Piano hunt for Cecile Licad concert series in Visayas

‘You have to open the music, so to speak, and see what’s behind the notes’
/ 05:03 AM November 28, 2018
Cecile Licad and the late Van Cliburn: Both are recipients of the Leventritt Award.

Cecile Licad and the late Van Cliburn: Both are recipients of the Leventritt Award.

Cecile Licad returns to Iloilo where she performed 43 years ago when she was only 14.

A few weeks ago, she received an award at the Carnegie Hall, New York, as one of the outstanding Filipinos in America. Instead of an acceptance speech, Licad played Chopin’s “Minute Waltz” in exactly 60 seconds.


“You could hear a pin drop when she performed,” another awardee remarked.

After her Nov. 27 Manila concert, she heads to Iloilo City for a series of recitals that will open at Nelly Garden in Jaro on Nov. 29, 6:30 p.m.


Concert preparations

Preparations for a Licad concert always start with a long, arduous piano hunt. There are a couple of good pianos at SM Iloilo but they can’t be moved to a concert venue like the Molo Church unless you buy them.

My piano tuner snuck into the piano room of an Iloilo school auditorium and found a good Kawai baby grand. But on this latest visit, the piano had deteriorated.

Thankfully there was a G-3 Yamaha baby grand available.

I don’t have a problem at Nelly Garden since it has a good 1929 New York Steinway grand. The venue rental is almost prohibitive, but any way you look at it, the dent in your pocket is all worth it. The heritage house is simply stunning.

The Licad concert on Dec. 8 is in Roxas City.

Cheryl del Rosario of Roxas City Museum led me to several houses with pianos. I realized then that we had to work double time to find a good piano.


There was a Steinway piano in Ivisan town owned by a family of painters, but it had seen better days.

There was another in the house of a doctor that was good for accompaniment, but not for a recital. Before driving to the airport, we passed by a businessman’s house with a Yamaha grand. It was fairly good, even with one or two keys not functioning.

Cecile Licad and sonOtavio

Cecile Licad and sonOtavio

There was a brand-new Yamaha piano in the lobby of a Roxas City hotel, but the owner wouldn’t allow it to be moved. It could be used only if the concert were held in their hotel, which was out of the question.

The months before a concert can be draining. You panic over plane tickets (PAL approved two token tickets but subject to seat availability), you work to death on souvenir programs with no ad revenue in sight, and for once, you have to rely on the generosity of friends and strangers.

Because the Iloilo concerts are set for the next two weeks, I have to advance writing deadlines before dealing with piano trucks and piano movers. But then I hope that the concerts will show people that there is more to music than defining and discussing it in humanities classes.

As legendary pianist Vladimir Horowitz once said, “You have to open the music, so to speak, and see what’s behind the notes, because the notes are the same whether it is the music of Bach or someone else.” —CONTRIBUTED

Cecile Licad will perform for the first time at Nelly Garden in Iloilo City on Nov. 29, 6 p.m.; Molo Church on Nov. 30, 6:30 p.m. There will also be performances at SM Iloilo, CAP Auditorium in Baguio City, and the Gerry Roxas Auditorium in Roxas City. For inquiries on the Nelly Garden recital, contact 09065104270; for the Molo Church concert, 09498894534; for the Baguio concert, 7827164, 09183473027 and 09209540053.

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