I had the pleasure of watching the first ever Akapela Open last night at the Meralco Theater. It was a contemporary a capella singing contest participated in by various groups all over the country. Beloved Maestro Ryan Cayabyab was the brains behind this project and he had the support of the PhilPop Foundation and many other companies in this venture to further yet another aspect of Original Pilipino Music.
A total of 9 groups made it to the finals (I understand several groups auditioned from Metro Manila and many provinces well) - and three groups were chosen as winners.
The show opened with an a capella medley arranged by Mr.C himself and performed by RCS singers and Baihana.
Almost all groups (all except 1) performed with a beat-boxer and I was pleasantly surprised to see that what used to be somewhat of a novelty (there was a time that it seemed to me only the Akafellas could do this sort of thing) is now becoming almost a standard requirement for contemporary a capella performances in this country.
And here are the 9 contestants. (I hope I got the group names and spelling right.)
While judges deliberated, the 3 hosts for that evening (I would've appreciated if they had introduced themselves in the beginning of the show!) had the audience in stitches with their a capella improvisation segment.
And then awarding time came.
Best vocal arrangement (all vocal arrangements had to be original) went to the group 1415.
Third Prize Winner was 1415.
Second Prize Winner was Pinopela.
First Prize went to Akapela Go.
My personal favorite among the contestants was Pinopela, who won Second Prize, but I do believe the First Prize winner Akapella Go (love the name!) deserved their victory, too - considering the level of difficulty of singing when you have practically just a quartet plus a beat-boxer (who gave a solid performance too, by the way). I had a couple of friends who were members of Third Prize Winner 1415 as well so I'm happy for them, too!
If there was an award for best beat-boxer though, I would have given it to Taftonic's female beat-boxer who surprised us all and made the audience break the rule of not applauding until the number was over. Wouldn't be one bit surprised if she started appearing on TV and making a career of this talent of hers. (I wonder if she'd be open to performing with our La Salle group Mass Appeal. La Salle din naman eh. Hmm...;-) )
Although I continue to sing with a couple of choirs, I have had limited experience in singing a capella with microphones onstage, and that limited experience has made me realize how difficult and even confusing and disorienting it can be to hear your voice from another source and still have to balance it everything out with the people you're singing with. I have utmost respect for local groups like Tux, The CompanY and Baihana who have made it seem so easy. Even without the use of beat-boxers, these groups still set the standard for effective arrangement and clean harmonies that future Akapela Open contestants can pick up from.
Congratulations to all the winners, participants and organizers of the first Akapaela Open! Looking forward to more in the years to come.
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Even before I joined the Ateneo Chamber Singers in 2008, they were already singing an arrangement of my song by one of its suki arrangers, N.Arnel De Pano. It's a song that the ACS has included in its inspirational repertoire, and more recently, it was made one of the cuts in its latest album titled "Hanggang Langit."
This album was launched last weekend during our 11th Anniversary Concert held at the Church of the Gesu in Ateneo. It's an inspirational album with the following cuts:
1. Dakilang Katapatan (De Pano)
2. Shine (Belamide)
3. Hesus Ng Aking Buhay (Aquino)
4. Take Me Out Of The Dark (Valenciano)
5. How Beautiful (Paris)
6. Hanggang Langit (Navarro)
7. Shepherd Of My Heart (Tunney/Baldwin)
8. Awit Ni David (De Pano)
9. You Lift Me Up (Tan/Simon)
10. Nag-iisang Pag-Ibig Ko (De Pano)
The song "Shine" was my entry to the 1996 Metropop Song Festival (where it won 2nd Prize) but it did not gain popularity until 2004 when Regine Velasquez recorded it for a commercial. So the song has gone from being a love song to becoming a skin whitening product promotions tool, to now becoming more of an inspirational song with its inclusion in this album.
Here is our performance of the song at last weekend's concert. I was the one accompanying the choir on piano, so you won't see me until the very last second of the clip (or make that the last split-second of the clip. LOL!).
For details on purchasing the "Hanggang Langit" album, you can visit its page on the Jesuit Communications website by clicking HERE.
As part of the Madrigals' 50th year celebration, they treated Filipino choristers to an experience of a lifetime.
