Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Serenata with Strings Attached – Incredibly Awesome!

Bravo! Bravo! Magnifico! That’s what I can say after watching the Serenata With Strings Attached Concert at the American International School of Jeddah (AISJ) Gymnasium last Friday night, February 6, 2009.

This was the second year that I was invited by my friend Dads Torrico to attend the concert where his two kids are members of the Serenata Children’s Choir and the Serenata String Chamber Orchestra. I wasn’t able to attend last year’s concert where Liza, Dads’ daughter was the choral group’s pianist. That was also the time when the responsibility of heading the newly formed Harvest & Logistics Support Department was given to me and Fridays are always the start of our operations. Well, I never really bothered about my absence during that first invite but last Friday night, I realized and regretted that I have missed a lot for not attending Serenata’s Season 3 Concert last year.

No technical problem on the sound system could stop the harmonious sound of the cherubims and seraphims in their colourful, chic, and tasteful costumes that night. Just being in the performance hall was more than enough to bring back the nostalgia of my younger days when I was a member of our school chorale that competed in the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ NAMCYA and Folk Arts Theater’s Himig Competitions. The walk down memory lane made me forget what we went through earlier that night. I had to drop by Al Balad Mall with Al Cuadro and Larry Juele so I can buy a "semi-formal tops" in order to change my "casual" white Lacoste T-shirt. The tops happened to be a white with pastel blue stripes long sleeve polo. It was a rush purchase as there was no more time to bargain hunt and I ended up getting a polo shirt at a bit expensive price and yes because of the price it looked elegant. It's a good thing though that I was able to place some generous amount of the Bvlgari Aqua before I left the villa and it was able to subdue the smell of the cloth factory in the polo shirt. Whew...that’s the price I had to pay for failing to see the back of the admission ticket that said “Come in Conservative Formal Attire”. The out of plan side trip to get that long sleeve polo caused us to park Al’s Fortuner around 2 blocks away from the AISJ Gym. In addition to that, we were seated in “unstrategic” seats where our necks were skewed to the left because we arrived a few minutes late at the concert hall. Nevertheless, the awesome concert far outweighed all the hassles that night.

AISJ Superintendent, Mark A. English welcomed everyone that night by saying that we were “in for a treat” and it came out that the prophetic welcome turned out to be an understatement. As the concert moved from one part of the repertoire to the other, the treat geared forward towards better and better and better presentation.

Part I of the Concert saw the Serenata Children’s Choir raise the curtain with a blast in their rendition of West Side Story’s Tonight. Though you will see the initial jitters beneath the smiles in the choristers' faces, in no less than a few seconds, those jitters were transformed into a high level of confidence that brought into the hall a thunderous applause of appreciation. That opening salvo was followed by I Am A Small Part of the World with very clear and distinct crescendos and decrescendos expressions. Their Eja, Eja (We Will sing for Joy) was so dynamic (and should I say anointed) making one to think that he was inside a cathedral or a monastery.

I was watching Al Cuadro wipe his eye while listening to Everly Brother’s Let It Be Me and Burt Bacharach’s I’ll Never Fall in Love Again. I dunno if he was teary-eyed for remembering a “special someone” but what I know is that I wanted to stand up and dance when the choir sang a big hit Build Me Up, Buttercup and the videoke all time favorite Abba Medley that included Dancing Queen, I have a Dream, Mamma Mia, SOS, Take A Chance on Me, Thank You for the Music and Waterloo. My, oh my! If my wife was with me, we could have gotten out of our seats and danced to our hearts delight...

The Intermission Numbers were breathtaking. I was breathless as I watched Liza Torrico (Dads’ daughter) play the flute in Someone to Watch Over Me while Adel Tanamor, a young gifted pianist accompanied her on the piano.

I was awed by how she managed to breath all throughout the rendition of the piece (or maybe she had an oxygen tank hidden behind the curtains that was connected to her lungs). I was very pleased to hear Adel’s smooth and distinct tinklings and tinglings of the black and white keys that remindeded me of my older brother Ardes’ mastery of the piano keys.

Another intermission number was the astounding interpretation of Nessun Dorma (No One Sleeps) by tenor Sonny Austria. He performed it ala Luciano Pavaroti and it brought thunderous claps in the house. As written in the souvenir program, Sonny is definitely one of the best and among the winningest Filipino vocalists in this land of oil rich-sheiks and desert-filled camels.

