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Chan, Poon win a Christmas audience despite stiff rivalry

By: - Reporter
/ 07:07 PM December 12, 2011

“The songwriter and the Crooner,” Jose Mari Chan and Richard Poon’s first concert, held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), had some serious competition last December 2. While Charice and Noel Cabangon also held shows the same night, thousands still trooped to the venue despite crawling traffic and rains.

Chan and Poon opened with a lively big band medley of “Big Beautiful Country” (a TV station ID jingle he wrote for the defunct BBC channel 2), “Mr. Songwriter” and “Old Bigtime.” The middle song sounded eerily similar to Celeste Legaspi’s hit “Mamang Sorbetero,” and true enough, Chan shared that both songs are essentially the same.

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(Producers had found Chan’s “Mr. Songwriter” not catchy enough, so the lyrics were replaced with Filipino words and given to Legaspi.)

Poon croons

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Both of Chinese descent, the two singers established immediate rapport, exchanging jokes. “Bakit nauna mo pang ibigay kay Christian Bautista ’yung ‘Beautiful Girl,’ eh ’di naman ’yun singkit?” Poon teased Chan.

One of the questions he always gets asked, Poon related, was “Do you sing anything aside from Sinatra?” He said it was a “misconception.”

Proving that he’s not confined within the walls of jazz, the crooner tackled a medley of OPM music in a brassy big-band production. He hopped off the stage and worked the crowd with refreshing takes on “Panalangin,” “Binibini” and “Kahit Maputi na ang Buhok Ko.”

But Poon shined the most in his tribute to the iconic crooners of jazz and standards like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Nat King Cole. His medley of “Stardust,” “Send in the Clowns” and “Who Can I Turn To” showcased his pure vocals and clean vibrato; his exquisite vocal dynamics and deceptively powerful voice.

Sore thumb

An unlikely break was the guest appearance of TV-host comedienne Pokwang, who brought with her the diminutive bit player Mahal. This portion of the concert stuck out like a sore thumb, with Pokwang singing novelty tunes and performing a comedy bar-style routine.

Nevertheless, the crowd lapped up the histrionics, and had a great time.

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The part that left the most lasting impression on us was Poon’s poignant delivery of the song “Hahanapin Ko,” which fused everything we like about his singing. Not known to many, the song popularized by Anthony Castelo was actually composed by Chan during a trip to New York, and dedicated to overseas Filipino workers.

Jo Mari charms

After a duet with Poon on “I Remember the Boy,” or rather girl, it was Chan’s turn to take the stage. Almost immediately, he engaged the crowd with side-splitting anecdotes on family, love, marriage, and yes, sex addiction! The 66-year-old musician exuded boyish excitement when cracking green jokes.

He did everything with such charm that even the parents that brought their kids along didn’t seem to mind. And while we had heard some of that in a previous show, Chan still cracked us up.

On the other hand, he drew the hopeless romantic out of everyone in the crowd as he sang his hits, “Constant Change,” “Tell Me Your Name,” “Refrain”  and “Can We Just Stop and Talk a While?” Between songs, Chan couldn’t help himself from segueing into more jokes.

“I talk too much!” Chan confessed, laughing.

A harp was soon carried onto the stage. The instrument, which usually paints an image of angels in heaven, was played masterfully by a woman with an equally angelic voice. With her harp-playing, Filipino-Canadian musician Noelle Cassandra added a touch of whimsy to the songs “Please Be Careful with My Heart” and “A Love to Last a Lifetime,” which he sang with Chan.

Christmas album

With Christmas just a few of days from now, Chan and Poon singing Yuletide carols was a welcome treat. Earlier, Poon gave a spirited big band mishmash of “Jingle Bell Rock,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and “Feliz Navidad.” Infusing the set with colorful and playful vocal harmonies was the Baihana all-female jazz trio.

Before the finale, Chan revealed for the first time that he was determined to release a new Christmas album next year. His 1990 offering, “Christmas in Our Hearts,” is considered the best-selling OPM album of all time, a double-diamond hit with over 800,000 copies sold. “I’m pushing through with [the album] despite piracy,” he said.

On that note, Chan and Poon filled the air with the spirit of Christmas via a duet of “Christmas in our Hearts” and “A Perfect Christmas”—songs synonymous with the name Jose Mari Chan and Filipino Christmas itself—as the audience listened with evident fondness.

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TAGS: Concerts, Entertainment, Jose Mari Chan, Music, Philippine International Convention Center, Richard Poon
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