Jose Mari Chan and the stories behind songs

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THE STAGE dimmed as the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra’s string section played the melody of a heartwarming tune followed by the wind section’s soft whistling. The melody continued into a medley that took the audience back to five decades of timeless love songs by Jose Mari Chan.

As a young boy, Mr. Chan knew he had the knack for writing songs and hoped to pursue music despite the fact that he was expected to take over their family’s sugar business. His early beginnings in show business from starring as a host and singer in ABS-CBN’s variety show 9 Teeners in 1966 and releasing his first single “Afterglow” in 1967 propelled his music career.

To mark the singer-songwriter’s 50th anniversary in the music industry, the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra performed Mr. Chan’s classic compositions in a concert titled ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra Plays the Music of Jose Mari Chan on Dec. 16 at The Theater at Solaire.

Under the baton of Louie Ocampo, the orchestra began with a medley of love songs and was later accompanied by Mr. Chan as he sang “Can We Just Stop and Talk Awhile” in a clear and gentle voice as familiar as Christmas.

The 72-year-old singer-songwriter acknowledged that the conception and success of his songs were due to his wife, Mary Ann Ansaldo. Mr. Chan told the crowd that most of his compositions would not have been written if not for her as his inspiration.

Mr. Chan’s sons Franco and Joe, Jr. continued the show and shared the stage to pay tribute to their father with the songs “Afterglow” and “Deep in My Heart.” Other performers included Markki Stroem, Juris, Bituin Escalante, Acapellago, and Vocal Synergy.

Mr. Chan returned to the stage for the second half of the show to perform “Please Be Careful with My Heart” in a duet with Jona. The songwriter later performed “Tell Me Your Name,” which he said was the male response to the former song.

Mr. Chan rekindled the early years of his romantic relationship with the performance of “Refrain” which he referred to as the most heartfelt song he wrote for his wife (then his girlfriend) when she left for Japan.

The show would not be complete without a lineup of Christmas songs from the triple platinum album Christmas in Our Hearts to conclude the show. Mr. Chan’s two sons and daughter Liza Chan-Parpan joined their father with “A Wish Upon a Christmas Night,” “Perfect Christmas” and “Christmas in Our Hearts.”

This writer’s memories of listening to the Christmas in Our Hearts album and seeing him perform live in 2002 were revisited as his heartwarming lyrics and soothing voice washed over the audience. Mr. Chan confessed that he wanted to be remembered for at least two of his popular compositions. It’s safe to say that the legendary singer/songwriter will be remembered for more than that. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman