by Myrna Aquitania
This weekend was truly uplifting for me not only did I find myself immersed on Irish culture when we watched “The Rhythm of Dance,” last Saturday night but also overwhelmed by the outstanding performance of the cast and crew of “Fides Ecclesiae” the following day on Sunday evening.
On Saturday, after dinner at Mimi’s Cafe, we went to the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts and watched “The Rhythm of Dance.”
“The Rhythm of Dance,” was a variety show which featured Irish tapdancing, singing performances by the three Irish tenors plus a showcase of traditional Irish background music played through the use of various musical instruments such as: the harp, fiddle, bodhran, pochette and guitar.
Irish tapdancing is a theatrical show, much like Michael Flatly’s “Riverdance” which I have also seen sometime back. This consists of Irish stepdancing techniques shown by the rhythm of leg movements. Body and arms are also kept stationary and the dancers tap their shoes while hititng the floors, which emanates the sounds of percussive instruments.
Musical instruments used such as the Celtic harp produces romantic music which has been an important symbol of Irish nationalism since the 10th century. The Irish fiddle on the other hand, is identical to the violin and is played differently in wide varying regional styles.
The pochette or kit violin is a stringed musical instrument named as such due to its “pocket” size and the Bodhran is an Irish drum which symbolizes the heartbeat of Irish music.
Traditional Irish music was “kept vibrant through the 20th and 21st centuries amidst globalizing forces.” While there were various US and British influences that developed, the people of Ireland kept their own traditional music. Currently however, we now have well known singers like Enya and the U2 band who were able to cross that barrier.
‘The Rhythm of Dance” was shown in two acts. Act I depicted the story of the Irish immigrants’ epic journey from the rolling hills of Ireland to the skyscrapers of New York, performed by three powerful tenors singing Irish ballads and medley depicting Ireland’s fight for equality during the 18th century. Interspersed with the three tenors singing ballads were fantastic dance formations performed by the tapdancers in colorful costumes.
On Act II there were scenes celebrating the Emerald Isle when they were colonized and the streets became alive with additional tapdance performances and a solo Bodhran performance depicting the struggles of the Irish people from British rule. It also portrayed Ireland as a country, though divided by religion, the end result is the Irish’s acceptance of their differences.
Finally, the “Hill of Tara” scene in Act II showed “the battleground between pagan Celts and the faithful Christians during 7th century Ireland, which ultimately provided the legacy for Irish Christianity.”
We left the theatre awed not only by the Irish tapdancers and song peformers but also by the aura of music which blended perfectly with the cool breeze of the night.
The following day, my girlfriends and I were invited by our good friend, Vic Perez to see the one-night showing of “Fides Ecclesiae, “ which he directed, at the famous Pantages Theatre. The highly-successful theatrical show was sponsored by the Filipino Priest Association of LA, the Lay Volunteers of LA and the Chamorro Group of LA.
“Fides Ecclesiae” or Faith of the Church presented the stories of the two newly-canonized saints: St. Kateri Tekakwitha and St. Perdo Calungsod.
The play’s overall production had around 200 cast and crew, of which 18 were priests, headed by our most venerable Bishop Oscar Solis, Msgr. Nestor Rebong (overall production chair), Fr.Joachim Ablanida, Fr. Alex Aclan, Fr. Thomas Asia, Fr. Freddie Chua, Fr. Joel Henson, Fr. Robert Jaranilla, Fr. Rey Matunog, Fr. Miloy Pacanza, Fr. Mike Perucho, Fr. Adrian San Juan (composer and musical director), Fr. Lawrence Santos, Fr. Ramon Valera, Fr. Robert Victoria (playwright and priest coordinator), Fr.Rodel Balagtas, Fr. Joseph Magdaong and Fr. Mao Golloran.
The main actors were: Alexandra Ramos,who played Kateri Tekakwitha and Ruben Cuatrona who played Pedro Calungsod. Jenna Lockwood played the young Kateri and Friedrich Mendiola played the young Pedro.
Other actors who played “acting priests” were: Marty Baum, Ricky Labayen, Jun Corpin and Ken Lockwood.
Musical accompaniment during the show was the Filipino – American Symphony Orchestra (FASO)headed by Robert Schroeder. Other important production staff were: Mimil Rosales, Choreographer and Musical Staging; Anthony Abrilla, Lighting; Bob Ludwig, Sound Engineer; Costumes and wardrobe, Agnes Golingay, Dyna Marto and Alma Sianson.Voice Coach, Jona Peralta for Ruben Cuatrona; Lensmen, Bon Mendoza, Danny Paulo and Jomon Dela Rama.
On Act 1, the life of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first native American saint showed Kateri’s childhood journey from being orphaned at a young age to her refusal to get married, thus persecuted by her own people, which made her convert to Christianity by being baptized and administered holy communion. Alexandra Ramos, who played Kateri delivered an overwhelmingly powerful soprano voice when she sang “”All Yours, Jesus.”
Act II depicted the life of St. Pedro Calungsod through the colorful opening scene of the Sto. Nino de Cebu Sinulog celebration presented by the Southern California Sinulog Dance Group. At the age of 14, Pedro volunteered to go with the misionaries to the Ladrones Islands by way of Acapulco, Mexico. When Pedro arrived at the Ladrones Islands with the missionaries, they were persecuted by the natives and amidst the struggles they encountered, Pedro, played by Robert Cuatrona who’s prayer song of “Give Me Faith, O God,” delivered such a riveting performance.
As a finale, Act III became an Epilogue which showed the miracles of both St. Kateri Tekakawitha and St. Pedro Calungsod and their recent canonization by Pope Benedict XIV.
Overall, “Fides Ecclesiae” (Faith of the Church) has the potential of being shown repeatedly to Pinoy audiences in other parts of the world where Pinoys clamor for well organized theatrical presentations like this one. Congratulations are in order to Vic Perez, Bishop Solis, Fr. Adrian San Juan, Fr, Robert Victoria, Msgr. Nestor Rebong and all the cast and crew who made this theatrical experience a very meaningful one.