"2 For The Gold" was a 2-day event featuring 2 great artists: 2-time European Grand Prix winner (for non-choristers: that's like the ultimate worldwide choral competition) the Philippine Madrigal Singers, and the world famous Swingle Singers from the UK, who are also celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. Aside from the 2-day concert, there was an option to attend their Workshop and Masterclass.
A few chorister friends and I attended last Saturday's workshop. I thought it would be a typical lecture-based or lecture-heavy workshop with the Swingles doing most of the work and singing or demonstrating vocal techniques. Instead, the entire workshop required our active participation - wtih the Swingles themselves! We got to sing with them and exercise our improvisation skills. Fun!!
Two brave vocal groups nervously performed and allowed themselves to be critiqued by the Swingles, who gave very interesting and helpful tips to improve on performance.
At the end of the workshop, we got a chance to have our photos taken with them, and we each got a certificate of participation signed by each member of the Swingle Singers. What a treat!
And then I watched yesterday's concert. It felt like a choral community reunion at the CCP lobby. Some of my choirmates from both the Ateneo Chamber Singers and Mass Appeal were there. Members of the Philippine Choral Directors Association were present. Pop vocal group The CompanY was there, too. As well as choristers who came all the way from different provinces.
Part 1 of the concert was by the Madz, and they were in tip-top form. Wonderful sound, great choice of songs including a classy and fresh rendition of their famous "Italian Salad" (which could be challenging to pull off in front of an audience that has seen the song performed many times - but they did a great job).
Madz Conductor Mark Carpio closed their set with a wonderful short spiel about how the Madrigals' semi-circle was a circle completed by the audience, from which they continue to draw strength and inspiration. And how they - like the rest of us - draw inspiration from great artists, including that night's main feature. They sang "Circle of Life" to close Part 1 (which gave me goosebumps - in a good way! I loved how they were able to give the song an African flavor and sound, and I was impressed by their bass soloist (who made me think of Mufasa!). After that, the choir, instead of exiting to the wings, came down from the stage to be part of the audience - to be one of us, and one with us, in what was to be an unforgettable musical experience.
Obviously we all knew that the Swingle Singers were excellent and highly skilled performers. But even that knowledge and that already high expectation did not prepare us for what we witnessed. Every single song - and I am not exaggerating - had me shaking my head in disbelief at the level of skill and artistry this group showed. There were no fancy stage effects, no special lighting, no instruments. Just 7 people singing a capella.
My choirmate Roger Sigwa could not have put it better when he posted this status on Facebook late last night: "Still on musical high after watching an amazing and fantastic concert! This batch has 4 alternating vocal percussionists, 2 alternating basses, 2 sky-is-the-limit sopranos and impeccable sound engineer. Best music experience of CCP so far!"
I don't remember ever watching a concert before where there was not a single song that felt like a filler. Watching several concerts through the years, even those by my favorite artists, there would always be highs and lows in terms of energy from the artist or my own preference for the songs being performed. With the Swingles, EACH song had its own magic and had something new to offer us. Each song would highlight a different strength, put us in a different mood, entertain us in a different way.
They made us laugh and they made us cry. They brought the house down with their version of "Single Ladies" - oh, the memory of their 2 tenors Oliver and CJ doing Beyonce's moves! I think we're scarred for life! LOL!! What great entertainers! And their rendition of Debussy's Clair De Lune was so beautiful it brought tears to the audience's eyes. Maybe choristers are weepy, emotional people. Or maybe it was simply because we know beauty when we hear it.
Another emotional point for us was their final song. After the group said their thank you's to the Madz and making sure we all knew that their trip to the Philippines was the best tour they EVER had, they told us that their final song was arranged by one of Madz members. The moment soprano Sara sang "Ili-ili tulog anay..." the entire audience went "Awww...." I got teary-eyed because I felt it was such a thoughtful gesture on their part to sing a Filipino song, and for them to put their heart and soul into it. They sang it so well it sounded like they had been singing this song forever. I thought about the friendship ties the Swingles had most certainly built with the Madz, who had hosted them for an entire week, taken them to Subic, fed them, entertained them, sang with them. And these thoughts must have run through Sara's head, too, because towards the end of the song she got all choked up and fought back tears while trying to sing her last few lines. That was it. There was not a dry eye in the house after that.
