Because we are all God’s children
Five days should be enough to reach a place of objectivity—or so I thought. The charismatic (absolutely no pun intended; he is the very definition of the word) leader of the Catholic church left the country on Monday and, as I write on Saturday evening, I am still hard-pressed to be critical of this album as a collection of devotional songs.
Not that a raised brow is called for. Pope Francis is invariably connected to this Star Records production; he not only “inspired” three out of the 12 tracks, they are addressed to him.
The carrier title, “We Are All God’s Children”—official theme song for the Apostolic visit—well, dare I assume that all Filipino Catholics now know the chorus by heart?
“We are all God’s children; we are all the same…”
Only a few things I am compelled to point out: That tunesmiths Noel Espenida and Jamie Rivera opted to keep music/arrangements and lyrics simple and simple is admirable. No birit, no over-the-top sentiments or images. Jamie’s uncomplicated styling makes the song accessible (“hummable”). The singer—with The Hail Mary the Queen Children’s Choir—sounds calm truthful, secure, like God’s children should be; the melody, almost like… Christmas.
“We Are All God’s Children” is, of course, the first track. The last is “Papa Francisco, Mabuhay Po Kayo!” Talk about focus.
This Ati-Atihan/Sinulog/Masskara festival-propelled welcome song is written by Jun Cruz, with music by Pio Cruz, and arranged in thoroughly infectious beats by Brian Cua. It is performed also by Jamie, with rousing back-up vocals by Jay Marquez, Miriam Cynthia Marquez, Kashmir Ortiz. Anthony Cailao and the parishioners of St. Peter Church in Tuguegarao.
Between “We Are All God’s Children” and “Papa Francisco, Mabuhay Po Kayo!”—both extensively played during the Pontiff’s visit, at least in radio and television broadcasts—is a little number, “Our Dearest Pope,” that allows a hefty serving of emotions:
“We found a friend in you… though you are far, you found where we are… we will always pray for you.”
Doubtless, these three songs secured the album’s top rankings in this week’s OPM and Overall charts (See story on page D1).
However, worthy of note as well are all the nine others, carefully assembled and performed by some of the country’s most dependable song artists.
Playing the album for the first time, three days before Pope Francis arrived, I was blown away by the third track, “On Eagle’s Wings”—I resort to a cliché because that’s what it felt like.
I was sure I had heard it before. True enough, even Josh Groban had covered this, the most popular song written by Jan Michael Joncas, US-based priest, liturgical theologian and composer of contemporary Catholic music.
“On Eagle’s Wings” was, research reveals, performed at many funerals for victims of 9/11. (It has also been performed at many papal Masses broadcast internationally).
For this album, the song was arranged by Arnold Buena for a duet by Jed Madela and Angeline Quinto. The rendition is flawless and moving, and showcases the singers’ voices at their
most exquisite. While I’ve always gleaned this touch of brilliance in Jed, I’m looking at Angeline with renewed interest.
The delicate lyrics certainly haunt everyone they touch:
“And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of His hand.”
Fatima Soriano’s interpretation of Cecille Azarcon-Picasso’s “Lift Up Your Hands” transfixed me—I who have heard possibly the best of them interpret it, including Basil Valdez. It’s true what they say about seeing (Fatima is blind), and singing, from the heart.
It was an inspired decision, to say the least, to assign “Lead Me, Lord,” written and composed by Arnel A. De Pano, to Aiza Seguerra. Likewise about “I Offer My Life,” by US gospel songwriters Clair Cloninger and Don Moen, sung here by Erik Santos, with the mesmerizing Optimi San Carlos Seminary Choir.
I’m sure I will find many more gems in this album, the more I listen to it. I am resuming the unhurried search right now.
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