Moonlight becomes Jacqui

Elizabeth Lolarga - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - “Real happiness doesn’t come from a certain person but within oneself.”

This quote always comes after any e-mail exchange with jazz artist Jacqui Magno. Although the quotation may have another person for its original source, it certainly becomes someone like her who has gone through life’s ups and downs and now realizes where real joy resides.

Still youthful-looking and kalog at 60 going on 61, she’s an underrated comedienne in the Bette Midler mold should she ever consider doing stand-up comedy. She never fails to thank the divine source after a long day of meetings, rehearsals, appearances.

July 10 wasn’t an ordinary day for her. She had come from a meeting with media friends to announce her birthday concert Moonlight and Love Songs. Her concert happens tomorrow, July 26 at 8 p.m. at Palacio de Maynila Tent on Roxas Blvd., Manila. Afterwards, she and her manager, Anna Ylagan, hied off to the opening of writer-painter Gilda Cordero Fernando’s solo exhibition Same Difference: Ganun Pa Din ang Diperensya at Silverlens SLAB Gallery on Chino Roces Ave. ext., Makati City.

There she regaled the packed gallery with her rendition of Josefino Cenizal’s Hindi Kita Malimot, a danza from the American period, while Nanette Matilac, Alun Alun Dance Circle’s lead dancer, performed a slow pangalay. The crowd wouldn’t let them go with just one performance that looked more like a blessing offered to the octogenarian artist.

Anna is familiar with such a warm response. She came prepared; the sound technicians put on a minus-one accompaniment to Bridges, a song Jacqui had always ended her gig with in her Birds of the Same Feather club days in the ’80s. The crowd roared. Touched, Gilda embraced both singer and dancer.

In her diary-like Facebook post, Jacqui wrote: “It’s been a really long day today and I thank my Universal Beloved for giving me the stamina to have managed to get through the day which started at 6 a.m. (rare time for me to wake up this early, as I anticipated my schedule) and it ended just a few minutes ago. Phew!

“Got ready for the luncheon press con at 10 a.m… at Martinilly’s, Roxas Blvd., Malate. Had fun getting to know new people! Then zoomed off to Silverlens Gallery… for Gilda Cordero Fernando’s art exhibit opening. Met a childhood friend, Lorna Kalaw-Tirol, who reminded me that we were neighbors in Singalong, Manila, when I was three years old and to my surprise, I remembered having lived there!!! God bless this sweet and very talented lady, Gilda Cordero Fernando!

“Then went off to Serendra, BGC, for dinner in Mexicali (the quality of the food was a let-down, sad to say), but the upside was we bumped into Ana Rivera! Had fun spending our dinner chatting and catching up, sharing stories with her and Millie.”

From that single post, what is evident is she lives each day to the hilt. Her quiet side emerges when she explains why she chose a concert title like Moonlight and Love Songs, a phrase from the classic As Time Goes By. “Perhaps it’s because the moon possesses/connotes certain spiritual undertones. Love, after all, is a universal language, be it the human kind of love or the spiritual. Thus, my choice of songs is from an era that overcomes generation gaps. I sing songs that touch my heart and soul and uplift the spirit.”

The nature of the music genre she specializes in has a risky, improvisational quality. Each instrument, including the human voice, is given a chance to shine or have a solo part in a song. But Pinoy jazz is Pinoy because of its horror of vacuum or silence, so sometimes the sound comes off as though there is an ati-atihan going on in a concert hall.

Jacqui agrees, “That is the general weakness of either the musicians or the technicians here in the Philippines. They seem to be unable to find the right balance where the singer’s voice isn’t drowned out by the musician’s excitement with his playing. I’d like to think of it that way.”

Asked how she will balance the AMP Big Band that will back her up, she answered, “That is the challenge that I am facing and would like to address. This is exactly what I mentioned in the press con. I’d have to ask (band leader) Mel Villena to hold on the reins at the right time and place. Also we’ll make sure that our sound system and technicians are working on the same wave length and/or point of view.”

The Palacio de Maynila management asked her to hold a concert at its venue because “their thrust is featuring name artists who they feel the country can be proud of. The artist they featured last year was Jose Mari Chan. When the offer came, I decided to do it as my birthday concert to simplify matters.”

Since cutting a new CD album is more challenging in the age of YouTube, iTunes and Spotify and with many music stores closing down because some music lovers now get their kind of music from online sources, Jacqui isn’t at all worried that her recording days are over.

Her all-Filipino Paglingon: The Return of the Native and The Very Thought of You are collectors’ items and thus are worth much. She says, “As far as I know, the all-kundiman CD is only available in the office of Bookmark, Inc.” She advises those who are really interested to text their orders of either one or both CDs at 0922-8381770.

She adds, “With regards to recording, this has never been a conscious effort on my part. I’ve not planned any of the recordings that I have had in the past. I was just approached by an interested person or party; the rest is history. If perchance I would be blessed again with another opportunity to record songs that are of my liking, original or covers, I will not say ‘No’ to that.”

Although Jacqui might guffaw at this comparison, she embraces her 60s in a manner similar to Meryl Streep who once said, “Truth is, no one can do what I do.”

Jacqui says, “I’ve been trying to live with no expectations so as not to be disappointed much. I live the ‘Be here na’ philosophy, but now I’ve come up with my humble bucket list that isn’t so hard to tick off. Some have already been fulfilled.”

About the jazz greats who have died in a matter of weeks in the last few months, she is unfazed and doesn’t think she’s a torch-bearer for the jazz tradition. “I sing to share my God-given talent. I have left showbiz for a number of times because I don’t have the stomach to stand the stuff that goes with the biz. It’s not really a mission for me to keep the jazz tradition alive. Rather, I sing to inspire and give a semblance of peace and joy to those around me. It just so happens that I have been labelled a jazz singer.”

Her mind remains open to doing musical theater again. She says, “If the role isn’t grueling and overly hectic, I wouldn’t mind at all. I’ve been there and done that.”

Her first onstage musical was the rock opera Mahal staged at the Cultural Center Main Theater in the ’70s. She portrayed Ligaya Liwanag. In the ’80s, she played Josephine Bracken, Rizal’s love interest, in the musical Rizal at Rizal Theater. In Metropolitan Theater’s Ewagan, she was the old lady story teller. In the second Ballet Philippines’version of Rama Hari at the CCP, she was Sita. Then she portrayed two roles — Doña Teodora Alonso, mother of Jose Rizal, and Sisa — in Tanghalang Pilipino’s El Filibusterismo at both the Little and Main Theaters in the ’90s.

(For tickets or reservations to Moonlight and Love Songs, text or call Anna Ylagan at 0917-538-1769.)











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