MANILA – Singer-composer Jose Mari Chan on Sunday shared the story behind his ubiquitous holiday hit, “Christmas in Our Hearts.”
Speaking on DZMM on Sunday morning, Chan said the song was first conceptualized in 1988 when he was asked to give melody to a poem to be performed at a high school reunion.
“Tinawagan ako one day and sabi niya gumawa daw siyang poem which they were going to use in their alumni homecoming. Ang title is ‘Ang Tubig ay Buhay’ because that was their advocacy. So I set the poem to music word for word, ginawa kong melody. Nagustuhan nila. They used it in their alumni homecoming,” he narrated.
Little did Chan know at that time, he would use the same melody for his first Christmas album.
“Two years later, Universal Records suggested to me, ‘Joe why don’t you come up with your own Christmas album?’ So what I did, I compiled some of my favorite Yuletide songs as I was growing up. But of course we needed an original Christmas carol. Natandaan ko ngayon yung melody ng ‘Ang Tubig ay Buhay.’ It sounds catchy and it could sound Christmas-y,” he said.
“One Sunday morning, palabas kami from mass, there was a young lady who ran up to the car. ‘Mr. Chan, this is my card. My name is Rina. I am an aspiring songwriter. Sana one day makapag-collaborate tayo.’ I kept her card. When I got home, I thought maybe I should call her. So I called her, I gave her the melody,” he added.
That was the time when “Christmas In Our Hearts” was born. As to how Chan and his daughter ended up recording the song was a different story.
“I presented it. I said it sounds like a nice duet. At that time, Lea Salonga was very popular because of Miss Saigon. I called her up, I let her hear the melody and she liked it. She said okay except that her recording company, they would not allow her to record with me,” he said.
Aside from Salonga, Chan also gave theater actress Monique Wilson a call but she ended up not doing the song with him because she lost her voice the day before they were supposed to record it.
“I don’t remember who it was who suggested, ‘Di ba your daughter also sings sa school?’ So I went to her room and said, ‘Liz, what are you doing? Can you learn this song?’ She was 19. We recorded it the next day. It was really meant to be a father-daughter song. Perfect combination for Christmas,” he said.
This year, Chan is commemorating his 50th year in the recording industry by coming out with his 15th album that should be out soon.