical music triumphing gloriously over pop music exemplars like Lea Salonga and Martin Nievera.
Cecile Licad, who had wanted to do something immediately for the Visayas when she heard news of the devastation, made known her fierce passion for this country and her music in her solo parts in Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, even in the liquid sounds she produced as her fingers glided through the encore piece "Embraceable You."
The ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra under Gerard Salonga played in a way unheard of in the past. It has leveled up remarkably, becoming more than a pop orchestra that provides background music to showbiz stars.
In baseball parlance, the orchestra has, as one, stepped up to the plate and, with Licad, hit a triple homer. Music and sports may seem irreconcilable. But the vigor with which Salonga showed in leading an inspired orchestra that was in sync with Licad--this is the team-up one can never tire off every time the People's Pianist comes home.
Wearing t-shirts and jeans, Licad and the others belied the mentality that one must be glamorously outfitted at a concert. They set the tone of sobriety and austerity in a post-calamity context. In their deportment they shamed some audience members who came dressed to kill and wearing their bling blings.
Arthur Espiritu also stepped up to the plate. He drove for hours a truck filled to the brim with relief goods. He and his wife, whose roots are in Samar, delivered these to the typhoon survivors in Llorente, a solidarity gesture that signified, "Signed, sealed, delivered, I'm yours!"
In "Arthur Espiritu and Friends," again at Ayala Museum, he was the audience's darling. The friends included tenor Nomher Nival, sopranos Myramae Meneses and Kay Balajadia, and collaborating pianist Najib Ismail.
Whether singing a difficult, heart-breaker of a Neapolitan song like Cardillo's "Core 'ngrato" or popular fare like the Irish anthem "Danny Boy" or even Brodzsky's "Be My Love," he sounded, in a word, impeccable.
His soaring voice and generosity will be missed as he fulfills singing engagements abroad for six months.--Elizabeth Lolarga
Photos by Anna Leah Sarabia and Elizabeth Lolarga