The Karaoke Guide to Circus and New Minstrels
I WILL dowse your karaoke ego immediately. Basil Valdez said during the presscon, "If you don't have the talent, huwag niyo nang pilitin."
Easy for Basil to say. And the rest of the Circus Band (Hajji Alejandro, Tillie Moreno, Pat Castillo and Jacqui Magno) and the New Minstrels (Ray-An Fuentes, Louie Reyes, Eugene Villaluz. Joey Albert, Ding Mercado and Chad Borja) to say because they were (at least the Circus, ha ha ha) the best band in the 1970s and, OK, 1980s (the New Minstrels).
But the keyword here is "were." After thirty years, will they still be as good?
I was seated at the same spot as when I watched Dionne Warwick in the UB Gym and I remembered how it was a struggle to watch her hit the notes early in the concert. (Of course, the Dionne's struggles are already victories to the rest of us, mortals) But she got her stride and winged it victoriously.
No, I didn't get to learn from Dionne during that concert. She hid her technique well but see Hajji later for what Hajji learned from Dionne.
But eleven singers here and maybe we get a tip or two? From what I heard in their gig in Manila, some of them lost their voice. Now there are many reasons why you lose your voice. Nervousness, laryngitis, aphonia, overusing voice et al. So what did I learn? Well, I tried:
Jacqui Magno: Use your hands. Turn them into tendrils or snakes to extend your vocal range. But then when she sang "Bridges," she put down her hands and man, I realized this was really her song. I remembered the times when it's raining and I play Astrud Gilberto and then I recall my sister's old Jingle magazine and see Jacqui and I knew she sang this too. But this! She nailed it.
Chad Borja: Stomp your feet like Jennifer Beals in "Maniac." Maybe this will pump your voice.
Pat Castillo: Sing a familiar song and then let the audience sing with you while you point your microphone on them. But in a karaoke bar, I think you can't do this.
Tillie Moreno: Wear mini. Ha ha ha. Man, Tillie's voice was still a thrill. I don't know why the gays use "Tillie Moreno" as their word for "screaming faggot" because this Tillie hardly screams. Her voice is alto and how she growls. She sang Aretha Franklin's Respect. Well Aretha always had a backup chorus but Tillie sang everything (and despite the sound system's bias against low voices at the concert) and she got our R-E-S-P-E-C-T. And always have a song list when you go to a karaoke bar. So that like Tillie, if you were asked to sing your signature song, which for her is Umagang Kay Ganda, and you haven't sang it for thirty years and then when you do, it's like you never left.
Ray-Ann Fuentes: Trust in God. He had been a born-again Christian since leaving New Minstrels and look, he still looks the same. Same with Basil, although his is a Catholic God. And Jacqui, although hers is an orange God (Ananda Marga).
Eugene Villaluz: Relax. If you make a mistake in your cue, admit it and sing relaxed again. Cause when it's birit time, no one can birit like Eugene.
Louie Reyes: This girl has the widest range among them and like Whitney, she can play gymnastics with her vocal chords. But during the concert, have a bottle of water behind you so you can drink once in a while. With karaoke, I don't think alcohol is a good substitute.
Ding Mercado: Learn to dance. You may not know it but Ding is big in Hongkong so I guess you need to learn to sing Cantopop where a wrong note may mean different so be accurate.
Pat Castillo: She returned with a Carole King medley and she was perfect this time. So our lesson is, find the artist that suits you and always, always involve your audience.
Joey Albert: Always have a costume change or multiple costume changes. So when you are in a karaoke bar, be ready with an extra set of clothes or more. Maybe you get sweaty or maybe someone will throw a tomato at you. Not that I hate Joey Albert. I love her. It's just that she always reminds me of Olivia Newton-John including her being a cancer survivor. But what I learned from Joey is, don't always give in to what the audience like. Sing what you like. She didn't sing the songs that made her popular because she said nga in the beginning, I have gone far and I wouldn't gone there if not for the New Minstrels and what I learned from my co-bandmembers. This is a tribute concert. Don't try to upstage everybody. It might get you shot.
Hajji Alejandro: Don't do the "Glee" routine (hold high your hands and wave while singing) if you have short hands. Also plead with the audience. He said, "Whenever I sing my songs, it's all collegialas shouting and screaming. Can you do that for me for old time's sake?" And he sang "Nakapagtataka" and that moment he really deserved the "Kilabot ng mga Chicks" tag then. Although it's more kulubot na this time mga chicks niya. Anyway, Dionne Warwick's plea to the audience then was, "Hey, we artists are not paid much. But we thrive on applause. So please clap" Nakonsiyensiya naman kami.
And lastly, always have a blast in the end. Let the audience have a good sendoff for the ride to the 70s and 80s. Thanks to Anne Lorraine Kier for the ticket.