Monday, July 11, 2016

Teacher, student show what they’ve got in #galingNAMCYA

The piece for two pianos selected for July 16’s "#galingNAMCYA" concert is appropriate for this collaborating pair of teacher and student. “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” gained fame in Disney’s classic animated movie “Fantasia.”

Gabriel Allan Paguirigan, who is finishing his piano degree at the University of the Philippines College of Music under Prof. Luci Magalit, quipped, “I chose this because of Mickey Mouse. I’ve always been a Disney kid who owned copies of the old movies, including ‘Fantasia.’ This piece is one of the first classical pieces I’ve heard. This transcription of (composer) Dukas is a delight to play and fits the hands nicely. Plus it’s not too long or too short.”

Luci Magalit

Magalit, prize-winner of the National Music Competition for Young Artists (NAMCYA) Piano Category, said the concert isn’t her first collaboration with Gabby on two pianos. She had played orchestra reductions to piano in his undergrad recitals, his NAMCYA participation and in a Mozart concerto competition.

For the Cultural Center Little Theater performance, she recommended “The Sorcerer's Apprentice” because “the length is right, the music is easy listening, interesting, not serious or gloomy, and it is neither too easy for a NAMCYA show nor too difficult, given our busy schedules,” she said.

She described him, a two-time NAMCYA winner, as “very hardworking and very teachable. He never lets his amazing talent get to his head. He is always open to learning, whether from me or from other pianists and piano teachers. When he doesn't readily grasp an idea or he finds it difficult to replace a habit with a new one, he does his best to learn it. Aside from this receptivity, the other thing that I love about Gabby is his sincerity as an artist which, at the end of the day, is what defines a musician, no matter what his teacher is able to give him.”

Magalit recalled her experience in competing. “I joined at an age when it was my last chance. Since I had not joined NAMCYA before, I took it all in with openness, no expectations. I remember the decrepit upright piano we used in the first stage of the competition in a crowded and noisy gym in Manila. I remember the MRT and LRT rides to the semis where I thought I would be eliminated because I struggled with the Prokofiev Sonata I was performing for the first time, then to the finals at the CCP where I was to perform Bartok’s Third Concerto, which I was also playing for the first time.”

She continued, “It was a new experience playing a concerto at 8 a.m. but the best of it was playing on that stage. The bigness of the auditorium and the lights twinkling in the ceiling gave me a sense of magic and made me forget how difficult my concerto was. I am immensely grateful for the entire experience. The prize money was not very substantial. I bought my first cellphone with it.”

Gabriel Allan Paguirigan

Both pianists agree on the role of award-giving bodies in the flowering of talents. Paguirigan said, “The contests expose musicians to more opportunities. It feels amazing to discover and appreciate the talents rising in our country.”

Magalit said, “NAMCYA is important. It is the only award-giving body that is national in scope. Award-giving bodies as competitions are essential to the discovery and development of talent and skill. It is not enough that a piano student does well in his/her academic piano requirements or gives good recitals or gets performance opportunities outside school. A competition offers a venue to stretch one’s abilities to a level that he/she has not yet discovered, which he/she will not discover otherwise. It provides a certain pressure not present in other performance situations, given that the jury is known to be top-caliber and trustworthy.”

She added. “This pressure tests a musician’s character: both teacher and student experience the pressure and it will show what kind of people they are in the way they handle it. Apart from whatever title or prize the young musician obtains from the competition, the whole experience of stretching, discovery, testing of mettle is essential to preparing him/her for the bigger world. It would be in the best interest of our country's cultural and artistic life that there be more competitions.”

They’re both passionate about sustaining the lives of classical musicians in this country. Magalit said, “We in the classical music industry must do something to create a bigger demand for high quality live performance of classical music in our country, if we want to continue. This is what I always tell my students: Always do your best, and share your music.”

Paguirigan nodded, “One can’t live on just performing. Most performers I adore here are also teachers. Performing and teaching demand much time though. Music is an extremely difficult track. We never stop learning, face countless hours of practicing and a spectrum of difficult situations and people as musicians. As long as you love what you're doing, play on.”-- Elizabeth Lolarga

Friday, July 8, 2016

The power of flowers

"Daisy" by Kelly Ramos

BAGUIO CITY—Merci Javier Dulawan and Kelly Ramos, writers and painters both, had always talked about someday doing a joint project that would involve words and paint. It was a thought they put out there for the universe to pick up.

What happened instead was they found themselves for much of this summer working on unfurled sheets of watercolor paper to meet their target of 10 paintings for their current “The Watercolor Flower Show” at CafĂ© by the Ruins Dua, Upper Session Road, Baguio. The exhibit runs until July 10.

Although Ramos is the more formally trained one in fine arts at the University of the Philippines between the two painters, the self-taught Dulawan has had watercolor as her preferred medium of expression since the mid- to late 2000s. Ramos recalled doing just one watercolor plate as a school requirement and hadn’t touched the medium for more than 20 years.

Still they managed to work separately and confidently meet their deadline, even as the younger Ramos practiced on small scraps of paper.

Detail from Merci Dulawan's "Red Gumamela"

Choosing flowers as their subject was the easy part. Dulawan said, “Baguio means flowers, and ever since they’ve been my subject. New learning says that the edible protein found in flowers helps humans reflect, meditate, ruminate about our connection with the Divine. I feel connected. In this series, I honor the contribution of flowers to human.”

Uncannily enough, when it was time for the two to bring their finished works to the framers, they saw that they painted a variety of common flowers and not once did they have duplicates of a certain species of flora.

"Fifi's Pitcher Plant" by Dulawan

The experience revived Ramos’ interest in watercolor and the surprising effects that could be achieved with a medium that she once forsook for oil on canvas. She found the images right outside her home in Tawang, La Trinidad. And when the wildflowers weren’t enough for her, she went around the parks in Baguio and visited the ICM House of Prayer which has a sprawling garden enjoyed by those taking their spiritual retreats.

Dulawan quoted the children’s book author Hans Christian Andersen who wrote, “Just living is not enough... one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.” -- Elizabeth Lolarga

This story earlier appeared in the July 6, 2016, issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer Northen Luzon Supplement.

"Prickly Pear Cactus" by Ramos