By By Pablo A. Tariman
posted 21-Oct-2018  ·  
759 views  ·   0 comments  ·  
The columnist with University of San Agustin Music Conservatory head and pianist Bimbo Muyuela after checking acoustics at Nelly Garden in Iloilo City.

As you contemplate the remaining two months of the year, you confront the moment of truth that you are turning 70 at yearend commemorating Rizal’s death.

You come to terms with 70 years of a life denied to some of your friends and classmates. You ask yourself if you have grown any wiser and you wonder if you did yourself some ounce of justice making good things happen at so much cost to your life and limb.

The last three months, I’ve been flying to Iloilo and Roxas City checking the concert venues of a national treasure scheduled to do four concerts in one week.

Yes, pianist Cecile Licad is back in Iloilo where she performed 43 years ago when she was only 14. The concert was a fundraising for a school for orphans and here she is again confronted with three concerts in one city associated with good musicians like pianist Maria Luisa Vito (a prizewinner in the Van Cliburn Competition in the mid-60s) and violinist Gilopez Kabayao (the first Filipino classical musician to invade Carnegie Hall).

What did I check after getting a sponsor for hotel accommodation and meals?

You can’t plan a Licad concert unless you are assured of a good piano.

First order of the day in late June before my last two concerts in the island, I checked available pianos in the city showrooms and realized the pianos are good for family get-together but not for a recital. There are a couple of good pianos in SM Iloilo but they can’t be moved to the concert venue (Molo Church) unless you buy them.

Then my friend and I sneaked into the piano room of a school auditorium and found a good Kawai baby grand. Right there and then, I decided it was the best piano you can find in the city. But I wonder if the school would allow us to borrow or rent it as it was newly purchased.

I did not have a problem with my chosen venue (Nelly Garden on November 29) as it has a good New York Steinway grand. It is the best possible venue for an all-Chopin recital but it can only sit no more than 200.

One day last week, I received the good news that the school would allow us to borrow the Kawai piano I have chosen for the concert. That’s only one problem solved for Iloilo.

Another concert follows in Roxas City some two hours away with a concert happening on December 3.

With Cheryl del Rosario of Roxas City Museum escorting me to several houses with pianos (it was up to me to decide if they were any good), I realized we have to work double time to find a good piano.

There was a Steinway piano in the forest of Ivisan town owned by the family of painters but it has seen better years.

There’s another one in the house of a doctor but it is good for accompaniment but not for recital. But before driving to the airport, we passed by a businessman’s house with a Yamaha grand. It is fairly good with one or two keys not functioning. Piano tuner has to work on it at least one week before the recital. That would mean additional air tickets and additional expense for hotel and meals for the two of us before the concert.

Yes, we found a brand-new Yamaha piano in a Roxas City hotel lobby. But the owner won’t part with it. Yes, we can use it only if we hold the concert in their hotel. Which was out of the question.

After Day One of piano hunting in Roxas City, Cheryl treated me to lunch and dinner with seaside setting. The sound of waves was balm to our weary spirit and the food was pretty much what I like in my home province.

As I ask for beer to cap the night, you realize you have been dealing with pianos since the mid80s when you decided you will be a slave of Chopin and Beethoven at whatever cost.

The months before a concert can be draining. You have found a good piano for one concert and you needed another good one for another. You are lucky in one place but you figure out you can’t have the best in another unless you muster the nerve to tell the presentor, “Why not buy a brand-new piano?”

Again, the idea is out of the question. But the truth is the presentor can very well afford it. But as they say, you cannot abuse the generosity of people. It is good enough the presentor is taking care of the fees and air tickets and hotel accommodation. But to buy a brand new piano for the occasion?

What I am saying is that all good and unforgettable concerts do not come easy especially if the artist has the stature of Cecile Licad.

She has done the country proud for decades and it is but fair to give her the instrument she deserves.

And so on this weekend I give myself a good rest before resuming work on concert productions, I look back to see what I’ve gotten for the effort.

The audiences will not forget you, that’s for sure.

You get all kinds of awards and plaques of distinctions from various groups in places not your own.

The concerts happen in less than two months which means you have to advance writing deadlines before you deal with air tickets and piano movers.

What remains of my days, nay, year, is pretty much not clear. You will get the good will, that’s for sure.

But then like teaching, good music doesn’t always guarantee good income.  You win some, you lose some.

You absorb the deficits (as always).

You comfort yourself knowing you have made many people happy for one night the entire country was groaning because of endless typhoons and skyrocketing high prices.

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