Tag Archives: Lea Salonga

A Melting Pot

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress
When singer Lea Salonga kicked off the first ever Global Pop Series at the Walt Disney Concert Hall two weeks ago, it was a spectacular performance by a great Philippine artist for the Filipino community for many. But for the execs of The Music Center, it was the culmination of a long-awaited experimental project.
The Music Center’s Vice President of Programming and Planning Josephine Ramirez had waited four years for the Global Pop Series to come into fruition.  The idea was to attract immigrant communities to watch their country’s top artists and more importantly, the funds from the shows would go directly to the Music Center’s non-profit Active Arts programs.

Ramirez and Music Center President Steven Roundtree had long wanted to bring in popular foreign artist to perform at the famed Music Center’s houses including the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum and the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

“We wanted to do something new for Los Angeles that would be both attractive to us as an institution and give immigrant communities in LA to come and have a great time,” she said to the Asian Journal. “We wanted to start building up a revenue-generating concert series that whatever profit goes to fund a free program we started four years ago.”

Active Arts at the Music Center provides over 55 to 65 free or low cost events a year. Some of the Active Arts free events include Dance Downtown, where attendees could dance the night away under the moonlight, Drum Downtown, Get Your Chops Back, and Friday Night Sing-a-longs.

“We needed to find a way to fund it besides donated income,” she said.

But with limited resources and lack of aptitude of the given culture for the planned Global Pop Series, Ramirez had to take a systematic approach.

After getting grants from the James Irvine Foundation, Ramirez spent a few years commissioning research on the largest immigrant groups, their financial power and the communities concert market. They conducted demographic and market research before narrowing the ethnic groups. The last step was researching on their pop stars.

The report found that the Latin market had the vast audience and market appeal. But for the inaugural Global Pop Series, Ramirez said they to wanted to reach out and target other ethnic groups not known for visiting the Music Center venues.

Ramirez said, generally speaking, that there is a perception among many ethnic groups that believe the Music Center is only for the elite and high-class residents of Los Angeles.

However, that shouldn’t be the case.

“The answer is complicated it could stem from physical barriers because of the amount of traffic to get to downtown, to emotional barriers,” she said. “A lot of people think of the old music center [as having] to pay a lot of money to watch a show– but that’s not true either. Many are just not aware of the Center’s free activity. We want to change people’s perception…we want them to know this is their music center as well.”

Ramirez said that Filipino community was among the six or seven ethnic groups that they had chosen for the inaugural Global Pop Series.

To further cement their choice, they brought in advisors from the Filipino community.

Search to Involve Pilipino American (SIPA) Joel Jacinto and Public Relations Executive Winston Emano were among the consultants.

“We’ve known Joel Jacinto for centuries,” she said. “We wanted to get in touch with them and not only host them and other leaders of the Filipino community but they were brought in a way so we could go through this hand and hand.”

They chose Lea Salonga because “it was a no-brainer.”

“She’s a huge star in the Philippines and a Broadway star,” said Ramirez. “Her selection was not as scary.”

The final piece of the puzzle arrived when the Blue Ribbon, a philanthropic group of women, made a substantial financial contribution to sponsor the event.

With the first performance being a hit, Ramirez hopes to continue the Global Pop Series and bring in other Filipino artist to perform at a Music Center venue.

She said that after the Salonga performance, attendees were given a survey to fill out and asking for people’s advice.

“We’re interested in looking to see whom they wrote down as the next Filipino star to perform here,” she said.

About Active Arts

Here is a list of upcoming free events available at the Music Center:

August 8 – Dance Downtown Zydeco featuring TLou and his Superhot Zydeco Band

August 9 – Drum Downtown

August 15 – Friday Night Sing-A-Long 80’s Night

August 22 – Dance Downtown Cha Cha & Salsa

For more information about upcoming events or to contribute to the Music Center and Active Arts please go to http://www.musiccenter.org


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A Shining, Shimmering, Splendid Evening: Lea Salonga performs at Disney Hall

by by Gale Gatchalian/AJPress

Something beautiful lit up the glorious stage of the Walt Disney Concert Hall last Friday night. Kicking off a series of new shows called ‘Global Pop at the Music Center’, Lea Salonga, the multi-award winning Broadway star now with a platinum album under her belt, truly lived up to the concert’s tagline: isang gabi, isang bituin.

