Under the trees at the Ford Amphitheater, ‘Serenata Filipina’ perks up OPM fans

Annie Nepomuceno

Annie Nepomuceno

Harana Men's Choir

Harana Men’s Choir

Mon David

Mon David

By Dante Ochoa

If an immigrant to the U.S. during the mid-seventies did not keep abreast of Philippine songs and songwriters (no, two-week vacations, travel time included, every 10 years will not cut it), then he would have missed the Original Pilipino Music (OPM) revolution of the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, and would have been clueless as to why Magic Mike’s SIM card lists “classic” Philippine songs he cannot sing.

Thankfully, you did keep up and you have in your memory banks not only Pilita Corrales, Nora Aunor, Victor Wood or Eddie Peregrina but also Apo Hiking Society, Basil Valdez, Ryan Cayabyab, Rey Valera, Freddie Aguilar, Sharon Cuneta, Gary V, Martin Nievera, Regine Velasquez, Lani Misalucha.

You will be up there with the hip if you recognize Eraserheads, Smokey Mountain or Rivermaya.

Of course, “Manila Sound” bands like Hot Dog (Pers Lab, Manila, Ikaw ang Miss Universe ng Buhay Ko) and Cinderella (T.L. Ako Sa’yo, Ang Boyfriend Kong Baduy) are a given, being the musical genre that blazed the trail for OPM.

And if you attended the Serenata Filipina on Sunday, Aug. 17, at the woodsy John Anson Ford Amphitheater then you will have filled more gaps and added a hundred points to your Philippine musical IQ.

Music Arts Events, a Filipino-American musical event production company headed by well-known vocal coach-music arranger Annie Nepomuceno and her husband, skilled choral conductor and orchestrator Ed Nepomuceno, presented Serenata Filipina featuring the best of OPM. It did not disappoint. It won over hearts and minds with classic OPMs — musical compositions by Philippine songwriters for Filipino artists — that were most popular during ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90.

Co-sponsored with the Philippine Patron of the Arts USA, the show benefits the UP Alumni Association of Greater Los Angeles (UPAAGLA) scholarship fund.

Headlined by Mon David, winner of the 2006 London International Jazz competition and by the Harana Men’s Chorus, the performing cast included Annie Nepomuceno, the show’s producer-director, a Philippine Grammy awardee and a celebrated vocalist for the Filipino American Symphony Orchestra (FASO), Lara Avengoza, a popular vocalist and Disney performer ( Princess Jasmine in Aladdin! A Musical Spectacular, Mulan), Louise Marie Cornillez, an upcoming vocalist with FASO (Miss Saigon, The King and I and Xanadu), Erwin Andaya, a featured vocalist of Harana Men’s Chorus, Josie Gonzalez, popular vocalist (FilAmJam), Amin Baghallian, the evening’s brilliant saxophonist and the duo of Nicole and Carlo David, Philippine performers (album “Simula”).

Session musicians under the direction of Ed Nepomuceno at the piano were Myke Gonzaga, guitar; Jerry Cruz, bass; Rolly Quizon, drum; and Marty Dumaual, sax.

Serenata Filipina’s repertoire sliced through the golden years of OPM, first paying homage to the traditional and regionalistic folksongs like the Bicolandia’s Sarungbanggi, the Pampango Atin Cu Pung Singsing and the Tagalog’s Neneng, covering the assertive breakout of “Manila Sound” genre songwriters, a period that reflected a society getting comfortable in its own skin and embracing its own culture and language, and finally, the beloved OPM in full bloom when the nineties came along.

OPM is all about Philippine ballads, as musical authorities point out as the main difference from its precedent “Manila Sound” genre. Aptly, producer-director Annie Nepomuceno arrayed works of songwriters Mon David (Bilib Ako Sa Pinoy), Ryan Cayabyab (Hibang sa Awit), Joel Navarro (Swerte-Swerte Lang), a Pampanga folksong (Atin Cu Pung Singsing), Potenciano Gregorio (Sarungbanggi), Rodolfo de Leon (Neneng), Greg Labja (Usahay), Noel Cabangon (Kanlungan), Dojie Simon (Ikaw Lamang) and medleys from Apo Hiking Society members-songwriters Jim Paredes (Panalangin, Mahirap Magmahal ng Syota ng Iba) and Danny Javier (Pumapatak ang Ulan) and songwriters Louie Ocampo and Rowena Arrieta (Ewan).

After an intermission, songwriters featured were Rey Valera (Mr. DJ), Cecile Azarcon (Kahit Maputi na ang Buhok Ko), Odette Quesada (Ikaw ang Lahat sa Akin), George Canseco (Ngayon at Kailanman, Ikaw), Louie Ocampo (Ikaw Lang Ang Mamahalin), Willy Cruz (Sana Ay Wala Nang Wakas) and Mon David (May Minamahal, Never Say Goodbye), Ray Alinsod and Levi Celerio (Pipit)

Finally, Serenata tackled the Manila Sound genre (a bit like an afterthought) with Hot Dog founders Rene and Dennis Garcia (Manila Manila, Annie Batungbakal, Bongga Ka ‘Day), Vic Sotto and Joey de Leon (Ang Boyfriend Kong Baduy, Awitin Mo, Tayo’y Magsayawan) and Norman Caraan (Sumayaw, Sumunod).

The evening’s finale showcased Hollywood couturier Alexis Monsanto design creations for Binibining Pilipinas USA candidates and the 5Diamond models.

Post-show comments indicate the OPM genre has a very strong and diverse following (they filled up the Ford Amphitheater at show time) and the emergence of Fil-Am artists with solid fan bases, concerts on Philippine music and artists will continue to trend among young and old, FilAm and FilAmphiles alike.

Sabrina, a 15 year old Fil-Am fan of Beyoncé and Ariana Grande has room for FilAm artists: “I like them all especially the David duo (Nicole and Carlo) and the sax player Amin Baghallian. They’re good just like the American talents I follow. I go to Filipino shows all the time and will continue in the future.”

John Davis, a former NBC entertainment producer, was all praises for the show and the artists: “It’s a great show and great talents, I like it…I can really feel the song the way they sang it. . . they’re really good.”

Enie Ramos, of San Gabriel, who brought a throng of members from Philippine Cultural Center to the show expecting their fill of Philippine music and culture agreed: “It was a great show… good for Philippine culture.”

Members of press club (from left) Lydia Solis, Rose Vella, Dante and Cecile Ochoa, Susan Zabala and Pasiguenians officer Ennie Ramos

Members of press club (from left) Lydia Solis, Rose Vella, Dante and Cecile Ochoa, Susan Zabala and Pasiguenians officer Ennie Ramos

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