JOSE MARI CHAN IN OUR HEARTS
Manila, December 14, 2002 (STAR) FUNFARE by Ricardo F. Lo - Itís again the time of the year when, day in and day out, from early morn till late at night, we get a lift from all those beautiful, many of them nostalgic, Christmas songs, giving us a much-needed respite from all the grim and gloomy news about killings and bombings and calamities (natural and/or man-made) from every nook and cranny of the world.
You have your favorite Christmas song, Iím sure, but mine is and will always be Ė you guessed it Ė Christmas in Our Hearts, a duet by Jose Mari Chan and his daughter Liza Chan-Parpan, not because Joe Mari is my friend but because, well, itís a moving song, touching my heart the way Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas does (especially the line, Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow).
Millions must also like Christmas in Our Hearts because the album, released by Universal Records in 1990, reaches the "platinum" mark every Christmas Season and is now nearing the "double diamond" mark (at least 800,000 units sold or 20 times "platinum"), making it the biggest-selling (local) Christmas album.
Thereís a story behind Christmas in Our Hearts and Iíll let Joe Mari himself tell it.
"The Holy Spirit works in magnificent ways. The song Christmas In Our Hearts began as a Filipino poem entitled Ang Tubig ay Buhay, written by Chari Cruz Zarate whose high school class was celebrating their Silver Jubilee. Their class asked me to set this poem to music. The meter was so lilting that it only took me half a day to come up with the melody. In 1990 when my first Christmas album started production, I thought of giving the melody a new personality by turning it into a Christmas carol.
"Around that time I was coming out from a Sunday Mass when a young lady approached me and tapped on my windshield, introduced herself as a young songwriter interested in collaborating with me. Her name was Rina CaŮiza and after a few back and forth, Christmas in Our Hearts was born.
"We all thought that Lea Salonga and I would make the perfect pair for the song. Unfortunately, her studio contract would not permit her to record for another label and with only two weeks to go before our scheduled release, someone suggested that I ask my 19-year-old daughter Liza instead. Liza had to learn the song quickly and go into recording the next day. It could not have been better the way the Holy Spirit worked it out: father and daughter singing a melody thatís a blend of East and West, delivering the real message of Christmas."
Another Jose Mari Chan Christmas song played not as often as Christmas in Our Hearts is but just as beautiful/nostalgic is Christmas Past, included in Joe Mariís album Thank You, Love. Thereís also an interesting story behind Christmas Past whose melody was written by Louie Ocampo.
"With the passing away of my dad (Tony Chan) in 1994, my lyrics naturally took on a very intimately personal character.
"As high school boarders at Iloiloís St. Clementís in the early í60s, we would wake up at dawn to the beautiful sound of St. Clementís church bells playing Christmas hymns heralding the daily Misa de Gallo. Listening to those bells while looking out the window towards the western skyscape, a solitary star hanging in the dark blue clouds brought me such a warm magical kind of feeling in those cool December mornings, an image forever etched in my mind which I tried to paint in the song."
Christmas in Our Hearts and Christmas Past are only two of the hundreds of songs (two-thirds of them recorded) Joe Mari has written (not "composed," Joe Mari clarified and youíll know why by and by) so far, making him, as Universal Recordsí lady boss Bella Tan aptly put it, "a living legend on the Philippine music scene."
And a "living/singing legend" Joe Mari is, this year adding two Lifetime Achievement trophies (one from Aliw Awards and the other from KATHA) to his growing collection which also includes a TOYM (Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Year) Award in 1974, an Antonio C. Barreiro Lifetime Achievement Award from the Metro Pop Foundation, the Dangal ng Musikang Pilipino Award from PARI (Philippine Association of the Recording Industry), a Ciriaco Santiago Memorial Award from the FAMAS and a PERLAS Award for Outstanding Contribution to Philippine Contemporary Music.
"Year 2002 is a memorable year," Joe Mari told Funfare during a casual chat the other day at his Makati office (he takes charge of the familyís sugar business) where I chanced upon his US-based avid fan Florida Banawa, a retired wheelchair-bound US Army employee who has a complete collection of Jose Mari Chan albums, here for the holidays with relatives in Pampanga. "Itís this year when my first grandchild, Ramona Isabel, was born. Sheís six-months old, the daughter of my son Jose Antonio and his wife Anna Patricia BuŮag."
The little bundle of joy is also, in a way, one of Joe Mariís (and wife Mary Ann Ansaldoís) treasured trophies.
Together with Florida and company (her sister and a newphew), Joe Mari and I briefly strolled down Memory Lane.
Joe Mari recalled that he wrote his first song at age 13, inspired by the likes of Paul Anka and Teddy Randazzo and the other singers popular in the í60s. "I was born to a family that love(d) listening to music. My parents didnít have the gift for songwriting but they immersed us children in music as we were growing up. Among us five children, only two, my brother and I, developed the gift for songwriting but only I took it to the limit."
And how! In his 35 years as a recording artist, singer and songwriter, Joe Mari has surely made your life and mine (also a Jose Mari Chan fan who keeps a collection of Joe Mariís albums) richer with his songs that continue to play and replay in the stereo of our minds, from Deep in My Heart to Refrain to Beautiful Girl (background music for the Dunkiní Donuts TV commercial starring Miriam Quiambao) to Easier Said Than Done to Here and Now to Can We Just Stop and Talk Awhile.
You wonder, what has influenced Joe Mariís music (aside from Cliff Richard of whom heís touted to be the Filipino counterpart)?
"Revolver, the Beatles album of 1966, triggered an intense rivalry between Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and Paul McCartney. Here at home, the album changed the songwriter in me forever. The influence of the Beatles is evident in many of my songs through my 35 years as a recording artist, notably in So Iíll Go, Leave You and my Counterpoint to Here, There & Everywhere.
"In my latest album, A Heartís Journey, I wrote a tribute to the Beatles which I called A Day In The Life of A Song. The melody is reminiscent of the early Beatles and for the lyrics, I strung together 26 Beatles song titles. Itís my tribute to the Fab 4 who, 40 years ago this year, took the music world by storm. Many of todayís songwriters, including myself, would not be what we are if there had not been the Beatles."
And yet, Joe Mari refuses to be called a "composer" and he tells us why.
"I am a mere songwriter. In the strict sense of the word, a composer is trained and schooled. A songwriter does not have to be. In medieval times, they were called minstrels. Many of them did not even know how to play a musical instrument. They combined words and music to relate stories or express everyday feelings of ordinary folks. Today, a songwriter has an added advantage if he is a composer for if not he would need a musician to put his songs on paper for others to read, an arranger to write the notes for musicians to play his songs, musicians to perform the music.
"All that I am is a songwriter who knows how to play one or two instruments, who knows enough about arrangements and how my songs should sound that I can help my arrangers in bringing the production into fruition.These are some of the qualities that one needs to succeed as a songwriter."
As you can see, humility is also one of Joe Mariís best qualities.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
2002 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS
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