Archive for the music Category

A tribute to my guitar teacher

Posted in music on February 10, 2012 by gohelpyourself

My guitar hero, Franco, leftmost holding a trophy, is shown here with the other winners. Guess who's the "girl magnet"?

By Anthony O. Alcantara

Disguised as an impresario who organizes megabuck shows, I went to the Cultural Center of the Philippines recently to watch Guitar Forays, the closing concert of the 2012 Philippine International Guitar Festival and Competition. To my deep shock and chagrin, nobody even acknowledged my presence.

And when I got rid of my disguise, nobody even noticed. So I just assumed my usual role–the unobtrusive fly on the wall.

My unobtrusiveness was momentarily disrupted when Mr. Greg Yu, also a good-looking fly but so much more wealthier and older and a bit chubbier, announced the champion of the competition. It was my guitar teacher, Franco Maigue.

I would have wanted to high five Tony Boy Cojuangco, who was only two meters away from me. But Gretchen Barreto was beside him. And I feared for my life when I saw her expensive-looking high heels, which appeared very capable of inflicting unimaginable pain.

Beautiful guitars

So it was with great joy that I clapped and cheered for Franco. He won a Yuichi Imai Limited Model guitar worth $12,000, or more than half a million pesos, and P35,000 in cash. The second placer was Takashi Endo of Japan. He brought home a Milagro Guitar by Neris Gonzalez and P20,000 in cash. Worrapat Yansupap of Thailand was third place. He won an Armando Derecho Concert Guitar and P15,000 in cash. There was also a special prize for Best Filipino Guitarist, which Roneil Santos won. He got a Milagro guitar, too.

Japanese luthier Yuichi Imai, right, tells Franco how to install the strap for the guitar case. One day I hope to play with Franco's precious guitar.

Four years ago, I took lessons from Franco. He already had a reputation for excellent guitar playing at that time, and he seemed to be popular with the girls. Hoping to imbibe his great guitar playing, and not necessarily his celebrity status with girls, I asked him to teach me the basics of classical guitar.

I was not really a beginner. I taught myself to play the instrument in high school. But then, I’ve developed bad habits. Franco fixed the bad habits, though sometimes now they have a way of creeping back.

He taught me what a solid top guitar was. At that time, all guitars looked pretty solid to me. He also taught me how to use a nail file and sandpaper for my fingernails.

Playing with the heart

Anyway, I didn’t see him play during the competition because of work. I heard that his competitors–who came from the US, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan–were a formidable lot. Some demonstrated technically flawless guitar playing.

They said that what made Franco win, despite having exceeded the allotted time, was how he made the judges feel the music, with puso, with heart. The judges, who were all foreigners, felt it.

In the end, playing with heart may be more important than playing flawlessly. Playing with emotion may matter more than not missing a single note. Winning hearts may be more fulfilling than winning a competition.

And I congratulate Franco for his hard-won and well-deserved victory.

(If you want to know more about classical guitar playing, the Guitar Friends, and the Philippine International Guitar Festival and Competition, check this out:



Filipino Guitar Heroes

Posted in music on September 30, 2011 by gohelpyourself

These guitarists love to fondle their instruments. (Photo stolen from the CCP website. Sorry.)

By Anthony O. Alcantara

It is my first time to watch a guitar concert at the CCP. I am alone in my row. My seat number is N 13, and it’s smack in the middle of Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino, or the CCP Little Theater.

The cameramen know that sweet spot, too. Fortunately, they have placed their two huge video cameras in the row just behind me. If I raise my hands and wave in the middle of the show, my hands would surely be labeled in the archives as the “Hands of the idiot on N 13.”

It’s a nice thought. Probably a good title for a novel. But I am there for the “Men with Guitars” concert of Ramoncito B. Carpio and Arthur Erskine M. Basilio. I don’t know them. I just love guitar music and it’s just the perfect opportunity to watch live classical guitar playing.

Carpio won 1st prize in the 2011 Philippine International Guitar Competition, while Basilio won the special prize “Best Filipino Guitarist” in the same competition.

Accomplished musician

As the lights dim in the theater and the audience suddenly goes quiet, Basilio enters the stage. He is wearing a white long-sleeved shirt, black coat, black slacks, but no tie. He takes the seat at the middle of the stage and fixes the unbottoned cuffs of his shirt, making sure they don’t get in the way of his playing.

Basilio is a well-accomplished musician. He studied guitar under Prof. Ruben Reyes at the University of Sto. Tomas. He won the UST Guitar competition in 2000, and he was 3rd Place in the 2006 NAMCYA Guitar Competition – Category C.

He writes music for the guitar, too, and has explored jazz, rock, and theater music. He is a member of the guitar faculty at the UST Conservatory of Music.

