By turns professorial in demeanor when standing to face the audience and a personable performer on…
Since the enhanced community quarantine and lockdown cancelled live classical music concerts, music aficionado Richard Sy-Facunda has been uploading music videos on Facebook and YouTube every morning. He called this “the product of the blood, sweat and tears by these musical artists.”
He gets nothing out of it, except the fulfilment of “knowing that a wider audience can view the videos, knowing that the best equipment available was used and knowing that we have, as time passes, preserved the artist at that particular moment.”
By way of a backgrounder, he had always been fascinated with technology like his father. Coming home from the Expo’70 in Osaka, Japan, the older man brought home a Hitachi portable tape recorder with a microphone that the son tinkered with. His fascination for “live recordings” came about when he met Joseph Uy of the Cultural Arts Events Organizers in the late ’80s. Uy shared with him his live recordings from operas abroad.
Sy-Facunda said, “We would laugh at the abhorrent sound quality, but remarked on how the sense of live opera propelled the singer to sing ‘better’ than studio recordings. CDs were also not immune to live recordings. Of note was Maria Callas’ Aida from Mexico wherein she interpolated the end of the triumphal scene with a high E flat just to spite the tenor whose name shall not be mentioned.”
In 1993, he presented pianist Leonor Kilayko at Xavier School. With no professional sound equipment back then, he relied on two microphones from the school and recorded the event using a HIFI VHS recorder. He converted these VHS tapes to digital format years back, and will pop them out on his Facebook timeline soon.
He began live concert organizing in September, 2019 with the blessing of Gina Ronquillo of Manila Pianos Ph. Through the Manila Pianos Artist Series, he found the need for “an intimate performance venue for the aspiring student, the pedagogue and the high-caliber artist to present themselves free from venue rental and with an arsenal of pianos they can select. We also document the event at no added expense to the artists. These videos have to be first approved by the artist before we post them on the Internet.”
He described the Manila Pianos Ph as “the store for people interested in acquiring a keyboard instrument. Whether it be an upright piano, grand piano, electric piano, harpsichord or organ, Manila Pianos offers a wide selection. Not only do they sell, but they rebuild pianos as well.”
The artist series was created by Enrico Reyes, Brave Ronquillo and Sy-Facunda after the idea was broached to use the idle space in the showroom on Paseo de Magallanes, Magallanes Village in Makati as a performance venue. Sy-Facunda takes charge of inviting artists, checks and/or tweaks their programs and prepares the instruments for the event. On the side, he also does artist’s photo shoot and designs the poster, if this is required.
The last concert the series had was a day before the lockdown on March 14 this year. Prof. Rolf-Dieter Arens of Germany had been in Manila since Monday of that week and as part of his itinerary in Manila he was scheduled for a recital. Sy-Facunda recalled, “In spite of the limited turnout of people, we continued, with physical distancing observed.”
Asked what his reaction was to the quarantine-lockdown that upset their concert calendar, he rued, “Our calendar was booked for the coming months. We were to inaugurate the organ with a recital by Christian Dino on March 22, chamber music with Dingdong Fiel and members of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, song recitals, Joseph Uy’s Beethoven series was ongoing and Viva Voce’s vocal recital series should have commenced late March. These have to be all rescheduled when operations resume. I am sad that the concerts did not push through, but callousness will not be rewarded in times like these.”
To him, music has “always been a source of good vibes for me, a sturdy wall to lean on to. Not only do I equate music with celebrations, travel or parties but with everything else under the sun. I decided to repost some of the materials that I have recorded earlier on. I found out that some of these were posted with the privacy setting on FB to “friends only,” meaning that not all people could have seen them.”
He got involved in doing music videos in May 2018 when he was approached by pianist Gabriel Paguirigan and his cousin, the flutist John Castro, to record a video for a competition they were joining. They told him that no Filipino had ever passed the elimination round of this contest abroad. To his surprise, the duo qualified with the video he recorded and ended up winning first place in the chamber music category.
Sy-Facunda said, “I learned that most of the video entries from the Philippines were made using cell phones. Going to a studio to do it professionally was expensive. I vowed then to help these aspiring artists with their video entries.”
As a cultural worker, he had some realizations about the fragile state of music artists who live from one gig or concert to another and were hard-hit by the lockdown. He said, “Until the government and private sectors see that music is integral to the life of a human being, only then can they fully appreciate the fragile state of music and its artists here in the Philippines. I can only hope that people who are given power or authority in the music business can help in this respect.”