After the show, the audience flocked to the Swingles table to have their CDs signed and photos taken. This was also bonding time with fellow choristers and we all pretty much felt the same way. My good friend Moy Ortiz of The CompanY took the words right out of my mouth when he said "I feel so inadequate!" Many of us were saying the same thing as we left our seats. We were like, "oh so THAT'S what singing is supposed to be!" and "Nakakahiya ang mga pinag-gagagawa nating pagkanta!" Of course, more than this feeling of smallness, we all felt inspired to strive to be better artists. Mark Carpio had said it in his spiel. This was one group we would really draw inspiration from.
This was one concert where the adrenalin I had after watching the show matched my adrenalin level during our own performances! Ibang klase talaga. "Hindi ko kinaya!" - 'ika nga ni Moy and we were laughing our heads off because it was true - this concert was something else and something that will take some time for us to get over, even though we were mere members of the audience. I can't imagine the kind of high this experience has been for the Madrigals!
Congratulations, Madz! What a successful project to celebrate your 50 years! Thank you for giving us this once-in-a-lifetime inspiring experience, and for also giving the Swingles what was surely a memorable experience for them as well. We can only hope they'll come back soon so we can experience their music again.
"Proclaim!" (Songs for the New English Translation of the Roman Missal) is a new album by Musica Chiesa and the Ateneo Chamber Singers (which I'm a member of) released earlier this year under Jesuit Communications. I'll write longer about it another time, but for now I just wanted to share a video clip I took at a rehearsal in preparation for this album's launch, which took place in Ateneo a few months ago. It's always a joy for me to hear my songs performed, but even more exciting for me when it involves an orchestra. Here's a glimpse into the "Proclaim" album, which I'm glad to be part of.
For more information on this album and where you can purchase it, click HERE.
I don’t remember when or how Bituin and I met and became friends. I do remember when I first saw her perform: it was the musicale Rent showing in Music Museum, and she blew everyone away with her solo part in “Seasons Of Love.”
In 2000 my friend Arnold Reyes became a Metropop finalist and looked to me for some help recording his entry “Paano Na.” My “suki” arranger Arnold Buena worked on the instrumental arrangement, and I helped out with the vocals by giving Bituin some directions so that the song would start out mellow, build up and fly at the end. A bit of "contest formula" that had worked for me in the past. "Paano Na" won 2nd Prize that year.
I didn’t get to see much of Bituin after that, but we’ve been in touch the past few years thanks to wonders of social media.
Last Easter was the 10th year anniversary of Mass Appeal, a choir I’m a member of that sings every fourth Sunday of the month at the La Salle Greenhills Chapel. To give this special anniversary mass a bit of “sindak” power, I invited Bituin to do the solo of “Joyful Joyful” (that famous Sister Act version) for our recessional song. The whole choir was over the moon with excitement when she agreed to do it. With her family and 2 babies in tow, she arrived middle of the mass and was apologetic about not being able to come earlier, but the absence of an opportunity for us to rehearse with her didn’t faze us one bit. We knew she would be awesome and she was, and the whole number was truly a joyful one for us all. You can watch that performance right here.
A few days after that, Bituin invited us to her upcoming gig at Balete@Kamias where she would perform Cole Porter and Gershwin songs. I watched the show with my parents who came all the way to Manila from Silang, Cavite (this cool couple found out about the gig through posts on Facebook – yes they’re both on FB – and gave me a call when they read about the show to ask me to get tickets) and a bunch of Mass Appeal choristers (including our musical director Inday Echevarria, choir founder and Route 70 vocalist Ding-Dong Eduque, Tux members Popo Suanes and Manny Aquino and a few others).
I found myself hanging on to every note and word Bituin sang. I was so caught up in her music that I forgot to order a drink! Ding-Dong and I talked about her on the ride home after the show. "Ang sexy ni Bituin kumanta no?" I remarked. Ding-Dong went, "Hindi na nga sexy eh...bastos na!" We meant it in the best way possible. I found the right expression later on and told Bituin through a thread on Facebook what we thought of her singing: "Ang libog mo kumanta!" It was the best compliment I could give her and I think she knew it.