Part II brought back the choir with their OPM (Original Pinoy Music) repertoire. I would not be surprised that Sylvia delos Santos, the Musical Director would choose Ryan Cayabyab’s compositions. She could have been one of Ryan’s protégés at the UP College of Music where Ryan C taught Composition. I know how music students in my days would adulate the music icon, Ryan C. My elder brother Ardes who’s also from the UP College of Music used to bring along Ryan Cayabyab, Paul Concepcion, Noel Arce, et. al at Wendy’s where I worked when I was a student at the State U. I remember one time Ryan C. make a comment about me when they visited Wendy's Araneta Center - "Ay...ba't maitim ang kapatid mo?"... Hahaha. At that time no Likas Papaya or Block & White were on sale...Vicky Belo was unheard of...Anyhow, even today when all the wonder soaps and all those bleaching shops are found almost everywhere...maitim pa rin.

Their first song, Ryan Cayabyab’s Nais Ko was a hit that brought whistles and roaring applause in the house. I don’t know how the many foreigners that night appreciated our OPM but then music is a universal language that touches both the blacks (aruy sakit naman...Obama to the rescue please) and the whites and the browns so I guess they liked OPM too. The Philippine Science High School Singing Students' Smokey Mountain popularized Paraiso and another Ryan Cayabyab’s compositions was another platinum taker that night. It was followed by Freddie Aguilar’s Anak that made me to remark to Al that they should have included Napakasakit Kuya Eddie in their repertoire...wouldn’t you agree? The jubilant presentation of another Ryan Cayabyab’s composition Liman-dipang Tao with corresponding choreography ended the OPM repertoire in high note.

Serenata’s Season 4 is different from its forerunners. This year's season did not only present the Children’s Choir but presented as well the newly formed Serenata String Chamber Orchestra . Thus, with the maiden performance of the Serenata String Chamber Orchestra, the Concert title came to be – Serenata With Strings Attached.
Printed on their concert program was a clear description on how the concert title came to be. The inclusion of ...With Strings Attached could be taken both literally and figuratively. Literally it meant the inclusion of the String Orchestra and figuratively as a metaphor of what could mean commitment. Indeed, “With Strings Attached”, is embodied Serenata’s genuine spirit of commitment, hope and charity. This was clearly portrayed to the audience that night.

Before Part III of the concert was another intermission piano rendition by Adel Tanamor of Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude. This young boy enamoured the crowd with his competence in the keyboard.

A video presentation of the Serenata Season 4 Project showed the musical director and the Serenata Board Chairman meet up with ABS-CBN Bantay Bata Director Tina Monzon Palma to link their project with the Bantay Edukasyon project of Bantay Bata Program of ABS-CBN. This year, they awarded 4 scholarship grants for 4-year college degree course to 4 deserving high school graduating students. The video presentation further showed the selection processes which involved the Serenata members, the choralists and instrumentalists and their parents. It's good to note that Serenata had actively participated in the socio-civic upliftment of our kababayans back home. The landslide victims in Southern Leyte were the beneficiaries for Season 1, Educational assistance to schools in Season 2, and supported the Al Jamelah Organization during its 3rd Season.

The maiden performance of the String Chamber Orchestra was the last part of the concert. And true to the maxim ”last but not the least”, their performance was incredibly amazing even if one is not to consider them as still novice in orchestra playing. The pioneering instrumentalists looked dapper in their black and white attire resembling the ebony and ivory keys of the piano. Sylvia delos Santos showed ease and confidence playing the role of the maestra and orchestrated all the strings to come out with an ecstatic sound.

True to her being a ward (I just surmise but I’m pretty sure she is) of Ryan C, Sylvia arranged all the musical scores of the string instruments for the orchestra which included Morris Albert’s Feelings, Elvis Presley’s Love Me Tender, the Filipino folksong medley of Manang Biday, Ili-ili Tulog Anay, and Bayan Ko, George Canseco’s Kailangan Kita and Nacio Herb Brown’s Singing in the Rain. Their rendition of Bayan Ko brought out that nationalism and pride to every Filipino in that hall. I wanted to raise my clenched fist while having those goose bumps as I relived the all time favorite “national” anthem during those years of protests and boycott marches we had during our student days.

