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'MaestroRy': Celebrating In High-C

The one-time staging of ‘MaestroRy’ was a heartfelt tribute concert for our National Artist for Music, Ryan Cayabyab, in a wonderful night of music, remembering, and looking to the future

Solaire and Empowered Scholasticans pulled out all the stops in staging their earnest and heartfelt tribute concert for National Artist Ryan Cayabyab. As Mr. C had mentioned, it all started with each of the entities planning a tribute concert and finding out that two consecutive nights at Solaire were booked for the same concept. The two immediately got together, combined forces, and the rest is music history. We’ve often watched tributes of this sort staged in the USA or Europe and marveled at the assemblage of talents, and the sequence flow of the program. Well, I’m more than proud to say that MaestroRy can compete with the best of them in planning and execution. 



The money shot-selfie of Mr. C with everyone behind and involved with MaestroRy. | Philip Cu-Unjieng


For 95% of the night, Mr. C was an avid spectator, an honored member of the audience; as a procession of veteran singers, and contemporary musical acts, essayed his compositions and retraced his storied career. Stitched together with excellent humor by host Jon Santos, the show was an entertaining outpouring of talent and heart-on-the-sleeve love and respect for Ryan. Kudos to the producers and think tank behind the night, as it was both a trip down memory lane, and a showcase of how and why Ryan’s compositions are still relevant to this day.


Jon Santos kicked off the night’s festivities with his inimitable brand of humor and taking on Ryan’s “The Coconut Song.” Celeste Legaspi, Kuh Ledesma, and Basil Valdez were the veteran performers who graced the night, and had sung on the original recordings of some of Ryan’s compositions back in the 1970s. 



Gina Godinez, Nicole L. Asensio, Audie Gemora, Twink Lagdameo, Paolo Valenciano, Ryan Cayabyab and Garlic Garcia. | Philip Cu-Unjieng


The Bleu Rascals were the first young band interpreting one of Ryan’s classics, and turning it into an instant rock, with slide guitar effect, anthem. Urbandub gave their treatment to a Ryan song originally recorded by Martin Nievera. And the most popular of these playful tributes must be Autotelic’s take on Smokey Mountain’s “Kailan.”


Morissette impressed with her handling of a Cayabyab ballad; and there was magic in the air when Ryan and Emmy’s children took to the stage. Daughter Cristina sings with the vocal trio Baihana, while son Antonio sings with Debonair District, a band that specializes in old time jazz/swing arrangements. And when Jeffrey Hidalgo took to the stage with Morissette and Nicole Laurel Asensio to do a medley of Smokey Mountain hits, nostalgia filled the air.



Mr. C with Nicole Laurel Asensio and Cocoy Laurel. | Philip Cu-Unjieng


As Ryan quipped when he finally took to the stage; he was overwhelmed by the singing, the interpretation of his songs, and referring to host Jon Santos, he joked that, “without you, the night would have been… flawless.” It’s a shame that a night like this can only happen once—but that is part of the magic, to be able to say we were there that very special night.



Nicole with Baihana which includes Mr. C’s daughter, Cristina (2nd from Right) | Philip Cu-Unjieng


Me, I’m just happy that Mr. C is being feted in this manner. Being named National Artist while one is still active is especially rewarding. We’ve seen how politics can rear its head in the selection process, or how these awards are conferred posthumously or when one is fully retired. That one can be named National Artist and still take to the stage and regale the audience at the show’s end has to be a really nice feeling—and it couldn’t happen to a nicer person.


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