The second concert of the Samar International Music Festival lived up to its name, with some foreign nationals attending the concert of baritone Andrew Fernando, flutist Christopher Oracion and pianist Mary Anne Espina at Ciriaco Hotel in Calbayog City, Western Samar.
After a long drought of live opera music, Calbayog got to hear arias from Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro,” Verdi’s “La Traviata” and Bellini’s “Il Puritani” sung with fervor by Fernando.
The Broadway section had not a few in the audience singing with Fernando in his rendition of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Some Enchanted Evening” from “South Pacific.”
Oracion’s rendition of “Czardas” got heavy applause, and the audience realized the flute was just on the same level as the piano and violin.
Espina—laboring through an upright piano which came all the way from Catarman City—tried to make the instrument sing (the first upright from Christ the King College was far better-sounding), but her technique and solid sound made up for the inferior instrument.
With the concert ending with Fernando’s beautiful rendition of “Silent Night,” the audience was in a trance. It was evident from the happy faces the concert was the best musical gift they had in a long time.
“I didn’t expect to watch a concert of this high caliber in this place,” said Japanese music-lover Toshikazu Nojima, who ended up buying a ticket after hearing the afternoon rehearsals before the performance.
It turned out there were Japanese, Korean, Australian and Italian nationals in the audience composed mainly of the leading citizens of Calbayog City, such as Calbayog Bishop Isabelo Abarquez; Nicolas Chan and his mother Agueda; Calbayog Art Association head Armando Toleza and his family; Ronald Ricafort (representing Mayor Ronald Aquino); descendants of the late music icon of Samar, José Cinco Gomez; and members and staff of Christ The King Youth Orchestra led by Carl Bordeos.
Also in the audience was Bayan spokesperson Renato Reyes, who had visited former Collegian editor Ericson Acosta in the nearby Calbayog sub-provincial jail.
“We helped make this concert possible to make Calbayog City a regular cultural destination in this part of the Visayas,” said Chan during remarks before the concert.
Earlier, Chan hosted a sumptuous lunch for the artists and party in his beautiful farm called Mahogany Gardens. His mother cooked and, for once, we had a taste of the glorious cuisine of her generation now lost in the proliferation of fast-food chains.
We also visited the studio of painter Armando Toleza, head of the local art association.
“I am a product of the School of Hard Knocks,” said Toleza, whose paintings reflect the artistic sensibility of the place.
At the Ciriaco Hotel lobby during the concert, there was an exhibit by painter Noel Sagayap.
“We really enjoyed this concert so much,” said Italian national Franco Picelli and his wife Grace.
With those mesmerized faces, it was obvious that support given to the concert by Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento, Mayor Aquino, Chan and Ciriaco Hotel had not been in vain.
If we find the same generous sponsors next year, pianist Cecile Licad will close the Samar festival with a recital on March 27 in the same venue.
Along with the Licad concert, I hope there will be an exhibit of Calbayog-born artist Raul Isidro and a screening of a film by Chito Roño.
These are enough proof Calbayog artists are world-class.
“I hope you bring Lisa Macuja Elizalde next time,” said a beaming Bishop Abarquez after the concert.
“Only the effort of Mr. Chan can decide that,” I told His Excellency.
Upon knowing the Calbayog bishop was a fan of hers, Lisa sent the good bishop an autographed copy of her biography.
I took a good look at the Calbayog Convention Center and realized the bishop’s dream ballet-performance might become possible.