Basilio now takes his time fixing his clothing, and I take my time admiring his guitar, a splendid work of art by Filipino luthier Armando Derecho. The guitar is immaculate and beautiful. It’s something I would have wanted to caress myself. Basilio now fixes a wedge-like guitar rest. Maybe he doesn’t like using foot stools. He takes some deep breaths, fixes his sleeves a few more times. The ring on his right ring finger sparkles. I’m not sure if it’s a diamond, but it sure looks expensive. Then he examines the fingers of his right hand, as if contemplating to get a nail file to buff his fingernails. Too bad I didn’t bring mine.

Warming up

Suddenly he unleashes a flurry of notes. Wow. The sensuous way he fingers his guitar is awesome. The first piece, Capriccio Diabolico, sounded diabolic indeed. But there were bumpy parts.

He eventually warms up into his jazz pieces, and he becomes noticeably more fluent and relaxed. His genius comes into view. He becomes more natural as he plays the One Note Samba, whose music he arranged himself.

Finally, he performs his last piece Dawn of the final day by Francis Kleynjans. The haunting sounds make a few strands of hair on my arms stand. I expect more eeriely beautiful sounds from his beautiful guitar. But it’s the end of the piece.

A string of awards

It’s Carpio’s turn after the break. He wears basically the same outfit as Basilio. I learn from the program that Carpio earned his Bachelor of Music degree in Guitar from the University of the Philippines under the tutelage of Prof. Lester B. Demetillo, whose enviable reputation in my circle of friends precedes him.

Carpio also won 2nd Prize at the 2009 National Music Competitions for Young Artists, 3rd Prize at the 2010 Bangkok International Guitar Competition, and 3rd Prize at the 2011 Singapore International Guitar Competition.

He writes music for the guitar, for the stage, and for short films, and websites. He is taking his Master’s degree in Guitar at the Philippine Women’s University under Prof. Benchito Carino, whose reputation is a mystery to me, owing mainly to my limited network and ignorance.

As Carpio takes his seat, I notice the beauty of his guitar. Could this be the Yuichi Imai? Could this be the US$12,000 guitar that he won in the competition early this year? I confirmed later that it was so.

Beautiful tone

Upon hearing the first notes of his piece Fantasia by Francisco Tarrega, I savor the beauty of his tone. Could it be the guitar? My doubts about this virtuoso quickly vanish when I hear him play his other pieces, Allegro Assai by Johann Sebastian Bach, Variation Mignonnes by Johann Kaspar Mertz, Elegia por la Muerte de un Tanguero by Maximo Pujol, and Stele by Phillip Houghton.

His tremolos are even, reflecting his superb technique. His speed and finger dexterity look effortless. He appears to fondle his guitar, caressing his instrument and his music, coaxing both to stir the emotions of the audience. The audience responds with hearty applause.

I clap hard too. I think of raising my arms in delight but then I remember the cameras behind me.

Fitting crescendo

The last part consists of a guitar duet of Vistas de los Angeles by Laurindo Almeida. The sight of two great guitarists playing with verve and passion delivers a fitting crescendo for this night of world-class guitar music.

The crescendo doesn’t stop there, though. They still play an encore piece, Rosas Pandan, a folk song from the Visayas. I feel like singing. I know the song.

When I went home that night, I asked myself why I hadn’t been watching guitar concerts at the CCP more often.

Why indeed? I guess the “Idiot at N 13” has finally learned to be a little more cultured that night.


Where there is ACS

Posted in music on September 28, 2011 by gohelpyourself
By Anthony O. Alcantara

Those who sing in choirs can probably relate to this.

When watching other choirs perform, you can’t help but compare the sound to your own choir. You can’t help but compare the sound to your batch. You can’t help but compare the sound to that imaginary perfect choir, whose members have the musicality of long-dead geniuses, and who possess that rare gift of perfect pitch.

I once tried to have perfect pitch. I used a software I found on the internet. Unfortunately, I got everything confused with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. It was all relative since then, and my neurons were indefinitely distended from both ends by a worm hole.

Anyway, I must admit to this relatively unconscious comparison when I watched the Ateneo Chamber Singers (ACS) during their concert entitled “Where there is Love” at the Philamlife Theater recently.

The ACS is known for sacred choral music. For the first time, however, they decided to be a little flexible. They included love songs in the second part.

How I loved the second part. It included songs from their latest album, “Love I’ve Found In You.” I loved the songs of Trina Belamide, Arnel de Pano and Von de Guzman. I loved the solos and the duets and the arrangements.

Make no mistake about it. I loved the first part, too. It was vintage ACS sound, and it’s to be expected. Even with my eyes closed, I could feel conductor Jojo Velasco moving his arms and swaying as he skillfully shaped the music to create a masterpiece of aural beauty and sophistication.

But the second part was just a delightful surprise. They even had some choreography.

“How was the second part? Was the choreography bad? We only practiced that a few days ago,” one member told me.

Bad? I was thoroughly entertained by the music, their voices, and, heck, even the video. How could it be bad?

Of course, being a former member of the ACS, I could be biased. But who isn’t? We all have biases.

After watching the concert with my wife, who enjoyed it as well, I realized why I had my unconscious comparisons. I missed singing with the ACS.

