Jeffrey Ching magnetizes; BM choreographers enthrall

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Rosalinda L. Orosa

Rosalinda L. Orosa

The Oxford dictionary defines: “magnetism” as the ability to engage or charm people. The music of internationally awarded Jeffrey Ching fits the definition to the fullest measure.

For the CCP concert, his erudite, scholarly and highly complex program notes were doubtless beyond the average ken. Therefore, I shall describe the concert in layman’s language, hopefully without risking the composer’s displeasure.

Only such exceptional and seasoned artists as Fil-Spanish soprano Andion Fernandez (Ching’s wife), Brazilian cellist Matias Oliveira Pinto and Japanese pianist Kiai Nara could have interpreted the atonal “Celestial-Infernal Grand Nuptial Rites” to the composer’s gratification.

Andion sang unconnected top notes in brief intervals sustaining them with marvelous power, superb control and resonance. At times, she plucked the strings of the cello, waved the bow or struck temple blocks.


Matias’ tones were masterfully robust or soft; occasionally, he plucked the strings; once, he vigorously and defiantly waved his bow in the air, and beat the cello. Kiai, standing throughout, her back to the audience, challengingly plucked or struck the piano strings with two percussion mallets. All artists merely followed what the score specified, their impeccable collaboration apparent.

Titled “Fusion” the concert fused the artists’ talents qualifying Jeffrey’s introductory statements that his compositions would be distinctly exotic, unique, arrantly unconventional music.

Although Ching beforehand said his arrangements of Schumann and Wagner would be more traditional, the romantic lyricism of Schumann and the shimmering glow of Wagner were diminished.

Yet, only a genius like Ching, whose inherent talent was nurtured in the universities of Harvard, Cambridge and London, could have “shocked us out of our comfort zones”, to use his own words. The fusion of diverse sources—ancient music (particularly Chinese), European neo-classic, classic, romantic and Euro-American contemporary produced a tremendously dramatic and magnetic effect that beguiled, bewitched and bewildered, the transcendental, mystifying music leaving the spiritually oriented in a trance. Two encores ensued after the resounding ovation: a romantic song—Schumann’s Widmung, if memory serves me right and another unorthodox piece.

Meanwhile, Ballet Manila opened its recent concert with Luzviminda Fernandez reading Lola Basyang’s tales offstage to her grandchildren. Soon, a grand-daughter, Missy Macuja Elizalde, introduces the first tale by dancing charmingly onstage, as she will do for the other two “kuwentos.”

Severino Reyes’ stories, told in ballet form with touches of folk and Oriental dances (Chinese and Indian), transport the viewers to a fairyland of magic and illusion enhanced by fanciful costumes, spectacular stage sets and décor. As excellent soloists, the ballerinas were fluidly graceful, their extensions remarkably high; the danseurs soared or turned seamlessly, and lent their partners firm support. The outstanding performance of both the principals and vast ensembles was typical of BM headed by artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde whose incomparable dancing was sorely missed.

The story-lines of Osias Barroso’s “Ang Prinsipe ng mga Ibon” to Mon Faustino’s musical arrangement, and of Tony Fabella’s “Ang Mahiwagang Byulin” to Cayabyab’s music, were very clearly delineated. In the former, Brian Williams was magnificent as the arrogant King implacably objecting to the Bird Prince (Elpidio Magat/Rudy de Dios) as his daughter’s suitor. The beautiful Katherine Barkman, the Princess, brilliantly interrupted her role with regal elegance. Even as she turns into a bird, her father watches unmoved as the lovers fly to the Bird Kingdom. (This feat, and many others devised by BM, remain unmatched.)

How delightfully amusing was Fabella’s choreography! Rodrigo (Gerardo Francisco) works to the bone for Ahab (Michael Divinagracia) who refuses to pay him his salary. The hilarious miming and brisk dancing of servant and master, and of the disciplined, cohesive ensemble, drew hearty laughter.

Choreographed by Lisa, Barroso, Ernest Mandap and Francisco, “Ang Kapatid ng Tatlong Marya” was intriguing in its intricate unfolding, enlivened by three enchanted kingdoms and a frightfully large, long snake—these enriching the search for Pedro (Alvin Snatos), the brother of the three Maryas represented by strikingly skilled Joan Emery Sia, Abigail Oliveiro and Violet Hong.

At concert’s end, the huge assemblage—what an incredible sight onstage!—bade the audience a rousing farewell.

Once again, Lisa’s Ballet Manila brought ballet to the people.

Cecile Licad plays on October 2
Top international pianist Cecile Licad will perform on October 2, 7pm, at a benefit Francisfest concert in Santuario de San Antonio Forbes which is celebrating its 40th (Ruby) anniversary.

The ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra under Gerard Salonga will assist Cecile. Amelita
Guevara is Francisfest chairman.

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