Leaders from the sponsoring Blue Ribbon group welcomed the excited guests. Blue Ribbon is a support group of women leaders who serve the Music Center, its resident companies and its art education programs.

A landmark event, Lea is the first solo Filipino performer to grace the stage of the esteemed Disney Concert Hall. No other honor is worthy of the artist who displays the Olivier, Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics, Ovation and Theater World Awards on her mantle. The love for her in that room was palpable, and not just because of the dominant Filipino contingent that came out to support her. She was able to use her utter talent to draw the audience closer to her and make them feel open to the deep emotion she infuses in every song. Plus, she was just downright cute. Years of experience have made her a flawless performer, slipping jokes and fun silliness in between her songs.

Her powerful opening could leave no doubt in anyone’s mind: Lea’s voice is a finely tuned instrument the years have only served to perfect. Its character changes with every song, reverberating, caressing or teasing the listeners accordingly. Her role as the singing voice in two Disney movies, Aladdin and Mulan, made this night a sweet homecoming of sorts as she performed select songs from the multitude of projects she has been involved with, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, her upcoming role in Cinderella and of course a smattering of her OPM hits, among others.


While each number was riveting to be sure, impressing long-time fans and making new ones, several stood out as truly remarkable.

I Dreamed a Dream

from Les Miserables was a veritable showcase on its own, demonstrating her pin-point control and vast range.

The rearranged Bakit Labis Kitang Mahal was the first of her Filipino songs, an updated version that sizzled with a little more pop but still had the crowd singing like it topped the charts only yesterday.

Honoring her fellow countrymen who, she said, she would be nothing without, Lea offered Ha-hanapin Ko to “all those away from home who kept a pearl of the old country in their hearts”, over time and across the miles.

Dedicated to her mother (who unfortunately was stuck with babysitting duty that night), Lea rendered The Way You Look Tonight with a cool, jazzy feel that made one feel warm inside.

Lea revealed that in many of her past roles, she couldn’t quite get the feel of what the lyrics were saying. The recent onset of motherhood however, has self-confessedly brought her closer to the words she sings. She was able to animate the unconditional love felt by mothers in a sonorous ephemeral moment. The gravity of emotion weighed down on the hall as she went a cappella for I Give My Life for You from Miss Saigon.

A surprise to even Lea herself, Cliff, an American who volunteered to duet with her for A Whole New World proved a worthy Aladdin, reversing all expectations one would have for audience participation numbers. Generous in her praise, Lea revealed that she had “dreamed about this moment at least three times”, reinforcing the much deserved standing ovation Cliff received.

Reminiscent of Julie Andrews, There’s Music in You provided a sneak peek for her upcoming role in a Broadway Asia Entertainment international tour of Rodger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. This song, along with Everybody Says Don’t and John Lennon’s Imagine uplifted the audience with its purposefully motivational and inspirational tone.

Her double encore, composed of Annie’s The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow and Someone’s Waiting For you embodied the brightness she brought to life in this fantastic show that left nothing to be desired.

The rest of the performance included: Sana Maulit Muli, a tribute to Starbucks baristas,Taylor, the Latte Boy, the full version of Reflection from Mulan, the celebrated Someone to Watch Over Me and On My Own, the song that got her the job as Éponine in Les Miserables and became her audition piece for Miss Saigon.

