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Amazing Grace (Chan) |

Arts and Culture

Amazing Grace (Chan)

MOONLIGHTER - Jess Q. Cruz -
You are my soul, my heart,
You are my joy, and, oh, my pain;
You are the world where I live
And the Heaven where I soar…

With these words from Robert Schumann’s lied "Widmung," Filipino-Chinese mezzo-soprano Grace Chan opened her solo recital on a sultry Saturday evening at the Tanghalang Leandro V. Locsin in Intramuros. The concert was a presentation of the Department of Tourism with the cooperation of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Intramuros Administration. It is part of an ongoing series of musical and theatrical events in various venues this summer billed as "Concert Nights at the Old Walls."

All the passion that Schumann felt for his beloved Clara he found in the lyrics of Friedrich Rückert. And Chan gave voice to the intensity of the composer’s feelings for the object of his dedication.

In your heart sleeps the light of the moon,

A soft summer moonlight,

And to flee life’s worries

I will drown myself in your light…

The singer next interpreted in nasal tones Henri Duparc’s "Chanson Triste
," imparting to her voice the French twang that gave the lines of Cazalis a Gallic sound. Her second song had as much passion as her first but with more restraint, more introspection as the words of the poet required.

…In vain I try to vanish from my thoughts

Thy beguiling voice, thy smile,

Thy casual glance,

Thy tresses, submissive to my touch…

In the song by Sergei Rachmaninoff, "In the Silence of the Night," Chan sang the text of Fet from the hushed tones of the opening verses to the anguished cry of the last lines with a sense of drama that intimated a strong attachment to musical theater which the rest of the program gave evidence of.

Why did this listener, however, get the impression that this singer was holding back? Was it because the theater was not that spacious? Because it was less than half filled? Because she was ill at ease with an audience that was not fully responsive?

The aria "My Heart at Thy Sweet Voice" from Camille Saint-Saens’ Samson et Dalila was suited neither to Chan’s vocal range nor her temperament. Her mezzo is light, her vibrato hardly perceptible. The aria is more suitable for a singer whose range goes all the way down to contralto, like Rita Gorr. Temperamentally, the soprano seemed uncomfortable in the role of the Biblical Philistine temptress.

With the Habanera from Georges Bizet’s Carmen, the singer from Vancouver finally let her hair down. The fire of her gypsy from Seville completely thawed whatever ice, if any, she brought from her adopted land. She hammed it up with gusto, now revealing her charm and sense of humor and concluding the aria in reckless abandon with a wild click of her heels.

Just as attuned to her personality is Bloody Mary, the Tonkinese mama of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s South Pacific, based on the book by Pulitzer Prize winner James Michener. "Bali Hai" is the number with which she entices Lt. Joe Cable to come to "the mysterious island in a sunlit sea" to meet her daughter, Liat. And "Happy Talk" is the song that Bloody Mary sings to accompany Liat’s quaint "finger dance." Both of these numbers Chan delivered with easy grace.

The last two songs were "All I Ask of You" from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera and "You’ll Never Walk Alone" from Carousel, also by Rodgers and Hammerstein, adapted from the play by Ferenc Molnar. The latter Chan sang with conviction and faith.

When you walk through a storm

Hold your head up high

and don’t be afraid of the dark…

The inspiring song was a perfect ending to a perfect evening at the old walls but Chan graciously obliged the clamor of her audience for an encore. And once again the singer-actress transformed herself into Prosper Merimee’s creation, Carmen, singing the music of Bizet.

By the ramparts of Seville

at my friend Lillas Pastia’s place

I’m going to dance the seguidilla

and drink manzanilla…

Just as Carmen seduces her corporal, Don Jose, Grace Chan, with assisting pianist Lourdes de Leon Gregorio, the ideal accompanist, seduced her audience with her voice by the ramparts of the Walled City.
* * *
The following evening, Sunday, a musical spectacle was staged at the Meralco Theater – Ika-7 Taon: Itinangi at Pinagpala, an anniversary celebration concert. Presented by the Iglesia Unida Ekyumenikal, the concert featured the Unida Ecumenical Chancel Choir, a mixed choir of 100 voices, conducted by Leonie Buzon Bautista, Thelma Grepo-Quizon and Luz Bicomong-Trinidad and assisted by pianist Marilyn Cortez. Guest artists were singer-actress Pinky Marquez, violinist John Lesaca and tenor Nolyn Cabahug.

The concert opened with a choral arrangement of Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D by the Unida Ecumenical Chancel Choir. The first few bars sounded uncertain as the members of the ensemble groped for the right key. First-bar jitters? No matter. They found their bearings soon enough and they finished the intricate Baroque counterpoint without mishap. They rendered Steve Amerson’s "Sing for Joy" with composure and warmth, now feeling secure and at ease.

Tribute was paid to the late National Artist for Music Lucio San Pedro by UEC president, Justice Raoul V. Victorino. After which the choir sang the composer’s "Pasasalamat."

John Lesaca tuned up the strings of his violin to interpret Jose Mari Chan’s "Can We Stop and Talk A While?", his own composition "Bakit" and the theme music from the film Ice Castle.

The first half of the concert concluded two numbers from Broadway hits, "You’ll Never Walk Alone" from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel and "All I Ask of You" from Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera.

Showbiz glitz and glamour Pinky Marquez had in abundance and Nolyn Cabahug released his golden tones with the song from Man from La Mancha. Cabahug decided not to sing "La donna e mobile" from Verdi’s Rigoletto as announced in the program when he must have realized on second thought that this aria sung by a libertine was most inappropriate.

The choir came on stage again for some Filipiniana trivia.

Acknowledgment was made of the presence in the audience of certain worthies after which the concert concluded with – you guessed it – George Frederick Handel’s "Hallelujah" Chorus.

Ika-7 Taon: Itinangi at Pinagpala
is a unique presentation, a musical smorgasbord that combines, concert, tribute, entertainment, dedication, prayer, and fellowship. One has to quibble that the sound system was much too loud as if assaulting the ramparts of heaven. This writer walked away from the theater with a headache, Handel still ringing in his ears, and a feeling similar to overeating at a feast. The food lies heavy in the belly, undigested.

* * *
For comments write to jessqcruz@hot

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