Never gets old
NEW YORK—When I told my brother Gerard that I would be performing with the National Symphony Orchestra at Kennedy Center in Washington for another installment of “Do You Hear the People Sing,” his reaction was that of measured excitement.
What he said was, “Super duper orchestra.”
When I said that Steven Reineke would be conducting (Steven also conducts the New York Pops), that’s when Gerard became more effusive in his praise. “Absolute first-class arranger and orchestrator … idol ko siya … please get me an autograph.”
As many of you know, this concert is a celebration of the music of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, creators of “Les Misérables” and “Miss Saigon.”
We did a version in Manila to benefit Habitat for Humanity, to build homes for those displaced in the wake of Super Typhoon “Yolanda” (more than 200 homes were built with the funds raised). There were many artists although, normally, only five soloists share duties on the various songs that make up the show.
The concert was birthed with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra (with Jack Everly conducting), and has been to Baltimore, Dallas, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Taipei, and Shanghai. A few vocalists have come on board, including the incomparable Michael Ball; as well as many conductors, including Gerard.
The latest stop was Kennedy Center, with the National Symphony Orchestra. This is a pretty big deal. The soloists at this venue, aside from yours truly, were Terrence Mann (the original Javert in the Broadway production of “Les Misérables”), Kathy Voytko (now appearing in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” on Broadway), Eric Kunze (my Marius in Les Miz on Broadway, way back in 1993) and Marie Zamora (the original Cosette in the Paris production of Les Miz). Both Alain and Claude-Michel were there, too.
Steven at the podium was not just a first-class conductor, but a fabulous showman and host (yes, the conductor has a script to follow, too). I found myself just watching him conduct, his arms fluid and nimble, the music flowing through him.
No wonder Gerard was such a fan, citing one orchestration of Steven’s that he conducted as a master class in orchestrating.
However, and I’m extremely proud to say, Steven turned into Gerard’s fan as well.
Gerard penned one orchestration for “Do You Hear,” “Too Much for One Heart.” Steven made a point of telling me to tell Gerard that it was one of his favorite orchestrations of the entire show, that the more he delved into it, the more he got into it.
My heart would swell larger and larger with each compliment paid. I was so proud of my baby brother.
And yes, I totally got that autograph.
So within the span of my 25 days here thus far, I’ve gone from summer (Manila) to the dead of winter (New York … right after a snowstorm) to a balmy tropical spring (Miami) to what felt like the frozen tundra (Winnipeg, Canada), the late winter (Washington) to a gorgeous spring day (still Washington) and then flurries (again, Washington) before returning to New York. Which is where I am right now, and where the snow had better not come back until late this year.
This is a challenge for any performer on tour: figuring out what to pack. While I’ve been in the US, I would receive random text or social media private messages with the same question, “What’s the weather over there like right now? What should I pack?”
What to pack
From experience, I know to pack a winter hat, a pair of winter gloves, a selection of warm scarves, and a light, easy-to-pack puffy winter jacket (I already have a couple of longer winter coats in my apartment). Plus plenty of long-sleeved shirts, jackets and jeans.
In Manila, I’m used to wearing long sleeves in any weather, so I didn’t have to deviate from what I’d normally wear.
There are also a couple of pairs of boots (one mid-calf and one knee-high) to keep my legs from freezing. But I also have a pair of leather sneakers for my travels to warmer climates.
It can be really confusing figuring out what to pack for my trips.
My show trunk is packed with everything I might need for every kind of appearance I was scheduled to make (there were interviews and a hosting gig; symphony concerts; one band show; and cabaret engagements), which meant an assortment of gowns, high-heeled shoes, makeup, suits, skirts and blouses.
And then, there’s my medical kit.
Just before the Il Divo tour last year, my ENT, Melfred Hernandez, put together a whole package of support medication to keep me in tip-top shape wherever I happen to go. Plus I supplement with lots of vitamin C and multivitamins, cold medicine, zinc lozenges, glycerin lozenges and whatever else I might need.
I have only a week to go before I head home, so I’m gearing my head for what my friends have said is another oppressively hot summer. I have to say, it’ll be nice to not have to put on my winter coat for a nice long while.
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