The return of the New Minstrels & Circus Band
SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Baby A. Gil (The Philippine Star) - August 5, 2013 - 12:00am

Once upon a time, during the martial law ruled ’70s,  there were two show bands that dominated the local entertainment circuit. These were the New Minstrels and the Circus Band. The old Roxas Boulevard rocked with their sounds and pa-morningans during curfewed evenings were sweeter if either of these groups were providing music to hang out with.

The New Minstrels was born in the campus of San Beda College as an all-male singing group. Among the founding members were Eugene Villaluz and Ding Mercado. As their gigs increased in number and the need for a more varied repertoire arose, they decided to include girls in their line-up. Among those who joined was Louie Reyes, a music student from the neighboring Holy Ghost College. 

The New Minstrels was known for its smooth sophisticated style and songs that alternated between current Top 40 hits and our native kundiman. A pop version of Mike Velarde’s Buhat was one of the group’s biggest hits. As the members began embarking on solo pursuits, the New Minstrels kept up the pace by recruiting new members. These singers came to be known as the second or third or etc. members. And three of those later additions were Joey Albert, Ray-An Fuentes and Chad Borja. 

Most of the members of the Circus Band were from the Ateneo University. I do not know if it was intentional on the part of the founder Atek Jacinto but the members of Circus were all soloists. Among them were Hajji Alejandro, Tillie Moreno, Pat Castillo, Jacqui Magno and Basil Valdez. The band was known for its outlandish costumes and make-up and for perfect note rendition of foreign hits. Some of the crowd favorites of the time were Never Can Say Goodye, The Harder I Try, Love The One You’re With, Happy People, Wildflower and You Got The Love.

As its members were one by one enticed into going solo, it looked like the Circus Band would soon fade into memory. Thanks to the individual successes of its members though, Circus went instead into legend. With each hit song that came from Basil, Ngayon At Kailanman; Hajji, Kay Ganda Ng Ating Musika; Tillie, Saan Ako Nagkamali; and others, there also came the description, ”former member of the Circus Band.” There was no more Circus, but the band remains fondly remembered.

This is the reason why Circus Band reunions are eagerly looked forward to. More so if the show also includes The New Minstrels. Audiences can be sure of a sumptuous feast of ’70s music with these two bands around.

A teaser of what this could be like happened for two nights at the Music Museum last Feb. 14 and 15. The place was packed as Eugene, Louie, Ding, Ray-An, Joey and Chad for the New Minstrels and Pat and Jacqui for Circus performed the old favorites. Now, there will be an even bigger show soon as Hajji, Tillie and Basil will now be joining the musical spectacle with former Circus lead guitarist Rudy Lozano as musical director.

Produced by Viva Live, Inc. and Redstone Media Productions, The Circus Band and The New Minstrels Greatest Hits Reunion concert will be held at the Plenary Hall of the Philippine International Convention Center at the CCP Complex on Roxas Blvd. on Sept. 20. More shows will follow at the University of Baguio in Baguio City on Sept. 26 and at the Waterfront Hotel in Cebu, Sept. 28. 

Prepare for an evening of R&B, disco, rock, funk, romantic ballads and other great sounds from the ’70s from Motown, Bacharach, Santana, Manilow and many more. Maybe we should also watch out for the Pilipino favorites like Umagang Kay Ganda, You, Nothing I Want More, Tell Me, Gulong Ng Palad, Panakip-Butas, Aso’t Pusa, Ikaw Lang, plus others that these enduring artists originally popularized.

Incidentally some members of the reunion class have recorded an album of all-Filipino pop songs for Viva Records. Set for release soon, the CD features Basil singing Sana’y Wala Nang Wakas; Louie with Sa Isip Ko; Pat in Pagdating Ng Panahon; Jacqui with Let The Pain Remain; Eugene and Mahawi Man Ang Ulap; Ding with I Can; Joey with Hindi Na; Ray-an with Habang May Buhay; Chad and Kahit Na; plus a rousing Never Ever Say Goodbye by Chad, Ding, Eugene and Ray-An.

Tickets are available at Ticketnet (with tel. no. 911-5555); SM Tickets, 470-2222; TicketWorld, 891-9999; PICC, 789-4734; and Viva Concerts, 687-7236. Tickets are priced at P4,000 (Orchestra Flat Center); P2,500 (Orchestra Flat Left/Right); P3,000 (Level 2 Center/Left/Right), P2,500 (Level 2 Left/Right Side); P2,500 (Level 3 Center/Left/Right); P1,500 (Level 3 Left/Right/Side); P800 (De Luxe); and P400 (Balcony).

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