Music at the Cafe: Songs in an Intimate Space, a Concert of the Personal

“JC, gusto mo bang manood ng concert? Send-an kita ng invite sa event, ha.”

(JC, do you want to watch a concert? I’ll send you an event invitation, okay?)

I have always sent these kinds of messages to my friends and colleagues over social media for almost a decade. Most of the concerts that I invite people to see – student recitals, film shows with live music accompaniment, masterclasses by guest artists, hands-on music workshops, and monthly concerts at the Abelardo Hall – are for free (or if not, discounted for students with valid IDs and senior citizens). Studying and teaching at a College of Music has its perks and I want to make it available to as many people possible, giving them options other than their regular gig at the bar or YouTube/Spotify streaming.

“Eh, saan ba yan?”

“Sa Hillcrest Wellness Cafe, Malingap Street lang, malapit sa Bayantel.”

(Where is it going to be?

At Hillcrest Wellness Cafe, Malingap Street, near Bayantel.)

I have been to the cafe a few times, especially when I want some peace and quiet. After all, the cafe caters to those searching for nourishment not just of the body but also of the mind and soul. If you want to get away from the regular beats of your regular cafe (which for me is the mainstream, popular, smooth radio or the jazz remix of your favorite songs), Hillcrest offers some worship songs in the background, along with the books you can read (and buy) plus some quirky art works on display. A plus is that they have free wi-fi access so that people who would also want to do their work quietly could do so.



Concert at the Cafe: A Monthly (Personal) Affair

So, how on earth could you have a concert in this kind of place? A cafe? Aren’t concerts supposed to be held in some kind of hall or stage? And if it’s a combination of food/drinks and music, isn’t it more apt to be called a gig? Well, if we’d like to get technical about the word concert, below is the Oxford Dictionary defintion.

A musical performance given in public, typically by several performers or of several separate compositions

The orginal words are believed to be concerter (French: unite, cause to agree) and concertare (Italian: to harmonize), which have been in use since the 16th Century. Nothing about halls, stages, tickets, or kind of music being performed (except when the word has evolved into being associated with forms of music). So a concert can actually take place anywhere, as long as you have performers and an audience.



This year’s concert series kicked off with a performance by Ervin Lumauag and Luci Magalit, two of the country’s most-prized musical gems. But for me, I did not watch the concert only because one of them is an acclaimed tenor and soloist of the Philippine Madrigal Singers and the other, an award-winning pianist, but because they both have personal imprints in me.

During the rare moments I catch Kuya Ervin along the corridor, I fondly call him gwapo, a Filipino term for handsome, as he gives out a sincere smile and “Hi, Ma’am!” I knew he was The Ervin Lumauag everybody talks about but that has somehow not gotten into his head. Perhaps his head doesn’t fill up with the air of pride as he needs the space to sing those clear high notes.

Ma’am Luci, as I fondly call her, has been one of my piano teachers in undergraduate school. She is very technical and specific, especially with fingerings, dynamics, and expressive qualities, which basically make up everything the piece should be, but still gives me the liberty to color the lines of my Bach three-part invention, making my photocopied piece an array of rainbow colored pencils. On weekends, I would tag along her and rehearse with her church choir. I would notice the dedication she gives to her students is the same towards the members of the choir who are mostly non-College of Music students. She uses a quite different vocabulary but nonetheless, obtains the maximum musicality each choir member can give.

The concert programme composed of three parts: international art songs from Baroque to Contemporary, Disney Musicals, and modern day Gospels. The two-hour concert featured songs ranging from Schumann’s Widmung to Anderson-Lopez and Lopez’s In Summer to S. Fry’s Oh I Want to Know You More. Every song was met with an applause fitting to its genre – a quiet, discerning one for the first part, a cheer-laced amusement for the second part, and a more heartwarming tone for the last part. For the people who were there, it seemed like the best of all their (musical) worlds were put into one night. No one was restrained to keep a decorum typical of formal venues yet people were intent on listening, even with a mocha frap in hand. The musicians were not treated as table music providers, or what is more commonly known as background music during receptions. There was more to passive listening and eating. There was real human interaction among those who were present.

I asked Jo-ann Cerdenia, wife of one of the founders of Hillcrest Wellness Cafe, about how they came up with the idea of a monthly concert at the cafe. She said that the cafe’s founders, Gideon Cerdenia and Pastor Reuel Tica, are also musicians (one being a chorister and the other, having finished B. M. Voice at the UP College of Music) and that this kind of endeavor is very personal to them. It is their endeavor to provide professional musicians a venue where they can shine while exposing the community to more intelligent musicking, a term coined by music educator Christopher Small in reference to a holistic experience of creating meanings through music, treated as a verb, as opposed to music treated as a mere noun, referring only to the sonic material itself.

The concert series will showcase a different artist every month, each handpicked by the cafe owners. In the near future, Jo-ann said that they are willing to accommodate student-musicians who want to rehearse for their recitals or those who just had their recital. Think of it as a venue to practice one’s craft, as simply put. And do they perform just for exposure? Of course not. Concert at the Cafe is a sustainable endeavor, for both the cafe and the artists. Establishments can partner with the organizing team and barter their products, services, and/or money gifts in exchange for advertisement. For this particular concert, Pizarro Dental Clinic, Dynamic Recall, Big Dipper Worx, and yours truly have been partners in making this event possible.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

People go to concerts because they find meaning in it – whether be it in relation to the artist, to the songs to be heard, or the circumstances in which they will undergo the said experience. People perform because they find meaning in it – whether be it in relation to their target audiene, songs to be performed, or the circumstances  in which they are going to perform. People create avenues for such experiences because they find meaning in it, for the same reasons as mentioned above.

After all the songs, the cups of coffee and tea, and the stream of people’s conversations, we called it a night. I have brought two persons – my husband and our friend – into a different experience than what they usually have. Hopefully, this night will belong to their personal, and that it will have more meaning than just the beautiful sounds of the night.


This month’s concert, The Time Traveller, will feature soprano Nikka Mae Lopez.

For more information about Concert at the Cafe, please visit Hillcrest Wellness Cafe’s Facebook Page.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s