Tenor Nomher Nival and soprano Jasmin Salvo with pianist Gabriel Allan Paguirigan will showcase their own brand of musical collaboration when they close the Nelly Garden Iloilo concert series on Saturday, Dec. 7, 6:30 p.m.
Nival who is the acclaimed Crisostomo Ibarra in latest staging of Felipe Padilla de Leon’s opera, Noli me Tangere, says he likes working with Paguirigan for one reason: “He is so open to things and learns songs fast. He is very musical and very easy to work with.”
Paguirigan goes beyond the essence of collaboration. “What I enjoy in the art of accompanying is the exchange of energy and musical thoughts in creating beautiful music,” he beams. “So when we play together, there’s me and the other artist exchanging positive energy and the audience. And that’s true with performing solo or with an orchestra. Because you must also communicate with the audience.”
The pianist says he has many things in his head every time he works with another artist. “I always remind myself to be sensitive whenever I collaborate. This is especially true with singers. With the singers, I’d hum their parts as well so I have an idea [where] they might breathe. It’s good to put oneself in the singer’s or instrumentalist’s shoes so I get a better view of what’s happening,” he says.“Sometimes oversights do happen, such as singers forgetting their lyrics, violinists missing their entrances. When this happens, it is important to be doubly alert and sensitive. Be ready for the worst. As a collaborating pianist, I have to be brave and confident because lack of confidence can affect a performance.”
Both artists are top prizewinners of the National Music Competition for Young Artists and winners within their schools as well.
Nival got his first taste of foreign judges and audiences in the Marcello Giordani International Vocal Competition in Florida, where he received the Tommy Steyer Encouragement Award. “Those competitions made me realize the amount of work I still need to put into singing,” he points out.
He was also one of the eight participants chosen from hundreds of applicants to participate in the prestigious Pacific Music Festival (PMF) held in Sapporo, Japan, in 2012. That’s where he had the privilege to work with baritone Roberto Servile and soprano Marlis Petersen as well as to perform with the PMF orchestra under the baton of Metropolitan Opera conductor Fabio Luisi.
A few years back, he stayed at the London home of the world-renowned Romanian diva Nelly Miricioiu where he received personalized lessons about correct posture, breathing, and the like. “I also learned about body movements, how to sing stylistically based on muscle adjustments and many more. I just need to imbibe new concepts and get used to new sensations and vocal exercises that I still need to work on before I can totally grasp and master them,” he says. “I like Maestra Nelly’s instincts and intelligence. She can easily demonstrate what’s written in the books and apply it to her singing very clearly. I would say my learning process is still ongoing.”
The subject of teachers put the two young artists on the spot. For Nival, studying with tenor Arthur Espiritu was a big refresher course. “I have learned earlier lessons that I have forgotten and his presence made me work on them again with fresh perspective,” he says. For him, a good teacher is one who can provide lessons based on the student’s personal needs. “Because every singer is different psychologically and anatomically,” he explains.
As for Paguirigan, his first lessons started at age eight with Aimee Minade la Cruz (now the female percussionist of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra) and later on with Hannah Valdez-Sariego. At the Philippine High School for the Arts, he studied under Augusto Espino and later with the late Nita Abrogar Quinto at the UP College of Music.
And from the world-acclaimed Cecile Licad, the pianist learned how to experiment new ways of interpreting.“For her, learning a piece doesn’t end when you can play all notes by heart. A piece one has been playing for years could still be transformed with new insights,” he muses. “What’s so impressive about Cecile Licad is that she can perform the same piece twice and it still won’t sound the same.”
The Dec. 7, 2019 Nelly Garden performance of Nival and Paguirigan will also feature soprano Jasmin Salvo and clarinetist Andrew Constantino who just finished his concert tour with the Asian Youth Orchestra.
Salvo is prizewinner of the ASEAN International Voice Competition (nonprofessional category) in Singapore.
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