Mr. C, The Ryan Cayabyab Singers, and Christmas
OPM icon Maestro Ryan Cayabyab together with the Ryan Cayabyab Singers (RCS) usher in this year’s Christmas celebrations via their first live Christmas concert since the pandemic, on December 7 at the Music Museum.
Titled “C is for Christmas,” the show will be headlined by the acclaimed composer and 2018 National Artist for Music, together with his 7-member vocal ensemble composed of Celine Fabie, Nica Tupas, Kaye Tiuseco, Poppert Bernadas, Anthony Castillo, VJ Caber, and Erwin Lacsa.
Mr C (Cayabyab’s industry monicker) indulges us on what makes Pinoy Christmas music unique. “The Filipino Christmas song has a very strong pull on the heartstrings. We are a very sentimental people – that is why even our upbeat traditional carols start in a minor key instead of a major key which is supposed to sound “happier”. As an example, he gives two traditional Christmas carols which he also counts as his personal favorites: “Ang Pasko ay Sumapit,” and“ Pasko Nanaman”. He adds, “even Jose Mari Chan’s “Christmas In Our Hearts” starts off on a minor key.
Cayabyab traces this inclination back to the classic Kundiman, saying that “historically and perhaps socially, Filipinos are a happy people, but there is an underlying melancholy, which is omnipresent in the way many songs are expressed. And yet despite this, the majority of us are unabashedly hopeful.”
Recently, hope has become quite a commodity. And in their much-awaited concert, Cayabyab and the RCS intend to spread a lot of it, and then some. Like many in the entertainment industry, the RCS maintained its presence through virtual performances and online recordings at the peak of the pandemic. The group remains grateful, though.
“We still got to ‘perform ’together and thus stayed constants in each other’s lives,” says Celine Fabie, who sings soprano for the group. “We were able to release a lot of new songs with Mr. C because everyone had time to record themselves in their closets and Mr. C had time to write some new material,” she tells us. Among them is a new Christmas love song called “Tatlong Christmas Cards” which the group will be performing live in the concert for the first time since its “virtual” release two years ago.
Life during the pandemic wasn’t without its unique challenges, as their recorded performances also posed technical limitations. Erwin Lacsa, who sings tenor and baritone for RCS, explains that except for himself, most of their members had to use smartphones for recording. “The sound was bad, our video qualities varied, and we were feeling our way through this different medium of performance,” he admits. “But at the end of the day, when
the projects are done, it was still something to be proud of and it was fun.”
Alto Kaye Tiuseco, agrees with her peers, adding that she treasures them as “unique mementos of that strange time in our lives.” “I wouldn’t change any of it,” she retorts.
What a relief it is, that Cayabyab and the RCS can now finally perform their music in front of alive audience, where everyone can sing along! After all, as Cayabyab explains, “a Christmas song is really good only when the entire community uses it.”
Among his library of Cayabyab hits, “Kumukuti-kutitap” stands as a classic choral piece during the holiday season. As the first Christmas song he ever wrote, it was intended for a mini-musical that he and Direk Joey Reyes were collaborating on in 1983. The musical did not really materialize but fortunately, the song lived on. A year later, Cayabyab gave the piece in its choral arrangement to an organization that was raising funds through caroling.
But it wasn’t until singer Joey Albert recorded her own solo version that the song topped the charts and eventually became a household favorite. Besides ‘Kumukuti-kutitap,” Cayabyab has led his name and talent to celebrate the Filipino Christmas spirit through music. In 1991, he released “One Christmas,” an album that showcased best loved Filipino Christmas classics arranged for 16 voices, all sang by Cayabyab himself. This was the much awaited follow up to his groundbreaking album entitled ONE which he released in 1981.
During his stint with the San Miguel Philharmonic Orchestra and Master Chorale, he was able to produce two bestselling Christmas albums, featuring both his original compositions and other OPM Christmas classics. Cayabyab reminisces, “to have a choir and an orchestra as my playground was something many creative music writers could only dream of, and I am always grateful for that experience. Out of these recordings, “Heto na Naman ang Pasko”, “Munting Sanggol” and “Isang Taong Lumipas” are some of the songs which have fast become favorites.
“In many of my projects, I only had one thing in mind, and this was to focus on promoting, preserving, and continuing to create Filipino music,” Cayabyab emphasizes, explaining that he has always had a profound love for OPM. “I just need to express them in various music genres or textures.”
So what can concertgoers expect on December 7?
“Since this will be our first Christmas concert since the pandemic,” Lacsa says,“We hope to share our joy as a family.” Tiuseco reveals that they’ll be performing a mix of Christmas and standard songs “that will just make you feel good about being alive.” For his part, Cayabyab promises “a heartwarming, cuddly evening of Christmas songs and festive delights. Together with the RCS, I will spring some surprises!” he teases.
Catch Maestro Ryan Cayabyab and The Ryan Cayabyab Singers in their very first Christmas concert, “C is for Christmas,” on December 7, Thursday, 8 P.M. at The Music Museum in Greenhills.
Produced by Whitelight Entertainment, the concert’s Musical Director is Maestro Ryan Cayabyab and will be stage directed by Rico M. Mortel.