Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas CD's I Listened this Christmas 2009

David Lanz, The Christmas Album- It is little wonder that Lanz's two previous seasonal recording are among the top sellers in the Narada library. His live piano interpretation of familiar songs such as "Silent Night" and "What Child Is This?" as well as not-so-familiar instruments such as "Dreamer's Waltz" are more emotional than all the words used to describe them. Lush won't do it - brilliant would be better. Even Scrooge would have caved in to sentiment after hearing this.

New Age - Although new age music in its acoustical incarnation, is sometimes derided as "jazz without benefit of improvisation," that jibe can work to the listener's advantage on Christmas albums. For example when David Lanz expands on seasonal favorites on his holiday best-of, The Christmas Album (Narada), his modestly virtuosic ornamentation reinforces rater than obscures the themes, making his renditions of "Silent Night" and "What Child Is This?" quietly compelling.

David Lanz, Christmas Eve-"Winter is the time when Mother Earth takes a breath inward, and I believe it very natural for us to pause and do the same -- to allow ourselves time for introspection amidst all the celebration and activity of the holidays. The music on Christmas Eve was created during such a time in my own life.

Though the arrangements for some of these carols and the idea for the album began in the winter of 1990, most of the work and all of the recording offered at home during an "extended Christmas respite" that followed a very rigorous touring schedule during most of 1993.

"As the work progressed and each carol developed from fragments and wisps into finished works, I imagined that an Angel, a Guardian Angel of sorts, existed for each of the songs. These Angels seemed to guide my hand and heart throughout the process. They also resulted in the seven "Angel improvisations" threaded between the carols. Musical inward breaths.

If the music encourages your own quiet introspections, that was my hope and intention. This mood is surely the very essence of the spirit of the holiday. But if you do take that inward breath, don't be surprised if you feel a light brush of Angel wings and hear the softest of whispers..."

Peace, Jim Brickman’s second collection of holiday-themed music, is largely a mirror image of his first (The Gift, released in 1997). Both feature a mix of solo piano works, augmented piano selections (involving oboe, strings, synthesizers, a pop-jazz ensemble, or some combination thereof) and glossy, radio-ready pop vocal productions. To some ears, the polished sheen of the vocal tracks (four are included) may infringe on the more contemplative mood of Brickman’s instrumental tracks, the way a city’s after-dark glow can seep into your view of a deep night sky’s canopy of stars. Still, as with The Gift, Peace is an attractive mood-setter for the season. Brickman’s best arrangements will resonate with a listener’s introspective sensibilities. "Jingle Bells," "Away in a Manger," and "We Three Kings," for instance, all receive slow-building, reflective treatments that might prod you into pondering deeper meanings. A pair of nonholiday originals, "Early Snowfall" and "Blessings," achieve the same heart-nudging effect. As for the vocals, The Blind Boys of Alabama reinforce the finger-snapping, muted-trumpet, ‘40s-swing vibe of "Let It Snow;" Kristy Starling takes a sweetly romantic turn on "Sending You a Little Christmas;" and country’s Collin Raye (also featured on The Gift) earnestly conveys the clear-eyed optimism of the title track.

Liverpool: Re-imagining the Beatles- David Lanz Newest Album

I'm a big David Lanz fan, and have 29 of his 31 CD albums. The newest one, Liverpool: Re-imagining the Beatles is already finished and will be available early next year. This is highly anticipated album for me, cuz I'm also an avid Beatles CD collector (I have the complete Beatles collection).

Liverpool...the birthplace of John, Paul, George, and Ringo, and where we begin our musical journey.

The sounds of the Mersey harbor can be heard as it introduces the first strains of the opening song. This title track was composed as a tribute, an emotional overture of sorts, imbued with subtle musical phrasing from The Fab Four.

From here, we traverse through a decade of Lennon and McCartney songs, arranged and re-imagined through the lens of my own musical voice, which admittedly, has been joyfully shaped and informed by this great and enduring legacy of musical history…a time so explosive and fruitful we may never see anything like it again.

