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A showcase for ‘Mr. C’

Of course he was singing in front of a “home” audience, and in his “home,” the Manila Cathedral. But Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle was about the most-applauded performer at Wednesday night’s “Rise!—Rebuilding from the Ruins,” a benefit concert to raise funds for the rebuilding and reconstruction of chapels and churches destroyed by Typhoon “Yolanda.”

But aside from the cardinal, the other and true “star” of the night was composer/conductor and pop music mainstay Ryan Cayabyab, who has been observing his 60th birth anniversary with a series of concerts and shows.

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However, “Rise!” was meant to highlight a different, seldom recognized “side” to Cayabyab, known more familiarly as “Mr. C.” And this is the side of him as liturgical composer, his more spiritual, serious, and I daresay more “classical,” side. My friend Peachy Yamsuan, who invited me to the concert, said the occasion showed off Mr. C’s maturity as an artist. At the same time, it was also a chance for Mr. C to display the breadth of his talent and interests, his “reach” through various genres and schools of music which, toward the end of the show, was displayed in a few awesome mash-ups.

“Rise!” was a showcase for Mr. C’s liturgical and religious compositions, featuring the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of conductor Jonathan Velasco, and the Rise! Festival Choir, which brought together the voices of singers from these choral groups: Aleron Choir, Coro Thomasino, Mass Appeal, PNU Chorale, UE Chorale Polyphonics, UP Dawani Women’s Choir, UP Singing Ambassadors Alumni Group, and Voices of Aloha from the University of Hawaii in Manoa.

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BUT to go back to Cardinal Tagle. His performance of the “Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi” from Mr. C’s “Mass for Peace” was powerful and moving. Who knew a prelate had such a velvety smooth voice? Apparently, he’s been keeping this talent under wraps, at least to the Filipino public at large, although Yamsuan says that in the company of brother priests and bishops, “you need only persuade him mildly and he will readily oblige.”

And the cardinal must be happy, indeed, that he obliged the concert-goers this time, for he received a standing ovation!

In the pantheon of local performers, though, the cardinal was hardly the biggest name.

Basil Valdez, a little worse for wear but still displaying admirable gifts for interpretation, sang “Maria,” with words by George Canseco. Dulce, in fine form, sang “Luha sa Kinalimutang Lupa (Tears for a Forgotten Country),” an unexpectedly moving dirge from the musical “Katy.”

And truly impressive was Jed Madela, another performer who straddles the worlds of popular music, ballads and the classics, who sang “Munting Sanggol (Little Infant),” which was written in 2005 for the “Pasko II” album of the defunct and lamented San Miguel Master Chorale and San Miguel Philharmonic Orchestra.

Also featured were the youthful Ryan Cayabyab Singers, as well as classical singers like tenor Ervin Lumauag, mezzo soprano Clarissa Ocampo, Dada Supnet, Nathanael Arnel de Pano, and Cherry Caballero.

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“RISE!” could not have been held in a more appropriate venue, in the newly restored Manila Cathedral/Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, which has only been reopened after undergoing repairs and rehabilitation for a year. How apt that a refurbished church should serve as the setting for a concert to raise funds for the refurbishment of other damaged places of worship!

I had been curious about what changes had been wrought in the wake of the repair work, but the cathedral looks about the same as it did before its repair, although an added feature, I am told, was the lighting system that transforms its walls, niches and altars through the magic of color and pattern.

The main beneficiary of the concert (which will implement the subsequent reconstruction work, I suppose) was Caritas Manila, the leading social arm of the Archdiocese of Manila which already carries out relief and rehabilitation work in the Yolanda-affected areas, as well as other regular projects for the poor in the metropolis.

Helping in the organization work was the Cultural Center as well as One Meralco Foundation, which is now part of the Metro Pacific Group of Companies (including PLDT-Smart), whose chair Manuel Pangilinan addressed the concert crowd before the performance. “Music is said to be a form of worship,” Pangilinan said, noting how remarkable it is that damaged churches in the areas hit by Yolanda would be brought to new life by funds raised through the music of Mr. C.

(Other major sponsors were the Bahay Pari Credit Cooperative, the Washington SyCip Foundation, and Mrs. Renena Prieto and family.)

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RECENTLY, Mr. C was granted the “Ecclesia et Pontifice” award, bestowed on lay people whose contributions to the work and life of the Church have resulted in not only helping the poor and powerless, but also in strengthening the faith and sharing the grace of understanding and empathy.

The last is certainly the most important offshoot of Mr. C’s devotion to his art, the time and talent he has gifted the nation to develop our appreciation of music and our enjoyment of lilting melodies and moving musicals, and to deepen our relationship with our Creator through music, feeling, imagination, voice and artistry.

And now, through this showcase of his mostly obscure and underappreciated music, Mr. C aims to help our country in the most literally “concrete” terms, in the form of churches and houses of worship rising from the floodwaters and the debris of destruction, to stand again as bulwarks of the faith.

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TAGS: “Rise!—Rebuilding from the Ruins, Aleron Choir, Coro Thomasino, George Canseco, Jonathan Velasco, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Manila Cathedral, Mass Appeal, Peachy Yamsuan, Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, PNU Chorale, Rise! Festival Choir, Ryan Cayabyab, typhoon `Yolanda, UE Chorale Polyphonics, University of Hawaii in Manoa, UP Dawani Women’s Choir, UP Singing Ambassadors Alumni Group, Voices of Aloha
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