Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Lettermen sweeps Manila

Last night wife Ruby and I watched, what we would consider by far the best concert in the country.
The world-famous Lettermen performed one of their series of shows in the Philippines at the 14,000-capacity Araneta Coliseum in Cubao.
The Lettermen never lost their musical magic as they accompanied the audience in a trip down memory lane with their love songs that were familiar fixtures in music charts in the sixties.
The Lettermen is composed of the diminutive Tony Butala, the lone founder and original member of the trio song group.
The two other members who have been part of the Lettermen for the last twenty-two years were the towering Donovan Tea from Houston Texas, and Mark Preston.
I was not yet born when the Letermen soared to music stardom, but their songs have lingered even to this day.
Suprisingly, I saw a lot of young faces (like us), aside from the "young once", who were just to excited to ride along the continuous waves of romantic melodies.
The presence of middle-age fans is a testament to the enduring, everlasting and multi-generational impact of the Lettermen and theirs songs in the lives of their followers around the globe.
Who can forget songs like "Theme from Summerplace", "Warm", "The Wonder of You", and their own versions of "The Way You Look tonight", "When I Fall In Love", "Portrait of My Love", "Love Is A Many Splendored thing", "Hurt So Bad", and many more.
The evening took a deper romatinc turn when Tony Butala sang "Morning Girl". I myself have so many memories of this song.
I recall those times as a young disc-jockey in the eighties, "Morning Girl" would frequently be played right after midnight, more designed to say hello to young college co-eds who were still burning the midnight candle, preparing assignments for the next schoolday.
Everytime "Morning Girl" was aired in the stillness of midnight, it would always elicit a reaction from female radio listeners by giving the radio station a phone ring.
Always it would be a female voice at the other end, ostensibly trying to make a song request, but actually was relaying a muted query whether she was that "Morning Girl."
To me, I think "Morning Girl" was a very powerful song in the golden age of radio.
It was a song meant for radio. The lyrics say so.
It is clear the Lettermen endeared themselves to Filipinos more than other foreign artists who have performed here because they had an arsenal of Filipino love songs like "Dahil Sa Iyo", "Ikaw", "Hindi Kita Malimot".
When they rendered these Tagalog songs, injected with brief English translation, the Araneta crowd was blown to ecstacy.
At the end of the show, the Lettermen did several encore because the crowd didn't seem to have enough of their music.
This elicited a proposal from Donovan in jest, that they would render another song provided the audience would already leave the the Coliseum afterward.
Their last two songs were fittingly rendered to a nation that needed divine guidance amidst the gripping turmoils of their everyday lives.
The rendition of "I believe" and "You'll Never Walk Alone" bore subliminal messages that indeed, Filipinos need to raise their hopes, and their heads up high, if only to overcome the trials and tribulations they face whether individually or as a society.
At show's end, the audience exuded that common expression of gratitude to a group that has become part of their lives, and since then, has continued to make that same impact even with the passage of time.

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