Arthur Espiritu’s world did end last 21 December.
In fact, it became more, shall we say, artistic and spiritual?
On that fateful day, Arthur walked down the aisle of San Agustin Church in Intramuros with his Guinevere, singer-teacher Christine Bojocan, the pride of the Philippine High School for the Arts and the University of Santo Tomas.
We got the chance to witness it, up close and personal, being one of their principal sponsors, fortunately together with Mrs. Irma Ponce-Enrile Potenciano, Ms. Marivi Santos, Mrs. Maria Jeng, Mr. Ray Sison, and Vice- Mayor Nathaniel Hugo.
A year and four months, they met when he was doing a masterclass at the University of Santo Tomas. What caught Christine’s attention since August of 2010 was Arthur’s transparent self, honest and trustworthy, inside and out. And though when he says yes, and she says no, they still can manage to talk about the differences.
Christine adores Arthur like a huge fan, not just because of his greatness but also of his generosity: “He wants to help other people, especially young artists through teaching and music. He gives his 100% to his music and that’s what I like about him as an artist.”
His dad Felino seconded the motion. An Amado Goyena deadringer, he revealed some of Arthur’s secrets while we were seated next to him at Barbara’s. We learned that as a kid, Arthur idolized Michael Jackson and Gary Valenciano so much. True enough, during the programme, Arthur showed his guests, especially his mom Fe and his in-laws, Rosita and Guerrero Syta, that still he has Da Moves!
But why did he end up as a classical singer? “I honestly don’t know.” Arthur admitted, “I just fell in love with the style and the way music is interpreted. Being able to hear the complexities of each piece of music challenges me. The idea of making music within what has been written by these amazing composers and the honor of being able to interpret their music is a joy.”
Originally, he had so many dreams. He wanted to become a dentist and a physical therapist and a pilot. But it was his teacher who sort of discovered him upon hearing him, being a popular tenor in his high school choir and the lead vocalist of his band. So, Mr. William Thomas advanced him to join the Gifted and Talented Class where he was exposed to classical, jazz, pop, rhythm and blues.
However, he gives credit to another Significant Other, actually his second mother -- Dr. Raquel Cortina. He considers her his Musical Mom, someone who really pushes him to go ahead with music. Even before, she felt very strongly about his talent.
The late Mr. Buddy Carruth, on the other hand, was his sponsor ever since he started his Master of Music degree.
All of them contributed a lot to Arthur’s decision to go for it without looking back.
He studied at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music in Ohio, getting an Artist Diploma with the late Professor Richard Miller who wrote several books on Vocal Pedagogy and voice training such as The Art of Singing. Mr. Miller showed him many different ways to look at his voice and his singing. After having studied at the University of New Orleans with Dr. Cortina, it was Mr. Miller who gave him the new approach in singing and in voice technique he needed. He needed more training and Mr. Miller provided him that. After graduating from Oberlin, he got lots of auditions and Mr. Miller helped him get most of them. That is, to get to the next level.
Well, this Love Month, or better yet, this National Arts Month, we have the rare opportunity to fall in love with Arthur’s music via “The Poet Speaks.”
Together with pianist Najib Ismail, he will perform Robert Schumann’s “Liederkreis”, Franz Liszt’s composition based on Petrarchan sonnets, and opera arias about, of course, love!
Produced by the Manila Chamber Orchestra Foundation for the benefit of Unang Hakbang Foundation, his concert will be on Wednesday, 6 February, at 7pm at the Ayala Museum.
Vim Nadera: What is your reaction when people consider you the finest Filipino tenor in the world today?
Arthur Espiritu: I don’t really think that I am the finest Filipino tenor in the world today considering there are plenty of great tenors here in the Philippines and all over the world. I consider myself lucky and being able to have the privileges and opportunities at the right place at the right time. I am grateful.
VN: Could you tell us more about becoming the 2009 George London Awardee, the La Scala Awardee in the Belvedere Vocal Competition, or the second placer in the Irene Dalis Vocal Competition and the Metropolitan Opera National Council Audition? How did competitions change you?
AE: Competitions are a good way to challenge yourself as a singer and to test where you are in your technique and advancement in singing. Being able to win these prizes are great but what I remember most in being in competitions are the times when I lost or did not even make it to the finals. It was those times when I really realized that I had to believe in myself and look at it as a learning experience. It made me realize that “I’m only as good as my last performance”... Judges are gonna be judges and you cannot change that fact. It is the journey you take from being a loser to being a winner. For me, win or lose, it is the same journey. As long as you realize that you still believe in yourself and no one else. You, and only you, have the power to change the results.