I spent nearly half a year listening, selecting and arranging the material to be recorded on Liverpool. The recording sessions began in May of 2009 and carried on through the fall.

Once the lion’s share of the recording was complete, and on the insistence of my friend and collaborator Gary Stroutsos, we, along with photographer and personal assistant, Carole May, took off on a pilgrimage to Liverpool England, to see where the music of the Beatles all began.

Once there, we were given an extraordinary tour by England’s National Trust. It started with an intimate inside look at John Lennon’s boyhood home where he lived from the age of five until he was twenty-three.

I was completely taken off guard at the impact the spirit of place had on me. This was especially true when I climbed the stairs and stood by myself in the small bedroom that had been John’s, the room where he had done much of his early imaginative dreaming. Chills ran through me and ghosts from the past were palpable.

It was here in this house named Mendips that 14-year-old Paul McCartney and 17-year-old John Lennon began their friendship and started a song writing partnership that would change the world.

They also soon began meeting and writing songs in Paul McCartney’s more modest home, less than a mile away from Mendips, at 20 Forthlin Road.

Our tour continued through the McCartney home. One of the outstanding features was the black and white original photographs taken by Paul’s younger brother, Michael . . . photos capturing family, friends, and everyday household events. Most notable was a photograph of the two teenage musicians, sitting in Paul’s small living room, holding guitars, notebook opened to the hand written lyrics of an early Lennon and McCartney classic, “I Saw Her Standing There.”

I am so grateful for the chance to have connected in such an intimate way and to have come full circle with two of my greatest musical role models.

I will never forget the time spent in Liverpool: the drive down Penny Lane, standing by the gate at Strawberry Fields . . . all giving new meaning and greater dimension to the music of the Beatles.

“There are places I remember . . . All my life”

Friday, December 4, 2009

Visual Fusion- A Group Exhibit

Everyone is cordially invited to view the group exhibit- Visual Fusion- by artists, Seb Chua, Fr. Jason Dy, Sio Montera, Celso Pepito, Lito Pepito, Ritchie Quijano and Jobril Villaver. The opening will be on December 5, at 6pm SM art Center, Cebu City. Exhibit runs until December 14, 2009.

Seven artists with different modes of expressions pursuing art on different styles and understanding life in their field of experiences. The opportunity to be united in one show is to create a sense of unity even in diverse mode of artistry. It also hopes to showcase the gradual transformation of Cebu's art from its conservatvie vein into understanding the need evolve, experiment and create a contemporary artistic revolution. Above all it aims at giving the art loving public the chance to participate in molding a society with utmost artistic understanding.

As the exhibiting artists are pursuing its own individual journey, the possibility of being together in Visual Fusion Exhibit will seek to demonstrate the importance of unity beyond diversity. It hopes to stir the level of artistic understanding and patronage that will ensure the continuing search of excellence in the filed of visual arts, Lastly, it also hopes to impart on the importance of adopting ones artistic evolution.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Magsaysay: Healing with Music and Medicine

He was playing Mozart on the piano, his fingers caressing the keys like a lover. Piano was his first love, his first teacher was Anita Cabahug Trasmonte who rapped his wrists and knuckles to keep them in line. Be a doctor, his father, Engr. Vic Avanzado, told him, don’t be a musician. And because he was a good son, he obeyed his father.

Now Vicente Avanzado Jr. is a full-fledged doctor of medicine, in fact a fellow and a diplomate in Gastroenterology.

Goodlooking with a smiling personality and yes, he still plays the piano.

Beautifully. Music "relaxes and inspires" him and he believes "music and medicine are alike, both need continuous study and both can heal." To celebrate Ting’s successful entry into the rarefied medical clique of fellows (he completed his fellowship at U.E. Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center) and of diplomates (passed both oral and written exams given by the Philippine Society of Gastroenterology and the Philippine Society of Digestive Endoscopy), Nestor and Gingging Morelos called together kissing cousins and special friends to share their joy. Lechonada, roast calf, the works.