The ACS concert was a work of love. And if there is love, nothing else matters much. Not even the perceived mistakes.


The rewards of joining the Madz Et Al Festival

Posted in learning, music on May 3, 2010 by gohelpyourself

By Anthony O. Alcantara

Too few rehearsals, difficult notes to master, raw voices that need a lot of polishing, costumes that need to be made, tickets that need to be sold, and a few kids with the attention spans of a gold fish.

Why deal with all this just to join the 2010 Madz Et Al Festival?

Well, despite the headaches, it’s fun and challenging. Our kids at the Shrine of Jesus Children’s Choir (SOJCC) often ask, “Kelan tayo magpe-perform sa Philam?” “Kelan tayo magpe-perform ulit sa CCP?”

They get excited by a lot of things. And we like it. At least we know they’re motivated enough to practice. Of course, not all of them are excited about the same things. Some are excited just to be with the other members of the choir who have become their playmates. Some are excited about the free tour at the CCP. Some are excited to perform for their grandmas and grandpas. And some are excited to see the boys of another choir.

Yes, some of our members are teenagers already. They have crushes and they experience puppy love. And we thought they’d be excited only about puppies. These kids grow fast. But then again, some of them have been with us for four years already.

The wacky SOJCC with their serious-looking conductor, Em Alcantara, 2nd row, center.

Aside from the excitement, letting the kids join the Festival is a way of directing their attention to possibilities and opening up their minds through new experiences. The Madz Et Al Festival, entitled “Choral Rhythms” this year, is an annual choral festival where choirs handled by former members and trainees of the Philippine Madrigal Singers get to perform. A lot of these choirs have won international awards already.

The Tala Choir conducted by Oscar Pantaleon Jr. was a joy to watch. They play instruments now. The “Waters of March” composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim and arranged by Oscar was a good one.

There were five other adult choirs during the first day of the Madz Et Al Festival. The Singles for Christ Chorale Manila conducted by Rivah Anne Singson performed three songs. I think “Fly Me to the Moon” was their best.

Among the songs performed by the DSWD Chorale conducted by Anna Tabita Abeleda-Piquero, I think “Lollipop” was very entertaining and memorable. My sister-in-law kept on singing it after the concert.

The conductors during the 1st day of the Madz Et Al Festival bow after the finale song. From left: Oscar Pantaleon Jr., Mary Louise "Em" Alcantara, Mark Anthony Carpio, Anna Piquero, Rivah Anne Singson and Warlito Yalung.

The Koro Ilustrado, also conducted by Anna Piquero, performed a well-applauded “Doobidoo,” composed by Danny Javier and arranged by her. The negro spiritual “John Saw the Numbuh” was I think the best song performed by the AUP Celestial Echoes conducted by Warlito Yalung.

The University of the East Chorale’s “Fever,” composed by Eddie Cooley and John Davenport and arranged by Anna Piquero, was a crowd favorite. I think the choral arrangement, instrumentation, choreography and the red light had something to do with it.

Our kids at the SOJCC could only experience these in the Madz Et Al Festival.

Preparing for the Festival was also about the discipline and enjoyment of music. Learning the songs is hard work. But there’s no reason the process can’t be enjoyable, too.

My wife Em, the conductor of the choir, taught them “Father in Heaven,” a song by Angus Hibbard and Friedrich Flemming and arranged by Andrew Hawryluk. The second song, “Sitsiritsit” arranged by Lucio San Pedro, was a bit more challenging. Fortunately, the kids learned them eventually.

The last song was “With a Little Help from my Friends” composed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and arranged by Barrie Carson Turner. A little swaying and head movements were all the visual embellishments we could add, aside from the costumes. No time for more complicated choreography.

Make-up 101: Finally, kids get to practice their Barbie doll skills.

The tutti song–“Hallelujiah” by George Friedrich Handel with a gospel arrangement by Mervyn Warren, Michael O. Jackson and Mark Kibble and adapted by John Higgins–was conducted by Mark Anthony A. Carpio, choirmaster of the Philippine Madrigal Singers.

When our kids joined their first Madz Et Al Festival two years ago, they just listened in awe to the other adults singing with their powerful voices during the rehearsal of the finale song where all choirs participate. They got used to it eventually. Now they can sing with any monster choir.

Em and I think the kids did much better compared to last year’s performance. The old-timers’ voices gelled better and soared with the high notes, while the many newbies were catching up vocally.

Monsignor Bobby Canlas, our rector at the Shrine of Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life, back row, center, tries to be wacky with the kids, too.

We’re also glad that the parents appreciated what we’re trying to do. Bringing the kids to practice and waiting and waiting have been a big part of the kids’ success in the concert. We heard that some of the kids’ teachers enjoyed the concert, too.

So will we join the Madz Et Al Festival next year? You bet.

(For more information about the SOJCC, please go to If you want to experience the Madz Et Al Festival and watch other great choirs perform, you can still do so. The concerts will be held everyday from May 2 to 7, 2010. Please check: or