Singing together—again
FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura (The Philippine Star) - September 8, 2019 - 12:00am

Once upon a time... such a wonderful way to start a fairy tale. It’s also a fabulous way to start writing about life. Once upon a time my husband and I both loved to sing. Before that my mother used to love to sing. I remember bringing her to her voice lessons, which she took with a certain Senor Mossesgeld, when I was a very little girl. I remember singing a mother-child song with her in our room some nights before we went to sleep. My mother and I shared a love for music. We even played four hands on the piano, a rather complicated piece called Poet and Peasant.

It was because of my mother that I got to watch Carmen Soriano sing when she was 18 and I was around 11 years old. She made me want to grow up being a nightclub singer who sang torch songs. Of course that did not happen but it was something I remembered when I was 71, something that led me to take voice lessons too. And that’s how I met my husband.

My husband Loy loves to sing and he sings very well. He tells the story of being so aggrieved with his profession as a lawyer who turned around lost cases that on certain days he dreamt of dyeing his hair black, losing 20 pounds and turning into a crooner.

In the early days of our friendship a rather large group of friends would meet at his condo and sing. One day I got the idea of having a show at the Punta Bar almost across the street from his home where old people who liked to sing could go and sing with us. We did it. But then he got a minor stroke, his children pulled him out and we had to stop the show.

Then the Sunshine Place, where I was a member, coaxed me put on a show at the Happy Garden Café. I didn’t quite have the confidence to sing but I couldn’t ask Loy to sing with me either — until one day I ran into him in church, asked him to come to my show, and soon we were singing together again.

Loy sings very well. I do not, but I dare, and our small group of friends all love to sing. First we had singing parties in each other’s houses — Ruben and Mandy Torres, Gigi Travers. Rudy Romero and his friend Che, Loy and me. But this phase somehow faded and lately we have all been wanting to get together to sing again, but we didn’t know where to go.

Then Rudy Romero called one day and suggested we all meet at After All to sing. “Where?” Loy asked. After All is a bar in the Jazz condo of Shoemart at the corner of Reposo, now Nicanor Garcia, and Jupiter. It’s easy enough to find. It’s one of the restaurants facing Nicanor Garcia. Every Sunday night they have an open mike and a pianist and we can sing to our heart’s content.

So we went. The first night we were Rudy, Gigi, Loy and me, later joined by Aderito Yujuico, Maricris Heras, Joanne de Asis Benitez and Sandra Viray, who is an awesome jazz singer, who also gives lessons. We were also joined by Rudy’s classmate, Mike Damaso, who brought a bottle of 25-year-old Japanese scotch. We drank a lot, sang a lot and had a very good time, but we didn’t eat. And we felt guilty about that.

The next time we went it was a smaller group but Marilou Pellicer was added. Joanne was getting ready to go back to the States. Once again we had fun even if I was coming down with the flu and could not sing that night. But this time we ordered food. I tell you, their food orders are big and quite delicious.

There is something fun about After All. It’s not pretentious. It’s just a simple restaurant that has open mike night on Sundays. Food is cheap and the servings are big. Last Sunday we were seven people and we ran up a bill of P1,700 for food and drink. That’s about P300 per person plus we tipped the pianist P100 each. As the night wore on four men came in, sat at the next table, and also joined in our fun. So it’s a good place to go when you are looking for a place to have fun, to meet new people. You may also enjoy singing a few songs whether you are totally in tune or not. No one looks down on you when you don’t sing in tune or make a mistake.

We enjoyed ourselves immensely the two times we were there, so we’re planning to go again tonight. Loy will bring his cordless mikes again and pass them around so we can all make beautiful music together. You know what they say about singing: You age better when you sing. So... see you there!

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