The siren’s setting

The Walt Disney Concert Hall can inspire true awe in all those who see and enter it. Its outward visual grandeur belies the auditory spectacle found within its walls. The acoustics of the hall wrapped the audience with Lea’s melodious voice from all sides. Accompanied by an impressive and highly skilled orchestra of 19, the intimate, wood-paneled interiors of the Frank Gehry structure in downtown LA could only perfectly complement the historic show of that night.

Somewhere in the middle of her performance, Lea thanked the exuberant crowd, saying “you make me feel like a rockstar.” Lea, that’s because you are.


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A Giant LEAP

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress

“This Lea concert as great as it was, we don’t see a lot [mainstream] concerts featuring Pinoy or Pinays,” said Winston Emano, a public relations executive, who was hired by the Disney Concert officials to oversee the Salonga performance. “Lea is a pioneer. She’s the first Filipino to headline at the Disney Concert Hall. This is special to our community. Given that the historical significance is that Bunker Hill was the first Filipinotown in Los Angeles. She represented the community.”

Emano has been active in the Filipino community for the past fifteen years. He knows too well about the ups and downs of many Filipino performers who were on the cusp of mainstream success but, like the Greek mythical character Sisyphus, just could not get over the hump.

Fifteen to twenty years ago, you’d be hard pressed to find a Filipino performer in a large mainstream venue unless it was being rented out, said Emano.

“These mainstream venues were not available in the past to us,” he added. “The only way to get one is if you’d rent it but we all know that’s very expensive.”

He said the first time he saw a Filipino concert was Gary Valenciano performing at the Universal Amphitheater in Hollywood in the early 1990’s.

“I think he was the first Filipino to ever play at that theatre,” said Emano.

But nowhere did Valenciano get the same type of love or adoration that Salonga received from a diverse crowd at the Disney Concert Hall last July 12.

Valenciano, Regine Valesquez, Freddie Aguilar, Martin Nievera, Jocelyn Enriquez, and Pops Fernandez have done well performing in front of pre-dominant Filipino crowds in the US. However, their success in the community has not translated to the larger mainstream concertgoers.

Emano explained that there are a lot of reasons why the mainstream (non-Filipinos) were blasé about Filipino artists. He said perception. Radio executives did not know how to type caste a Filipino artist or their style to fit a specific audience.

“It’s hard to find good radio play,” said Emano. “The problem is that back then, a lot of record executives, a lot of DJ’s they wouldn’t play a Filipino person’s song because for example, they’d say that the ‘black listener wouldn’t want to hear someone do R&B coming from a non-black performer,’ and so on.”

“But now people’s perceptions are changing,” he added. “You see Lea. There’s Arnel Pineda who’s doing a great job replacing a very popular pop singer. Charice Pempengco is an Internet star. Slowly the mainstream is changing the perception of Filipino artists.”

Ana Puno, President and CEO of Star Media, produces shows featuring Filipino talent in the US and Manila, Philippines. She’s produced shows for Martin Nievera, Pops Fernandez and other Filipino artists.

She said that it’s difficult for an established artist in the Philippines to reach mainstream success in the US.

“Lea was gradually brought in [to the mainstream’s consciousness],” she said. “Now she’s being exposed. Look at Charice. David Foster is helping her career.”

“There are a lot of Filipinos that are really talented, who can sing really well but they are not given the proper break,” she added. “Sometimes they have bad management, or don’t have the proper agent. It’s already so hard to penetrate the mainstream market.”

Emano hopes that Salonga’s performance is a wake up call to music producers about Filipino talent. He also said Salonga is setting the trail for those behind her.

“Lea’s performance on Friday is going to open doors,” he said. “Now, this sets the stage for all the upcoming Filipino singers and artists around the world. The audience at the Concert hall was treated to world-class artistry that is Filipino artists. I hope this is a start of something.”


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Charity Concert for Bantay Bata


Mark your calendars! Simbang Gabi on December 1, 2007 at the Hyatt Century Hotel in Los Angeles, featuring an evening with Ms. Lea Salonga, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Bantay Bata.

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