It’s all about music

Orly Mercado

Posted on September 10, 2007

Like most of us who at the end the day, want get our minds out of work, I was about to put on a movie in my DVD player. But I cannot help my obsessive-compulsive bent. I had to check the news first. I got stuck in the TV coverage of the funeral service for the famed tenor Luciano Pavarotti.

It was the music that kept me from my movie. Andrea Bocelli capped the service with a song. I could not ignore the comments of the announcer, citing some unnamed critics, who claim that Pavarotti “sold out” as an opera singer and “went into show business.”

What are they saying, I asked myself. They should be thankful for what Pavarotti has done for the opera. For us who grew up in the slums of Manila, Pavarotti reminds us of the likes of Mario Lanza who raised our level of music appreciation.

My father’s generation loved Enrico Caruso. Now, I cannot do without Andrea Bocelli as his songs from his album “Amore” even help me relearn my Spanish. I still cannot understand Italian. But for the opera, it’s all about the music. Yeah, these guys “sold out.” They were not elitist. They reached out to a larger audience, and succeeded.

Many, like me, rarely go to the opera. But together with good symphonic music in our I-pods we survive the humdrum of our daily existence. Every day, as I board the train here in Kobe, I hang on to that strap, together with countless Japanese “salarymen” and women who listen to their own music. Sometimes, I try to imagine what they are listening to on their earphones. The slight nodding of the head or the gentle movements of fingers hardly gives me a hint. That is fine with me. Most of my colleagues say my appearance hardly betrays the fact that I am not Japanese. But even in a crowded train, I am in my native Philippines, as I listen to my favorite “kundiman” or love songs of old.

The Beatles, Jack Jones, Vic Damone, Tony Bennett, Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, and many more just bring me back to the days when I was a disc jockey on radio. It is wonderful how personalized music listening has become. My wife Susy can’t live without music. She is either listening or singing. This Sunday, our son, had to be left alone in the pew of our church as his mom had to sing in the choir and I had to help with the sound system. As I glanced at him, I was reminded of Pavarotti, who said listening to his father sing in church inspired him to be a singer. Our boy Renzo may or may not grow up to be an opera singer, but a love for music will keep him steady in a world moving at a dizzying pace.

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