What sets Bituin apart from many other artists is this: you have many great singers who aren't good actors, and many great actors who aren't good singers. Bituin is both an excellent singer and a trained theater actor. She combines her skill in stylizing and belting out notes with the ability to express what a song is really all about because you know that she understands her material. She's an intelligent and expressive storyteller with an awesome set of pipes. That's what makes her different. And THAT is what real singing is all about. Right now, I can't think of any other local performer who can do it the way she does. Certainly not at the level Bituin does it.
She performs again at 7th High's Apex Lounge on April 30. You can find details of that show HERE. Do yourself a favor: watch Bituin perform and treat yourself to some REAL singing.
More than a decade ago I went indie and released "Happy Valentine's Day" - a 5-song CD that mainly featured my USA Songwriting Competition-winning composition. I sold it in Music One and Tower Records, and I remember having had the satisfaction of landing their list of best-sellers at the time (quite a feat back then for an independently released album).
Not all of the copies got sold and eventually I had the remaining units pulled out. I lost track of where they were stored and thought there was just a handful of pieces left.
A few months ago I got an email from someone asking where he could purchase the CD since it was no longer available anywhere. What a pleasant surprise to know someone was still interested in it! I asked my mom if she had any copies left lying around in her house. She looked through her storage and lo and behold - apparently there was still an entire boxful of CDs left!
A few days ago, my friend Tanya got me in touch with her friend Andy who also wanted to buy a few copies of the CD. Talk about perfect timing! Since he worked nearby I just asked him to come to the house yesterday and I was more than happy to sign each of the CDs he bought. It made my day to meet someone who appreciated my work! Hopefully he was happy about our meeting, too, as well as his purchase.
And so speaking of perfect timing... what better time to start selling this CD again than on Valentine's Day?
So this is my Valentine message to all: you can purchase this 5-song CD (or what some would call an EP for Extended Play) directly from me for just P100. (This used to sell for P170 in Music One and Tower.) If you purchase 3 CDs, I'll throw in a fourth one for free! All CD's will be signed by me - whether you buy just one or more than one to give as a gift to others.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you're interested, since this is going to be a very personalized approach to selling these CDs. (I sure hope this works!) We'll figure out how best to get the CD/s to you and how you can pay for them. Meeting up in the Ortigas Center area is an option. Or those of you who have messengers or drivers can also have it picked up from my condo reception. If there is any shipping involved, you'll have to shoulder the cost, but it is an option and I can arrange for that. So it all depends on where you are and your delivery preferences. Send me an e-mail and we'll figure out what works best. =)
This CD brings back great memories for me, from winning in the contest (Overall 2nd Prize out of more than 31,000 songs from more than 50 countries blew my mind) to making "lako" my own CD at the malls (the stores would say "Ma'am, puwede niyo na ipadala yung tauhan niyo para mag-inventory" and they would be shocked to see I would do the inventory myself) to creating its music video (special thanks to friends Chad Arrieta and Sean Lim) and its airing on MYX. You can see the music video on this page: http://www.trinabelamide.com/works.html
This is somewhat of a collector's item now so hurry - offer is good while supplies last! (How's that for a sales pitch?) ;-)
To those who will buy, I thank you all in advance and I look forward to hearing from each of you.
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!
Watching Regine's Silver concert on TV last night, I was grateful that two of my songs made it, not only to her concert lineup (to think she's had so many hits throughout her career and not every one of them were performed at the concert), but also to last night's coverage of the concert as well, as not all of her spot numbers were aired.
I was sure they'd show "Shine" because it was the concert's opening number, but I wondered about "You've Made Me Stronger" - and I'm glad they included it in last night's special. I guess that aside from it being part of a memorable time in her career, which she herself talked about (the song was released as the single of her album "My Love Emotion" when she broke up with Ariel Rivera, so the timing was just perfect), the song has been given new life with a fabulous new arrangement by Mon Faustino. Here's a clip I found on youtube of Regine performing this new version on Party Pilipinas.
