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Orchestral heaven

By: - Columnist
/ 08:40 PM April 04, 2012

My most recent gigs have been orchestral productions. That is, my accompanying band has been an orchestra—be it small, medium or large.

(Speaking of which, I’d like to convey hearty cheers to all involved with the creation of the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra. Hugs to Mickey Muñoz and Gerard Salonga, two of my favorite people, who will be at the helm of this endeavor!)

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To be accompanied by a large group of musicians is always heavenly. There’s something to be said about 65 human beings performing as one cohesive unit. To the mix, add a singer or two who can tune in to this living, breathing being, and it’s a pleasure that cannot be put into words. Only the music can truly express what happens. It’s an experience that seals my belief in the Almighty.

Over the last few days, I’ve been fortunate to be performing with Bob Lappin and the Palm Beach Pops Orchestra. The program consists of Disney and Broadway favorites, as it is the orchestra’s mission to preserve the Great American Songbook. You can’t get more American than animated films and musical theater, and I’m only too happy to perform these songs.

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After those few lovely rest days in Miami, my friend Victor Lirio drove Nicole and me up to Boca Raton, our home base for next week’s work. I’ve been given a rental car so I can drive myself to and from performances and around the area. I don’t mind, since I don’t get to drive a lot in Manila (my nerves can’t handle it).

Picking solos

We began rehearsing the day after settling in. We are using the Eissey Campus Theater as rehearsal room (the acoustics are impressive). David Burnham, my partner for this performance, and I arrived at the Eissey (pronounced “ee-see”) early Wednesday afternoon.

Maestro Bob was already rehearsing the overture, as well as pieces he would be playing on the piano. First singer up was neither David nor me, but a beautiful 13-year-old named Olivia Schiappa, who would sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” in all performances.

David and I went through a breadth of material to see how each song would sound with the orchestra. My brother had sent along a bunch of charts (the musicians and Bob kept complimenting his arrangements, as well as the clean and crystal-clear copy work) ranging from jazz to Broadway fare to Disney selections. There was so much to choose from!

We ended up selecting the following solos for me: “I’d Give My Life for You”; a Streisand medley; “I Dreamed a Dream”; “Colors of the Wind”; “Reflection”; “When October Goes”; and two duets with David—“A Whole New World” and “As Long As You’re Mine.”

David’s solo selections were great, too: “I Am What I Am”; “When You Wish Upon a Star”; “Out There”; “You’re Just Too Good to Be True”; “Bring Him Home” ;“It’s Alright with Me”; and “This is the Moment.”

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As I write, we have performed four shows—three at the Kaye Auditorium on the Florida Atlantic University campus, and one at the Eissey Campus Theater. We have two more at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts on West Palm Beach. By the time you read this, I will be on holiday with my family to celebrate the Easter weekend.

Wonderful time

It’s been really wonderful thus far working with Maestro Bob (whose self-deprecating humor and abundant charm make him an audience favorite here in South Florida) and with these incredible musicians, many of whom have been with the Pops since its inception 20 years ago. I’ve been having a really wonderful time. The audiences have been incredibly generous and the staff at the Pops have taken great care of us. I do hope for a return engagement. This really was fun.  Oh, wait, hang on, this is fun; I’m not through yet!

On that thought, I hope that the ABS-CBN Philharmonic becomes a huge success. It’s important to keep orchestras like this (and the arts in general) alive and thriving in our country. We claim to be a nation of artists; it seems we breed them as naturally as we breathe. Let us take care of this one natural and national resource that promises constantly to create something beautiful. A world without art is a colorless world.

Mabuhay ang mga musiko natin! Ang ating mundo’y hindi magiging buo kung wala kayo.

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TAGS: ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra, Bob Lappin, Disney and Broadway favorites, Gerard Salonga, Great American Songbook, Mickey Muñoz, Palm Beach Pops Orchestra
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