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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

entry arrow10:59 PM | Moonlight Descends on a Serenade

Consider the marvelous fact that near the end of Jay Cayuca’s concert last December 1, there was dancing in the aisles of the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium. And much clapping, the kind that goes beyond a mere acknowledgment of genius: it was the very sound of an audience ambushed by a kind of music that infects a certain delirious madness.

On any other ordinary cultural event, that would have been frowned upon, this sudden gaiety in the house. Not typical for the well-heeled local crowd. Not for Dumaguete’s culturati—the ones who were there to hear a different kind of violin music on a night when, in another part of town, a certain popular singer by the name of Sarah Geronimo commandeered a larger venue and a larger crowd. (Says Manolet Teves of that event: “Sarah had to beg the crowd, ‘Palakpak naman kayo dyan.’” Ouch. But then again, Dumaguete is usually the testiest of audiences—this is the city, after all, that gave embarrassingly empty seats for Christian Bautista, threw tomatoes at the Eraserheads, sat unmoved by Kuh Ledesma, politely clapped for Gary Valenciano and Martin Nievera, and walked out in the middle of the performance of a singing boy group called Fusion Band. Observed one more friend, “The Dumaguete audience is the cruelest there is. We are not easily moved by trifle.” True.)

But for Jay Cayuca, the Luce crowd—and the segment of Dumaguete City that was there that hallowed night—had allowed itself to bow, and to jiggy, to the power of great music.

Mr. Cayuca’s repertoire that night was composed of choice cuts from his albums Moonlight Serenade and his first self-titled recording. He zinged through the Great American Songbook standards (“My Foolish Heart,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Fascination,” the theme from An Affair to Remember) and Filipino favorites (“Sino ang Baliw,” among others), and made us sing with renditions of popular Broadway fare. He tweaked the violin strings with his bow and produced the familiar strains of “The Music of the Night” from The Phantom of the Opera, and people began humming. He launched into another melody, this time from Fiddler on the Roof, and everybody began singing, “Sunrise… sunset!

And all these he did with his signature stage moves: he lurched and danced as he produced melody after melody, a kinetic presence that made us readily believe that music had its own inertia and gravity, and not just some static thing. Critics have called his act “explosive.” One has noted that “this legendary … Filipino violin virtuoso promises more than precise and expressive notes on stage—he captivates the audience with his boundless energy, exceptionally superior talent and striking good looks. His passion for the instrument and performing is highly evident in his flawless strokes and up-to-beat bodily movements. No other violinist in the world matches his unique total showmanship.”

These are kinetic words, indeed, but not without basis.

Mr. Cayuca, of course, is already well-known to those who patronize his concerts at the Manila Peninsula. And he’s been here before, the last time in 1995—the true prodigal son of the city (his mother is a Dumagueteña). But from those who are uninitiated to his brand of music, the truest statement that can be made about his performance is that he has done what seemed to be unimaginable to the violin. Doody Garcia-Carre’s comment after the show may be the most apt description of what we saw that night: “I though he was going to take his clothes off and have his way with the violin!”

Perhaps all these praises spring largely from the fact that Mr. Cayuca has managed to convince us that there was another way to regard classical music without the requisite stuffiness most of us think when we actually bother to think about it. (One regular patron, for example, explained her absence from the concert with a too-typical reply: “I’m not really into violin music.” If only she had known this was not her grandmother’s kind of violin music at all.) Mr. Cayuca has somehow managed to create a fascinating fusion of pop and classical, a distinction that has earned him the accolade of being regarded as being the best rock violinist there is.

His musical training started when he was young. Born in Butuan in 1963, he forsook his ambitions for the saxophone because of a medical condition, took to the piano but found it limiting, and then finally settled on the violin. “I told my father I wanted to play a different instrument,” he once said. “One day, I caught Ronnie Rogoff on T.V. playing the violin for the first family at Malacañan Palace, and I said to my dad, ‘That’s the instrument for me’.” He soon trained under maestros Basilio Manalo, Leonidas Domingo, Luis Valencia, and some German trainers at the University of Santo Tomas, paid his dues in cruise ships and five-star hotels worldwide, and played for top orchestras, including the Philippine Philharmonic. The rest, as they say, is history—a multi-awarded one that includes an Awit Award for Best Instrumental Performance in 2004.

For this sophomore tour of Dumaguete City, Mr. Cayuca makes history once again by doing the unthinkable—he made the Dumaguete audience stand up and dance. And he didn’t even have to beg for it.

The concert is the second event in the current cultural season sponsored by the Silliman University Cultural Affairs Committee. Upcoming shows include a concert by tenor Ramon Ma. Acoymo on January 11, the Powerdance on January 26, Pinky Amador and Bart Guingona in the play Love Letters on February 23, and the U.P. Guitar Orchestra on March 1. Tickets are available at the College of Performing Arts Office and the Luce Auditorium Office, and at the theater lobby before every show. For inquiries and ticket reservations, please call/contact Gang-gang at (035) 422-6002 loc. 520.

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