I love hearing about how the song has helped many people going through a breakup. People have often asked me who or what was my inspiration for the song. It was inspired by an someone who, months after we had gone our separate ways, appeared to think I was still not over him. And I felt so insulted! I had moved on and was doing fine. Well, instead of writing a "don't flatter yourself" kind of angry song, I decided on a more positive spin. Positive with still a bit of a sting in the bridge which goes "Think again/Don't feel so sorry for me, my friend/Don't you know/I'm not the one at the losing end." In other words, huwag kang maawa sa akin - maawa ka sa sarili mo because it's your loss, not mine. Ouch!! ;-) And I meant it, too! What other feeling could I have for someone who hurt me other than knowing deep inside that I deserved better? And that I'd be better off without him? So yes, it really can be therapeutic to listen to and sing this song. =)
One of the stories I heard that I got such a kick out of came from drummer Niño Regalado who says he was in the US many years ago and was talking to some homeless guy who was understandably at the end of his rope. Desperate to find words of encouragement, he decided to quote some "Asian poet" and proceeded to recite the words of my song. It makes me chuckle to imagine Niño reciting my lyrics with all conviction. But hey, the homeless guy nodded and thanked Niño for giving him hope so it all worked out. =)
And so speaking of hope, mine is for this song to continue finding its way into the hearts of people more than two decades after it was written. Thank you, Regine, for continuing to sing this song. With your help, it will continue to be a source of inspiration and strength for those who need it.
Jose Mari Chan's "Christmas In Our Hearts" is probably the biggest selling Filipino Christmas album of all time, and I was part of it. As a member of the Ateneo College Glee Club at the time the album was recorded in the early 90's, I got to sing in 2 of the album's songs and got to do the vocal arrangement for one of them.
Two decades later, I am part of Jose Mari Chan's new Christmas album, but this time, aside from vocal arranging and singing backup on one of the tracks, I actually got to co-write 2 songs with him! A dream come true for any songwriter!
His second Christmas album is called "Going Home To Christmas." Work on this album began - believe it or not - over a decade ago, which was when he gave me a cassette tape of this beautiful melody he had come up with and asked me to write the lyrics. It was a challenge for me because Joe's melody was the kind you wouldn't want to mess with nor alter even a tiny bit. It was also a melody that any skilled lyricist would know required some internal rhyming. And knowing his audience and picturing an orchestral arrangement for the song, I wanted a lyric that would give the song universal and timeless appeal. Given all these parameters I came up with a lyric called "Christmas Air." The song has 2 versions in the album - Joe's vocal version arranged by Homer Flores, and a special instrumental orchestral version produced, arranged and conducted by Yaron Gershovsky, recorded in New York. With all the hard work Joe put into this song, it's obviously one of his favorites in the album and I am so honored to have co-written this song!
I also wrote a Christmas love song lyric which he edited and set to music. The song is now called "Starlight" and performed by guest singer Noelle Cassandra. The other song I got to work on was the album opener "Ring In The New" arranged by my friend Marvin Querido. This cut is a reunion of sorts for us, as we had worked on the song "Sound Of Life" from Joe's first album while we were still in college.
Today is Christmas Day and I am thankful for many things - for family and friends, for love and many blessings which include this wonderful chance to collaborate with a great artist. Joe, thank you for your friendship and for your trust. May you continue touching people's hearts with your music for many years to come.
Even before the show started, I already knew she had lost her voice earlier today. Got the news from one of my friends also performing in the show asking for prayers for her, plus I ran into my choirmate Melf, who was Reg's doctor. Apparently things were pretty bad. They seriously considered calling off the show in the morning, but decided otherwise as Regine got her voice back - or at least some of it - later in the day. With some medication, she still managed to perform and give her all.
She opened the show with an uptempo version of my song "Shine" - which, oo nga naman, was the perfect opener for a show called "Silver" - and she still managed to sing and hit the high notes, but the audience could immediately tell something was wrong. After that, her opening spiel was an unscripted and sincere one expressing frustration that of all days for her to get sick, it had to be today. She promised to still do her best, and she most certainly did.
