(STAR) FUNFARE By Ricardo F. Lo - Jose Mari Chan (seated) topbills with Richard Poon the The Songwriter and The Crooner concert tonight at PICC Plenary Hall.

It’s the time of the year when we play and replay Christmas In Our Hearts, the song that reminds us not to forget the love we have for Jesus, sung by Jose Mari Chan and his daughter Liza.

Released in 1990, the song is an unprecedented “double diamond” (20 times “platinum,” with a sale of more than 800,000 copies so far — and counting), making it the biggest-selling album in Philippine recording history.

“Liza and I have sung it in concerts here and abroad,” Joe Mari told Funfare. “She was only 19 when we recorded it. Now she’s 40 and is expecting her third child in April next year.”

But did you know that Liza was not the first choice to sing it with her father?

[PHOTO AT RIGHT - Jose Mari said that her daughter Liza (inset) was not the first choice to sing Christmas in Our Hearts with him acquisitions to the studio.]

“It was supposed to be Lea Salonga,” revealed Joe Mari. “However, her recording contract didn’t allow her to guest on a competing label. It was really destiny that Liza would sing that song with me. The father-daughter tandem gave it that extra heart-warming touch, delivering the true meaning of Christmas.” Jose Mari said that her daughter Liza (inset) was not the first choice to sing Christmas in Our Hearts with him acquisitions to the studio.

And did you know that Christmas in Our Hearts wasn’t intended to be the megahit Christmas song that it has become, a perennial favorite yuletide piece along with A Perfect Christmas, also by Joe Mari?

“It began as a Class Jubilee song in 1988, from a poem titled Ang Tubig Ay Buhay written by Chari Cruz-Zarate of the Assumption High School Class of 63,” revealed Joe Mari. “It was too catchy a tune to put away after using it for only one day, so I decided to turn it into a Christmas song two years later with fellow lyricist Rina Caniza.”

More than two decades later, Joe Mari said he still feels the same way now the way he did then every time he hears the song, as if he’s hearing it for the first time.

“It’s my gift to my fans. Hearing it being sung year after year by the young and the old alike is a wonderful blessing. It’s our people’s precious gift back to me.”

Starting at 8 tonight, Joe Mari will star in the concert The Songwriter and The Crooner with fellow Chinoy Richard Poon at the PICC Plenary Hall (with special guests Pokwang and Noelle Cassandra). Directed by GB Sampedro, the concert is produced by Record Breaker Events Management and J&F Productions in cooperation with Zest Air, with The Philippine STAR, among the sponsors.

It’s Joe Mari’s first time to perform with Richard who wasn’t even born yet when Joe Mari was lording over television as host of the youth-oriented show Nineteeners, and making one hit after another (Can We Just Stop And Talk Awhile, Deep in My Heart, Afterglow, Constant Change and many others) and doing the soundtrack for local movies (some of which were directed by Lino Brocka).

Is Christmas in Our Hearts included in their repertoire? Sadly, not. (But if the audience gives them a standing ovation and clamor for it as an encore, hmmmmm….)

What they will sing together is Beautiful Girl, another Jose Mari Chan huge hit used as theme song and title of a Gretchen Barretto starrer by Seiko Films. At the height of its popularity, the song was recorded in other Asian countries like Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Hong Kong. One of the versions was by Asian superstar Aaron Kwok who sang it in Chinese.

“That’s what Richard and I will sing at the concert,” confirmed Joe Mari, “alternating in English and Chinese.”

Many people detect a “Jose Mari Chan” factor in Richard’s singing style, but Joe Mari begged to disagree.

“Richard is uniquely his own,” he said. “His style is entirely different from mine.”

If ever Richard would cover any of his songs, what would Joe Mari recommend?

“Spellbound,” he said, “the same song which has been recorded by Miles Griffith in the Manhattan Connection CD produced by Janis Siegel of the Manhattan Transfer. Or perhaps I would get him to do Give Me The Old Big Band Anytime from my Thank You Love album. Richard would do a great job of singing those two songs.”

Better still, maybe they should record a duet.

“Good idea,” said Joe Mari. “Why not?”

(Note: For tickets to The Songwriter and The Crooner, call Ticketworld at 891-9999.)

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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