A few nights ago, Lydia , Nanette De la Cruz( a good friend here in Sydney), and I went to Corregidor, a lounge in Rooty Hill, a suburb of Sydney to watch Janet Basco’s show. She had just arrived that day from a show in Perth but the strain of a 4 hour plane and a concert the night before was not present at all. As she stepped out on stage, she looked amazingly fresh and raring to go.
I must confess that I am a snob and am not one so easily coaxed into watching concerts. I am hard to please. I do concert-performances for a living and I know what it’s like. I have worked with many artists and have seen too many people do shows that do not entertain me in any great way, or to put it bluntly, do nothing to me. I have my own theories about what makes a great performance. Don’t get me wrong. While I may be picky, I still watch certain entertainers occasionally.
I believe performances of any kind to be worthy of being called great performances must do at least one of two things: they must surprise and delight, and/or must take their audiences to a place where they have never been. And mere emulation or copying of some famous foreign singer or a hit song does not do it for me.
I take pride in the fact that I ‘discovered’ Janet Basco 30 years ago. This was in 1977 when we were guests at Student Canteen, the original, seminal noontime show held at the UST that day. She was a student representing the high school. She did a simple yet beautifully sweet performance which led me to approach her and ask if she was interested in recording. The rest is history as they say. She signed up with Jem Records where I was working then and we did a few recordings. It was the early days of OPM and so we were quite bold in experimenting with different genres of music. Janet recorded originals in samba, ballads, and even translations of great foreign hits. The music we recorded then, if we can only find it now I believe will still resonate with today’s music lovers.
That evening at Corregidor was a magical one. I had seen Janet perform many times in the past but that night floored me. I was quite surprised and delighted at how Janet had become so at home on stage. She spoke with candid charm and an honesty that was disarming. As a result, she easily owned the stage. And the audience acknowledged it by listening raptly to her spiels and songs. Pretty soon, she had us eating out of her hands.
Contrast this to the way many performers handle spiels. A lot of young (and even old) performers go on stage with rehearsed scripts which they have not run through enough to make their own. That alone usually tranlates into a cringe experience for their audiences. Some of them can be downright embarrassing, starting off sounding ‘profound’ and correct and then suddenly, a spontaneous awkward or stupid remark jumps out of nowhere which is totally unconnected or even silly. It exposes a shallowness, or worse, a phoniness or a put-on. Something just doesn’t fit ‘right’, if you know what I mean. I know it takes a while to find a comfort level on stage where one can be him/herself. It may take years. And the way Janet spoke from the heart spoke volumes of the many lessons performers learn through the years–to communicate with their audience as you are, and be comfortable about it.
She sang a few medleys–Manila Sound, Bacharach, Willy Cruz, a jazz medley, among others. The solo standout songs for me were Streisand’s ‘Something’s Coming’, ‘Lately’ by Stevie Wonder, and a jazz song (I can’t remember the title) that started accapella but breathtakingly connected to the music in the exact key– a mean feat that requires perfect pitch to pull off. She had goodies for every type of person in the audience, from the mababaw to the more demanding as she dished out hits and even rare songs. But what clinched every number aside from her vocal prowess was the fact that she clearly enjoyed herself performing on stage.
It’s been thirty years since I first saw her perform. Little did I know that my simple invitation for her to sing would launch her in the direction of a life career. In this age of youth worship, I hope that the older seasoned performers, those who have mastered their craft very well and have much to contribute to making a more discerning, discriminating audience will continue to perform again and again. The young ones can certainly learn a lot by watching them.
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I will be leaving for Manila again by the end of the month for a last Christmas hirit before the year ends. When I was young, I wished for travel anfd I guess I got it and continue to get large doses of it to this day. Danny likes to rib me over the fact that I mainly work in the Philippines to support my family in Australia. He calls me an Aussie W. Ha ha. That’s Danny Javier’s wit for you.
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We gathered a few friends over at home last Saturday to celebrate our thirtieth wedding anniversary. It was great to see friends from long ago and new immigrants who became our friends here in Sydney. Our kids Mio and Ala (and Erica via long distance) decorated the house and went the extra mile in ensuring that the party would be a memorable one. They put their parent’s memories to the test by asking us to write on separate pieces of paper (without consultation) the anwers to questions they asked about our courtship 30 years ago: first theme song, first date (where), title of first movie we watched, what our first fight was about. Lots of fun. These kids are wonderful. Oh, there were prizes for every answer we gave including free Starbucks coffee, a movie, a DVD of choice and tickets to Burt Bacaharach at the Sydney Opera House next year.
It is good to be at that point in life when things we planted in the past are bearing fruit. Throughout our thirty years, we planted love, patience, tolerance, humility, effort, faith, joy, forgiveness, sacrifice, humor and laughter, tears and they are now allowing us to enjoy a harvest of memories, love, lessons learned and many more plus great, wonderful, loving and beautiful children to show for it. We have not stopped planting. There are many more years of harvests to enjoy.