BlessedBy Lea Salonga
Oh joy, oh happiness!
One of my all-time singing idols graced “The Voice of the Philippines” stage last Sunday, blessing the audience with her silky smooth vocal style and heartfelt delivery. I’m speaking of none other than Patti Austin.
Her music is so beloved on our shores, that she has remarked quite often that it’s only when she’s in Manila or in front of a Filipino audience that she performs those hits that we all know by heart. Two of them (among my personal favorites), “If I Believed” and “In My Life,” were performed on “The Voice” in a special production with her, myself and eight of the finalists: Radha, Kimpoy, Jessica, Janice, Myk, Isa, Klarisse and Eva.
We first shared the stage when I opened for her concert in San Francisco in June 2008. It was cool to just sit in the wings watching her, quietly singing along to every single song. It was such a thrill for me as a fan of her work to get that close. You can imagine how I tried to keep myself together when the chance came to actually stand beside her a couple of years later to sing duets. This was in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
Fast-forward to 2013, the age of Twitter. Patti, it turned out, watched “The Voice of the Philippines” (I wasn’t surprised; her long time make-up artist Maxi Tone is Filipino … it was through her that Maxi and I started working together).
She started following our head writer Garlic Garcia on Twitter, and then got in touch with Alou Almaden, ABS-CBN business unit head. It was through their e-mails and direct messages that Patti’s appearance on “The Voice” was made possible. Yeehaaaah!
Hugs all around
Patti’s concerts in Manila early this month coincided with our Live Shows schedule. Rehearsals for Sunday were held on Friday at Newport Performing Arts Theater with me, “The Voice” band and backup singers, and the eight noncompeting (that night) finalists. Everyone was giddy with anticipation. She was to arrive at
3 p.m., but got in a half hour early. We started right away.
Lorrie Ilustre (from whose charts we culled our mini-medley) was present to help musical director Bond Samson construct the number. Michael Alba, Patti’s Manila-based drummer, was pinch-hitting for our regular stick-man, Roy Mercado.
As Patti walked toward the stage, I could swear everyone she passed by was ready to genuflect. She and I had a big hug, then I introduced her to the eight finalists, one by one. She hugged all of them, too, saying, “I’m a hugger.” Then rehearsals began.
We went through the lyrics to make sure everything was right, and that the “division of labor” was to her liking. She was quite easy to work with, so any decision made would be just fine. As the afternoon progressed, she would give us harmonies (10 persons with differing vocal styles singing in unison isn’t always a great idea) as well as coaching and direction, saying, “For this part, sing it easy, Lea’s just belted the line before, so take this one down.”
The artists were so cute … Janice had to touch her face to make sure this was real, and really happening. Radha was giggling like a little kid. Everyone had this look of sheer awe. Jaws were practically on the floor. It was such a thrill to witness this from eight persons who, one day, would themselves command the awe and wonder of the artists who emulate them.
During the actual show, the whole audience stood up the minute Patti stepped on stage. We might as well have been at a One Direction concert. The cheering got so loud before she even sang one note. As she sang, the audience remained on its feet. Later, she said she was really touched, and chided me that I could’ve warned her in advance that the crowd would be so audibly welcoming. She marveled at the degree of appreciation the Filipino audiences had for “ballads, melodies and lyrics that have meaning,” and gave props to the Filipino artist for being so gifted in order to interpret such songs.
So, to Patti, thank you again! You have no idea how much your few minutes on “The Voice” stage meant to all the artists you performed with, yours truly included. I will always and forever be one of your biggest fans.
Speaking of “The Voice of the Philippines”…
The full versions of the performances you watched last Sunday are now available on iTunes!
Each song—“What About Love” by Morissette Amon, “Every Breath You Take” by Maki Ricafort, “Balita” by Darryl Shy, “Paano” by Mitoy, “Skyfall” by Paolo Onesa, “Losing My Religion” by Lee Grane, “Lately” by Thor and “Superstar” by Penelope Matanguihan—costs 69 US cents (a little over P30) to download. I’ve listened to all of them, and truly, their performances are worth it.
This Sunday, in competition are: for Team Apl, Janice Javier and Jessica Reynoso; for Team Sarah, Klarisse de Guzman and Eva de los Santos; for Team Bamboo, Isa Fabregas and Myk Perez; and for Team Lea, Kimpoy Mainit and Radha.
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