Jose Mari Chan tells the story behind ‘Journey of a Songwriter’
Jose Mari Chan is behind what is perhaps the most ubiquitous, local holiday song—“Christmas in Our Hearts.” The album that carries it, which is also titled as such, is considered the bestselling ever by a Filipino recording artist, with sales of reportedly over 800,000 copies.
And so, while some people may be inclined to call him “King of Christmas”—given his staggering figures—the recording artist balks at the thought of it.
“I wouldn’t want to be given that title. I’m just so fortunate that the album became the biggest selling of all time here in our country, and that the songs endeared themselves to the people,” Chan told the Inquirer in an e-mail interview.
With only a little over a month before Christmas, offers for the seasoned pop singer to do gigs, are expectedly starting to pick up pace. Tomorrow, Chan will have a one-night concert at the Meralco Theater, with special guest, Nikki Gil.
Dubbed “Journey of a Songwriter,” the gig also aims to raise funds for the Associate Missionaries of the Assumption (AMA) Philippines, a local volunteer organization (call 8925808 or 0919-2536358).
Excerpts from the interview:
What’s the story behind the show’s title? “Journey of a Songwriter” was conceived as the theme, because I will be celebrating my 50th year as a recording artist soon. It was in 1967 when my first single, “Afterglow,” was released. So in this concert, I will take the audience on a journey, through songs I’ve written and sung through the years.
Do you have an affinity for this particular beneficiary? After my wife, Mary Ann, and I got married in 1970, we volunteered for the AMA at the Assumption School in Osaka, Japan. Thus, we’ve been supporting the Auxiliary Missionaries of the Assumption all these years. Mary Ann, her and my sisters all went to the Assumption College, too.
“Christmas in Our Hearts” actually has a connection of sorts to the Assumption. Yes, its melody was first written in 1988 for the poem “Ang Tubig ay Buhay,” by the late Chari Cruz-Zarate; it was to be the silver jubilee song of the Assumption High School’s class of 1963.
Two years later, when my label, Universal Records, asked me to work on my first Christmas record, I decided to use the same melody, and turn it into a Christmas song, with co-lyricist Rina Cañiza.
Since my melody was written to the meter and cadence of Cruz-Zarate’s poem, I would like to believe that “Christmas in Our Hearts” was destined from the start, guided by the hand of the Holy Spirit—nothing happens by chance.
But do you ever get fed up performing it? Fortunately, I don’t tire of singing my songs. As someone once said, one never retires from a hobby. The thing is that I love music and enjoy writing and singing.
How busy are you in the concert scene these days? Thank God, I’ve remained active all these years, doing shows here and abroad. It’s a wonderful hobby, which I do side by side with my sugar business.
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