Singing in thanksgiving | Inquirer Entertainment
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Singing in thanksgiving

By: - Columnist
/ 10:22 PM February 05, 2014

Right off the bat, allow me to thank everyone who watched “Do You Hear the People Sing” (DYHTPS) last week at Newport Performing Arts Theater in Resorts World Manila. Because of your generosity, we raised over P24 million, just what we needed to build 200 new houses (via Habitat for Humanity Philippines) for “Yolanda” survivors.

Markedly different

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I had written in the past that DYHTPS is a celebration of the music of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg. This concert debuted in the fall of 2011 in Indianapolis (under the baton of Jack Everly conducting the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra) and has since played in such cities as Dallas, Baltimore, Ottawa and Shanghai with a rotating cast of performers. After the Manila stop, it goes to  Taipei, with Michael Ball, David Harris, Jennifer Paz, Amanda Harrison and Ana Marina. Gerard Salonga will conduct.

The Manila concert was markedly different from the previous DYHTPS shows.

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Customarily, there are five soloists plus a large choir and an orchestra. In Manila, we had 11 soloists. Besides David, Marie Zamora and myself, we had Jon Joven, Carla Guevara-Laforteza, Leo Tavarro Valdez, Jed Madela, Rachelle Ann Go, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, Michael Williams and Cocoy Laurel. Forming a special ensemble were a bunch of “Miss Saigon” alumni from productions all over the world—Analin Bantug, Edward Bungalon, Tricia Canilao-Buser, Robbie Guevara, Natalie Everett, Jake Macapagal, Lora Nicolas, Jun Ofrasio, Ivy Padilla, Aileen Payumo, Gina Respall, Meliza Reyes, Christian Rey Marbella, Christine Sambeli-Marquez, Amparo Sietereales and Jojo Urquico. The choir, headed by choirmaster Jojo Velasco, included the International School Manila Middle School Honor Choir. Plus, we had the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra.

It was wonderful that both Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg personally had a hand in shaping the show and all the performances. Gerard likened Claude-Michel’s presence to having Mozart or Verdi right at his side, telling him what to do. It’s not often that a concert that debuted a few years ago would have its creators remain as hands-on as they are, and we were all the better for it.

Rehearsals

Rehearsals began at Dolphy Theater at ABS-CBN complex in Quezon City. One by one, the vocalists had their first runs with the music (much of it was new for the singers) and the orchestra. Next was in a larger room at Newport, with Alain and Claude-Michel working with each vocalist. This tailor-made each interpretation, and it was fun watching Claude-Michel manipulate tempos with Gerard (and our awestruck rehearsal pianist, Jesper Mercado).

Particularly impressive

When each singer stepped up to the plate, there were beads of sweat, some nervous energy and excitement to just have these great men in our midst. Particularly impressive were Jed Madela (who did a powerful rendition of “Martin Guerre”) and Rachelle Ann Go (interpreting “Maybe,” a brand-new song written for the “Miss Saigon” revival), neither of whom had performed in a Boublil-Schönberg show.

Jed’s singing style was a perfect fit for this concert, as was Rachelle’s, who will get to explore musical theater more this year, as she heads to London next month to begin work on “Miss Saigon.” Perhaps Jed needs to give musical theater a go as well? Here’s hoping!

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Alain and Claude-Michel’s passion for this concert extended to the choir and the orchestra, a passion that doesn’t seem to have wavered over the many years they have worked together (their first musical was “La Revolucion Française,” in 1973). Their energy was infectious. Whenever I work with them, hearing their instructions makes me want to do better and work harder to make their music sound as good as possible. I first met them while still in my teens; many years later, they’re still inspiring. And now that I’m an actual adult, they’re also more fun.

Their relationship with the Philippines, thanks to “Miss Saigon,” runs deep. Thus, they wanted to do this special concert. Once the decision was made, they began to enlist their crew of indefatigable individuals which included Enda Markey (producer), Gerard, myself, Meera Vijayendra and Li Fang Law of IMG Artists, Tom Brickhill (sound designer), Chris Page (lighting designer), Liza Camus (production manager), Ed Murillo (stage manager) Jennie Dale (associate director) and Andy Alviz (musical staging).

Outpouring of help

Every single person who worked on the show did it for free, including everyone at Newport (thank you, Kingson Sian, president of Resorts World).

We sing to express happiness, sorrow and anger, with music that reflects the same … last week, we sang in thanksgiving for the outpouring of help, generosity and kindness, with some of the most beautiful music written for musical theater.

“Will you join in our crusade?” is a favorite line from “Les Miz,” coming from its rousing finale. To those who answered the call and continue to, maraming salamat po sa inyong lahat.

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TAGS: concert, DYHTPS, Habitat for Humanity, Lea Salonga, Yolanda Do You Hear the People Sing
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