MANILA -- Two days after Taal Volcano erupted and spewed ash over Metro Manila and the southern provinces of Cavite, Batangas and Laguna, Music and Magic dauntlessly pushed through with their scheduled 40th anniversary reunion concert at the Newport Performing Arts Theater at Resorts World Manila last Tuesday.
“There were people coming from all over the world and all over the Philippines,” Angeli Pangilinan-Valenciano addressed the audience midway into the concert. “We were not sure if all of you could make it tonight.”
Yet, the venue was packed with people, most of them avid Music and Magic fans, who knew the group apparently from way back in the late '70s, when they started performing together at Alibi Bar.
Before the start of the show, a video montage of the group’s early years was shown. Then, the frontliners – Valenciano, Fe de los Reyes, Eva Caparas, Jet Montelibano and Vicky Sevilla-Pangilinan – emerged onstage with the sprightly “(Can You Feel) A Brand New Day.”
In no time, they were joined by pop diva Kuh Ledesma, the group’s soloist and the reason Music and Magic was formed, who sauntered onstage with her larger-than-life number, “If My Friends Could See Me Now.”
Forty years after she emerged and made a name for herself in the local music scene, Ledesma’s distinctive voice undoubtedly still captures an entire audience when she mounts the stage and sing. She still never falters and her voice never fails to still captivate.
Her subsequent spot number, “Can You Read My Mind,” was a haunting ballad she sang then at Alibi Bar. “I fell in love with Christopher Reeve then,” Ledesma recalled. “I remember I would sing this song every night at Alibi Bar.” As most everyone knows, Reeve was the head-to-toe handsome Hollywood actor who starred in three “Superman” films.
Her next nostalgic number, “How Can I Tell You?,” was the song that brought her together with Montelibano and Toto Gentica, the musical director, who both came from La Salle Bacolod and performed with her in Ensalada Band, then at the Holiday Inn Manila.
The entire show was a veritable trip down memory lane. Not only did the group render their memorable songs from the '70s and '80s with well-choreographed numbers, they also recalled and shared how they got together and performed as a group.
Four of the members – Montelibano, De los Reyes, Caparas and Jeanette Casuga-Trevias – are now based in the US and flew in just to perform in the show. Montelibano even worked at the helm of the concert, while Gentica on the keyboards, was the musical director for the night.
Ledesma recalled with the audience how the members got into the group, with the help of talent manager Sandra Chavez. Individually, they respectively sang their audition pieces.
Valenciano, then a college student at the University of the Philippines (UP) rendered “Misty.” She and Ledesma met through the former’s sorority sister. Then, Ledesma was introduced to De los Reyes, then a student at the Ateneo de Manila University and a member of the Ateneo Glee Club. She sang “Evergreen.” Caparas, then also an Ateneo student, gave the audience “Bridges.”
Vicky Sevilla-Pangilinan, a dentist by profession, is married to Valenciano’s brother, Joseph Pangilinan. She was the one who replaced Valenciano when the latter left the band to prioritize family life and give way to motherhood.
Performing the show-stopping numbers they were known during their prime, Music and Magic did not disappoint the audience when they danced and rendered choreographed ditties that night.
Pangilinan sang Donna Summer’s “I Remember Yesterday,” Valenciano danced to “I Love the Night Life,” De los Reyes belted out “Fame,” Caparas sang “One Night Only,” and Montelibano did “Far from Over.”
“While other bands were doing Top 40s, we were singing songs from musicals,” Montelibano told the audience. They sang memorable tunes from “Evita” – Ledesma with “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” while Montelibano crooned “On the Night of a Thousand Stars.”
De los Reyes, Sevilla-Pangilinan and Montelibano sang and danced to “Cabaret,” Montelibano and Ledesma did a duet of “Money, Money.” The suite was capped with Ledesma’s mash-up of “Smile” and “Send In the Clowns.”
Apparently, the members didn’t want to miss out on their family members and shared the stage with them as special guests that night. Gary Valenciano and daughter Kiana carried a beautifully arranged new version of “Sana Maulit Muli,” with Mon Faustino especially playing on the keyboards.
The audience was reminded it was a song originally written in English, “Why’d You Close Your Eyes So Soon,” for the late actress Julie Vega. However, Gary’s wife wrote the Tagalog lyrics that led the song to become the massive hit that it has become.
Gary later joined another special guest, Zsa Zsa Padilla, in a medley of Earth, Wind and Fire songs – “September,” “Reasons” and “Boogie Wonderland.” Ledesma joined them for the poignant ballad, “Used To Be.”
Pangilinan, meanwhile, was joined by her daughter, theater singer-actress, Gab, and they sang the bouncy “Jump.” Ledesma’s daughter, Isabella Gonzales, did a spot number and gave the audience a powerful inspirational piece, “Do You Have a Miracle for Me?”
Rock artist Lou Bonnevie, who’s married to Gentica, emerged from the audience and rocked the house with “Titser's Enemy No. 1” and was joined by Montelibano in “Bonggahan.”
Special guest Odette Quesada performed with good friend De los Reyes and surprisingly did a parody of the song, “That’s What I Like,” with her friend. Quesada has been writing most of De los Reyes’ music parodies in the latter’s stand-up music and comedy acts in the US.
Trevias sang “How Deep Is Your Love,” Valenciano rendered “One Note Zamba,” and Montelibano went rock n’ roll with “Laki sa Layaw (Jeproks).”
The show was a little more than three hours long. Understandably, the members of Music and Magic didn’t scrimp on the numbers they wanted the audience to hear. They generously shared their talents that night for everyone to appreciate.
Playing with the band were Music and Magic’s original members –
Bobby Taylo on bass, Butch Elizalde on lead guitar, Nonoy Mendoza on drums and Gentica on keyboards. Trevias was on synthesizers and second keyboards. The Opera quartet provided back-up vocals.
The star-studded audience and their guests were enjoined by Music and Magic when the group rendered their final numbers, “The World Will Sing Our Song” and “I’ll Be There.” Seen onstage were Martin Nievera, Pops Fernandez (who were also seated together), Jericho Rosales, Marco Sison, Nonoy Zuniga, even Joel Torre, Leo Martinez and Donita Rose.
However, the audience wouldn’t let go of the group onstage, so Music and Magic generously did two more encores – “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Sing” – with Ledesma finally closing with “Sweet Inspiration.”