Friday, October 3, 2014
The clarinetist from Cavite
Observe how a baby breathes while asleep; its belly rises and falls in a natural rhythm. Yogis recommend to students that they relearn this rhythm. When adults are anxious or nervous, they just have to inhale, exhale deeply until they calm down. In meditation, when one’s monkey mind roams restlessly, one technique to quiet it down is to concentrate on one’s breathing.
Andrew Constantino, a clarinetist (this word can also be spelled “clarinettist”), knows how crucial diaphragmatic breathing is in playing his Yamaha woodwind instrument. Before he even practices the pieces that he studies, he stands tall, puts his hand sideways across his mouth. He inhales, holds his breath for five second before exhaling through his mouth slowly, then repeats until he has done this 10 times.
This 17-year-old freshman at the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music will debut professionally on Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. at the Ayala Museum to close the Manila Chamber Orchestra Foundation’s Young Artist Series. Melissa Taqueban will be his assisting artist on the piano.
The program includes: Francis Poulenc’s “Sonata for Clarinet and Piano”; the more jazzy “Clarinet Concerto” by Aaron Copland; Robert Schumann’s “Fantasiestucke for Clarinet and Piano”; and Debussy’s “Premiere Rhapsody.” Even Joseph Uy, MCOF cultural associate and walking compendium of music info, says these pieces are difficult.
Nicknamed Drew, the lanky boy from Imus, Cavite, also keeps fit by jogging with ears plugged to classical music, particularly Mozart’s and Brahms’ Clarinet Concerto and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3. Smoking, late nights and activities that may compromise his health are no-nos. Discipline was imposed by his dad Ariel, once a clarinetist and now a baritone saxophonist who plays with the Imus Youth Symphonic Band. The band was founded by Abdoncito "Dasoy" Constantino.
The band where father and son play, by the way, can be heard every last Sunday of the month in a concert at the Imus municipality. These free concerts will go on until the end of this year.
Young Constantino was allowed to play tag with friends and cousins. But after dinner, two-hour lessons with his first teacher, his father, followed. He wasn’t a reluctant learner; he has after all been raised in a home where music was always being played. His older siblings Archie is a trumpet player of the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra, sisters Adrian, a saxophonist of the UP Woodwind Orchestra, and Alexis, a percussionist of the UP Symphony Orchestra.
At age seven, Constantino started playing the trumpet, gave it up because “mahirap ang breathing.” At eight, he turned to percussion instruments (snare and bass drums), but also gave up, finding the notes “more complicated.” At nine, he decided on the clarinet, or was it the clarinet that decided to snare him?
He says, “Whether played high or low, it is pleasant to the ears. The brightness of its sound can surprise you. It's a nice kind of surprise.”
Playing for the Imus band and being mentored by his father helped him on the road to independence. “It's good to know somebody is helping you. However, it’s up to you if you want to pursue it, and music was what I wanted.”
There were eight music majors in all when he won a scholarship at the Philippine High School for the Arts, including pianists Matthew Calderon and Warren Garrido who’re making a name for themselves in the music world.
It was in one of the MCOF masterclasses under the famed clarinetist and teacher Marcel Luxen that Constantino was singled out. Luxen told him that he had no problem with techniques, he is able to follow tempos well. But he had to develop his musicality and interpretative side. Since then, the young man has gone to live performances and studiously watched operas on YouTube where clarinet solos can be seen or heard.
He is also reading more music-related literature. Uy says, “It’s not enough to be able to read music itself, you must know its history, background, even the life of the composer.”
Constantino has read up on Poulenc, discovering that in the second movement of “Sonata for Clarinet and Piano,” there are hints of the composer’s mother singing a lullaby to her son, telling him that he would grow up to be a great musician one day. By the third movement, Poulenc is playing with Arab children on the streets in the poor part of Paris and there is a phrase of Arab music.
The clarinetist says, “Those stories are helpful. When I play, I’m able to see these images.”
Another side of him is he composes music, writes lyrics to them and sings them himself. He has a tulawit (poem song) called "Gaano Mo Kamahal ang Sariling Wika." - Elizabeth Lolarga