There are two shows worth watching this Valentine week; in fact, you can make it to both gigs if your schedule and budget allow.
First is “We Got the Love: The Greatest Hits Reunion,” featuring 11 all-star members of the defunct groups Circus Band and New Minstrels, on Feb. 13 and 14 (PICC, Pasay), and 15 (SMX Convention Center, Davao).
This “reunion” concert has become sort of a series, because it has been staged annually for the past few years. Last year’s edition, also at PICC, was reportedly a sold-out affair.
Last week we dropped in at a Quezon City studio to chat with the performers in between their meeting with concert director Tats Rejante-Manahan and vocal rehearsals.
P35 talent fee
Hajji Alejandro—who with Basil Valdez, Jacqui Magno, Tillie Moreno and Pat Castillo represent the Circus Band—remembered getting paid P35 for his first gig with the group at Wells Fargo on Roxas Blvd.
“My parents didn’t know I was singing in a nightclub. I told them I was just attending a party,” said Hajji, who was then still in college at the Ateneo.
Basil, Hajji’s schoolmate, and the one who asked him to join the auditions for Circus Band, recalled that he was looking forward to getting a Master’s degree in Philosophy in Belgium when singing sidetracked him, for good.
Tillie and Pat also never thought that joining the band would change their lives.
The 1970s were an exciting period musically when Circus Band and the New Minstrels became the hottest acts on nightclub row on Roxas Blvd. All sorts of drugs were also in abundance, even if it was martial law in the Philippines; indulging in chemicals was a natural thing for musicians.
Pat admitted she did try smoking weed, although it never became a habit and did not lead to hard and dangerous stuff.
In the midst of fame after leaving Circus and going solo, Jacqui said she found peace by doing yoga through Ananda Marga.
For Joey Albert and Chad Borja—who joined the Minstrels after the earlier batch of Louie Reyes, Ray-An Fuentes, Ding Mercado and Eugene Villaluz had left—pursuing a music career came hand-in-hand with dealing with the pain of losing loved ones.
Chad’s father died when he was about to start singing professionally; Joey’s dad passed away when she was starting to get noticed as a young singer.
Ray-An said his first life-changing moment came when he met Mei-ling Gozum, who would become his wife. He was then singing with the group Fourth Congregation, and Mei-ling was already with the Minstrels. “I was curious about her, she had a nice, unique name,” Ray-An recalled.
If the music of the ’60s broke new ground with the British Invasion (The Beatles, Rolling Stones), the sound of the ’70s expanded with an explosion of sub-genres: hard rock (Led Zeppelin); soft rock (James Taylor, Carole King); country rock (Linda Ronstadt, Eagles); progressive rock (Frank Zappa, Yes); punk rock (Sex Pistols, The Clash); funk (Kool & the Gang, Earth, Wind & Fire), disco (Donna Summer), and so on.
You’ll hear songs of some of these artists, plus a few from the ’60s, at the PICC concert.
Tats was going over the repertoire with the artists upon our arrival in the studio; we noticed one or two tunes added, as the artists deliberated on the sequence changes while laughing at quips and side comments.
“That’s 24 songs, but tight enough,” said Louie. The show last September had more numbers, Pat noted, but ended very late in the evening.
In any case, the gig is intended to refresh the memories of baby boomers. “That was a golden age in music,” said Ding, who went on to become a TV personality in Hong Kong after winning a singing competition as a solo act.
“But we had to ‘stay-in’ at Wells Fargo because of the curfew,” reminded Eugene.
Before the ’70s ended, most of them had achieved mainstream stardom, especially Basil, who pointed out that his signature hit, “Ngayon at Kailan Man” (written by George Canseco) was “the original Filipino pop song.” Hajji’s “Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika” (Ryan Cayabyab) opened the gates for a wave of new songs dubbed OPM.
Of course you’ll hear them all, too, at the show.
(For tickets, call tel. 8919999.)
The second concert worth going to despite the traffic is “ValenTunes with the CompanY,” featuring the five-member vocal group The CompanY, Feb. 14, Crowne Plaza hotel (Ortigas Ave. cor. Asian Development Bank Ave. adjacent to Robinsons Galleria).
In the past several years that we’ve seen The CompanY perform, the group has been consistently good, its vocal prowess and arrangements getting better as its members—Moy Ortiz (bass), Annie Quintos (soprano 2), Cecile Bautista (alto), Sweet Plantado (soprano 1), Jay Marquez (tenor 1), age.
This is a dinner show, so be early to avoid Valentine’s Day traffic on Edsa.