I was moved to tears when, during one of her first few numbers (I think it was "Dadalhin"), she remained quiet during the song's chorus, and you could hear the audience singing as if to reassure Regine of their presence, or to encourage her to sing back, or to sing in her place and sort of say "don't worry Reg, we got this for you."
And when Regine spoke, in tears, about how her audience deserved so much more than she could give, you would hear people randomly shouting back at her "Okay lang 'yan!" or "Kaya mo 'yan!" It was heartwarming, to say the least.
With that kind of appreciation from her fans, it wasn't hard to understand Regine's frustration over losing her voice. She said she had worked so hard for months to get back in shape because she wanted to be perfect for everyone. She really wanted to give her audience the best, and even though she did actually manage to sing (and actually sing pretty well and manage to belt out some high notes - just not as well as she usually does) for Regine, her current state was just not acceptable.
And so she made a spur-of-the-moment promise (which must have made the show's producers nervous) to do the concert again for free when she got better. Later on, to show it wasn't all lip service, she told the audience to keep their tickets so they could see the repeat for free. She was absolutely serious about giving her audience the perfect show. And of course, the audience was absolutely thrilled over this bit of news.
So beyond celebrating 25 years of Regine's commitment to her craft, the evening became a testament to an important part of her success: the unconditional love of her fans. In my opinion, it unexpectedly made this anniversary concert perfect. After all, where would any artist be without their fans?
Vice Ganda, whom Regine called onstage for some impromptu entertainment, said it best and spoke for everyone there: "Hindi mo na kailangang bumirit at patunayan sa amin na magaling ka. Alam na alam na namin 'yun. Andito kami kasi gusto ka naming makasama ulit."
So much love in that arena tonight. I'm glad I was there to see it.
I think I'm beginning to understand foreigners who think we tend to go overboard with the "proud to be Pinoy" bit.
On Facebook, there are these pages like Amazing Places and Fascinating Places that feature awesome photos taken in scenic spots all over the world. You see comments by people of various nationalities, usually expressing awe at the beauty of each place.
If you read the comments of photos taken in the Philippines - that of Mayon Volcano or of our beaches or other nature spots - you will surely come across more than one "proud to be Filipino" comment. And it seems we're the only ones who do this. There are photos taken in Las Vegas, in Montana, Indiana, several places in the US, but you never see a "proud to be American" comment anywhere. Same goes for photos from different countries. I have yet to see a "proud to be Canadian" or "proud to be Aussie" comment in these threads. (I think I'd be annoyed if every photo of the Eiffel Tower had some "proud to be French" comment.)
Is there really a need for us to declare how proud we are every chance we get? I'm sure every person in the world is proud of whichever country they come from, but it seems we have a greater need to convince others that we are no different.
I'm beginning to see this "proud to be Pinoy" phrase more as a defensive statement rather than a simple declaration of something true. It's as if not saying it meant the opposite. It's as if the whole world thought little of us and this was our way of fighting back. Maybe deep down, this is what we really believe.
And we want so badly to change what we perceive to be their image of us.
We hunger for compliments and recognition. Every bit of praise is like a major victory. We'll latch on to it and beat our chest and say "you better believe it!" instead of simply and confidently nodding in agreement. "Proud to be Pinoy" is a battle cry, something to keep our spirits up, and yes, one can say that the Filipino fighting spirit is a good thing to have. I just wish we weren't in battle mode all the time.
I would love to see the day when Pinoy triumphs all over the world are too many to count that we take them for granted, when every compliment we get for the beauty of our land is something that makes us simply smile in humble gratitude, maybe even shrug a bit because it's something we're so used to getting. I dream of the day we no longer feel the need to cry out "I'm proud to be Pinoy!" because that would merely be stating the obvious. Because we'd know deep in our hearts that the world already thought highly of us. And if they didn't... well, we couldn't care any less. Because love and pride for our country would be something each Filipino knew, not something we needed for the world to believe we had.
My name is Trina Belamide and I'm a songwriter and record producer.
GreatSongsToSing is my online store and I thank you for dropping by! Do comment on my blog posts. I'd love to hear from you!
Learn more about me on www.trinabelamide.com.