The grand finale number was sooo wonderful with the Children’s Choir and the String Chamber Orchestra belting out everything they got. They blended very well with the tenor voice of Sonny Austria in Barry Manilow’s One Voice. The standing ovation applause of the audience was deafening but that did not subdue the message of the song from echoing throughout the hall. It sent shivers to my spines that the message of hope, for those wanting to make their voices heard, got through. It was indeed a grand finale to end the concert with not just one voice but many many voices and with strings attached.

Even if the choir and orchestra did not give in to the standing ovation and audience's demand for an encore, it was a night worth remembering and to say the least to the performers, parents and the organizing committees...they "broke a big leg" that night. I couldn’t believe that such an “oasis”-quality and refreshing performance was possible in the middle of this oil rich desert where camels and sheep graze on the tiny green grasses that only grow after a fine drizzle of the season.

Serenata with Strings attached...ENCORE!

Serenata’s Next Seasons

Dads will be leaving Saudi Arabia soon to finish his doctorate degree. He is just completing his PMP Certification here in the next few weeks in preparation for job offers awaiting for him. When he leaves, I will be losing a well informed and Desert Aquaforce-appointed Blog Researcher Extraordinaire (though I hope he continues to still do it for friendship's sake...). When he leaves, I will not be able to see the next seasons of Serenata... No one will make "kulit" to call for the concert. I would want to see more of the Serenata With Their Strings Attached and as long as the desert is still my home far away from home, I will still want to hear the cherubs and seraphs serenade me with their beautiful and sweet melodious voices and be enthralled by the fascinating and spellbinding stringed instruments.

Other related links: GMA News.TV - Pinoy Children In Jeddah Wows International Community; Saudi Gazette: SERENATA Wows Multicultural Audience; Richard Nicolasora's Picture Gallery on Serenata ; You Tube's 'Serenata With Strings Attached' Grand Concert Rehearsal 2009; Serenata Jeddah String Chamber Orchestra; 'Serenata With Strings Attached' Grand Concert Rehearsal 2009 ...; Serenata 2009 - with string attached - a set on Flickr

The Serenata Season 4 Concert was graced by luminaries from the different diplomatic corps in Jeddah – Ezzedin Tago, Consul General of the Philippines, US Consul General Martin Quinnin, Japanese Consul General Toshimitsu Ishugure, and some other guests from other consular offices of other countries. Aside from a thousand Filipino expatriates there that night, there were also some Americans, Japanese, French, and Indians who attended.

Mr. Antonio P. Villamor Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Yemen flew in with his wife that afternoon, all the way from the Diplomatic Quarter in Riyadh, to give his support to the Serenata children.

The major sponsors of that concert were Western Union, American International School of Jeddah, and Toya Instant Noodles. Minor sponsors included the Philippine Sunrise International School, LaPaz Batchoy Saudi Arabia, and Sky Freight.

Picture taking was not allowed during the performance except for the official photographers assigned. Photos in the blog were taken from the Serenata Season 4 Souvenir Program & The Serenata Choir on Flickr - Photo Sharing by Edner . See also Richard Nicolasora's Picture Gallery on Serenata for more pictures.


  1. your page is very nice, as well as the inputs..

  2. Salamat sa inyong paghanga pero ako'y humahanga rin at nabibighani sa pahina ng mga pink tarha. Magaling ang inyong pagkagawa at mainam ang inyong team blogging.
    Alm kong high kayo ngaun dahil nakita nyo ang hari.

  3. My, my. I am impressed the way you detailed the Concert proper. Ang galing mo and thank you so much. Definitely, I will invite you myself and see you sa next Concert.

    Maraming salamat uli. Ang galing mo.

    Charles Tabbu

  4. Truly...the concert has been reported very well!

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  5. Hi Charles,

    Thanks for visiting my page and thank you also for assuring that I will be invited in the next Serenata Seasons. I will surely be there (God willing!)

    My blog was the least that I can do to appreciate what you guys did for Serenata With Strings Attached. It was such a wonderful evening and it is unimaginable to have happened here in Saudi Arabia.

    The choralists and instrumentalists were great! And you, who were behind the scene are just geniuses! May your tribe increase.

    You make glad the Filipino hearts and it makes me proud to be a Filipino!

  6. Gee...this is a great article! Very descriptive and a colorful one... You succeeded in bringing the concert live to the readers. You write like an events columnist now. Very well done!