How madly Filipiniana can Rachelle Gerodias get?
Rachelle Gerodias, the country’s premier soprano
How madly Filipiniana can Rachelle Gerodias get?
COUNTERACT - Pristine L. De Leon (The Philippine Star) - October 1, 2018 - 12:00am

Rachelle Gerodias shares the stage with her husband Byeong-In Park and pianist Raul Sunico in a show produced by Miguel Miñana and directed by Floy Quintos.

Rachelle Gerodias remembers the old LPs back in the ’80s. In her grandmother’s home where she used to stay, the songs of Ruben Tagalog and Ric Manrique — two legends dubbed Hari ng Kundiman — would play on the turntable and were eventually recorded on little cassette tapes. Unlike Gerodias, her grandmother was no professional performer but she would fondly remember her lola’s raw singing voice happily following the tracks. She has been drawn to the music ever since.

Gerodias had just come from a one-on-one coaching session when I met her on a Monday afternoon. With her husband, Korean baritone Byeong-In Park, she runs a music studio to train talents from nine to 60 years old. Gerodias is the country’s premier soprano and if there is a higher ambition she wants to pursue, she says, “it’s to educate and train artists and local audiences to appreciate classical music.”

This October, Gerodias is participating in Pinoy Playlist Festival in BGC. The inaugural event showcases original Filipino music from pop, rock and folk to indie. The acts were selected by Ryan Cayabyab, Moy Ortiz, and Noel Ferrer. “I’m the only one doing classical,” Gerodias says matter-of-factly. It’s hard to find a younger audience these days who have been exposed to the traditional kundiman — or even, she says, to find artists who know how to stress their “T”s and pronounce their vowels when singing in Filipino.

“Madly Filipiniana,” her concert scheduled on Oct. 14 and 21, came about as a collaboration between enthusiasts of the genre. Shortly after Miguel Miñana brought Gerodias to Floy Quintos’ “Kundiman Party” last April, the concept for a dynamic all-kundiman presentation was developed, with Miñana as producer and Quintos as director. The mad idea, so to speak, is to create a braver Filipiniana — “no reservations,” says Gerodias — with the inspiration being the mad, operatic singing in Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.

The presentation moves through different eras: from the carnival queens’ spectacular parades in the 1920s, to peacetime preceding World War II until it reaches modern times. “We’ll sing songs from the era, so it’s a journey. His idea was really to (pull) the audience back in time and experience it.” Sharing the stage is noted pianist Raul Sunico, as well as as her husband Byeong-In Park with whom she will be performing a duet, and The Dawn vocalist Jett Pangan who will be singing Ryan Cayabyab’s pop-rock arrangements of Mutya ng Pasig and Anak ng Pasig. With Gino Gonzalez and Robert Blancaflor designing the set and Rommel Serrano breathing life into the costumes of yesteryear, the evening promises a spectacle.

Korean baritone Byeong-In Park and Gerodias

But the highlight of it all is a long and timeless musical tradition. “Madly Filipiniana” began with her selection of songs: Bituing Marikit, Sa Kabukiran, and all the fondest tunes taught to her decades ago by none other than Armida Siguion-Reyna.

Gerodias was only in her teens when she started to sing them. When Gerodias took part and won a spot in the nationwide competition “Kundiman Festival,” Siguion-Reyna invited her to sing in Aawitan Kita. It was the popular musical show that ran for three decades and it was Gerodias’ initiation into the world of entertainment.

“She was super strict! We were all scared,” says Gerodias, remembering their recording sessions in a studio in Greenhills.  She shares, “I remember I had to study the whole sarsuela by Nicanor Abelardo. She didn’t have the music score! It was just the recording and the lyrics. Eh sanay ako with notes. You know how afraid I was na mapagalitan? I wrote down the notes! One by one with the lyrics, learned it with the audio and wrote down the notes. Never ako napagalitan.”

The experience was followed by a series of opportunities. Gerodias made her foray into opera with Rolando Tinio’s Filipino adaptation of La Boheme. She pursued her master’s in the United States, studied opera in Hong Kong, and began a career in Europe where she would learn to sing Italian, French, German, Russian (she tells me the technique: learn it phonetically first then translate it in English).

Sometimes asked why, with her first album, it wasn’t the arias of the opera that she recorded but the Philippines’ very own kundiman, she would reply, “When you perform (in Filipino) — your own language, music, and culture — you can relate to the sentiments when you’re singing.”

Gerodias hopes to impart this passion for the genre with the new generation of artists and listeners — a new audience she hopes will enjoy it as she did when she was young. “Kundiman is still relevant,” she adds. “Yes, it’s more than a century old but it’s still relevant today, still beautiful. It should go on and on and not be forgotten. I want to present kundiman as it is and as it should be, the way I fell in love with it.”

*   *   *

“Madly Filipiniana” is showing from Oct. 14 at 21 at the Maybank Performing Arts Center BGC.

BYEONG-IN PARK MADLY FILIPINIANA RACHELLE GERODIAS RAUL SUNICO
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