Congratulating Nestor, he asked, why me? Why not Nestor indeed? He is a genial host, has the salesman’s glib camaraderie, a marvelous sense of humor and he simply dotes on Ting, his son-in-law. Gingging, sparkling and bubbly like champagne, likewise adores Inting but most of all she loves Grace, warm and loving, the apple of their eyes upon whom the sun rises and sets who is so full of grace, blessed with the good sense and sensibility to choose the ideal man for her husband.

Kissing cousins are the Garcia clan, Gingging and Nestor having practically become an extended family. Nothing but the impressive baronial residence of former DOTC Secretary Sonny and Armi Garcia, would serve as the perfect setting for the party. Up in Windy Hills, the massive manse of plate glass and concrete overlooked a grand view of city lights, a dazzling scatter of multi-colored gems strewn below. Ninette Garcia, never looking as lovely, was showing off a new fashion find.

Modeling for Lotlot and Sandy Neri’s (Nelia’s daughters-in-law) latest discovery, blouses with a magical twist. Made from the banana fiber, similar to pinokpok but wrinkle-free and dyed in such attractive colors, the blouses are convertible as Ninette prancing prettily twisted them into kimonos, halter tops, off the shoulder shawls, strapless bustiers. Ninette’s own daughter-in-law Christine, who turns out bridal tiaras that are sold out in the States, passed on the info that TV celebrity Martha Stewart, wore such a blouse and gave it an enthusiastic blurb on her TV show.

Special friends of Ting and Grace who turned out for the celebration are colleagues Dr. Renald and Araceli Ramiro, Dr. Evan and Nenette Mendoza, Dr. Manjo and Dr. Leah Villamor, Dr. Ron Eullaran. Ginging’s own special friends with whom she shares common interests from analyzing gospel truths in the Bible, to the dreadful prospect of osteoporosis, alzheimers, arthritis in the foreseeable future were in happy attendance: Tita Zosa, Sony Velez, Gloria Bacay, Remy Barrera, Laling Javier, Violy Nacar, Vilma Hermosisima, among them and at finger-waving distance, Anita San Jose looking simply gorgeous in turquoise, she rated second looks. ‘Kissingest’ cousin of all and my own special friend was Inday Vivera Muñasque.

Been ages since I last saw Inday and except for a few smile lines around the eyes and mouth, she looks still looks like the absolute living doll she was when she was my bridesmaid over 50 years ago. Keeping track of her career and family life through the years proved to be as difficult keeping pace with her breathless mile-a-minute narration. She had been Director of the National Library, a something or other with Ayala Museum, the consultant of the military library and now a commissioner of the National Commission of Arts and Culture. An early morning call from Sonny Osmeña for assistance in research of the First Philippine Assembly, another call from Annie Aboitiz, with whom Inday shared an apartment in New York. Glossing over my busybody query about Stimson (yes, they’re great friends again) and how it feels to be an instant multi-millionaire (she and siblings inherited from her parents), she enthused instead about brother Dodong now retired from his medical practice in Park Avenue but still keeps his plush digs in New York, travels everywhere, haunts book stores, art galleries, gourmet restaurants, and music concerts. Sister Nena, now a widowed Lola in the West Coast, keeps up with her daughter Mary who served in the Peace Corps in South America, gone skin diving in coral reefs all over, paddled a banca all the way down to the simmering crater of Taal Volcano. An intrepid spirit after my own heart. Couldn’t gloss over my own nostalgia for Ramona’s hojaldres like no other and will never be like any other hojaldre ever. Although Inday and Dodong both have their mother’s secret recipe for the hojaldres they no longer have the time nor the inclination to resurrect the old glory of Ramona’s hojaldres. A pity…

By Jo Magsaysay
Reprinted from Sunstar Cebu August 31, 2006 issue