Kapamilya Awards 2017

It was a great privilege to be the Musical Director for this event. I witnessed hundreds of ABS CBN workers from all areas of the industry come up and receive awards for service for 5, 10, 15, 20, and 30 years.

Incidentally, my first arrangement for ABS CBN has been traced to the year 2003 by the HR department. So I’ve been doing freelance work (as arranger and keyboardist) for the network for 14 years now. Happy

The band performed an opening number sung by Erik Santos, Kyla, Daryl Ong, and Angeline.

Junjun Regalado - Drums
Simon Tan - Bass


Jay Agustin - 2nd Keyboard
Ardie de Guzman - guitar


Rene Martinez - backup vocals
Tanya Bustamante Marquez - backup vocals


We also performed Bamboo’s closing set for the night.


November 2017 Projects

November 2017 Projects

1. Transcriptions for Himig Handog 2017. Doing 4 songs.

Happy to be transcribing / adapting music for one of the most prestigious songwriting competitions in the Philippines. Thank you Jonathan Manalo, Himig Handog’s over-all producer and my very good friend.

I love the song entries for this year! It’s truly a good time for Original Pilipino Music. Lots of fresh and clever ideas in the songs.

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2. An arrangement for Aiza Seguerra (original composition) for her friend’s upcoming wedding.

5. Keyboardist for Bamboo’s shows on:

November 5 - New World Hotel
November 11 - Vista Mall Sta. Rosa
November 18 - Vista Mall Daang Hari
November 19 - Vista Mall Taguig


Two Days after Divas Live in Manila 2016. Senti Mode

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(noise-cancelling headphones.. one of the best purchases of my year)

Two days after the wonderful storm that was the Divas Live in Manila concert, I'm in a sentimental mode.

Pic above was taken in Hilton Hotel in London. This was where I finished the Divas’ Opening Medley Number 1, while still recovering from Bamboo's show in Scotland the night before, and from the flight from Scotland. Opening Medley Number 2 was started in Ireland and finished in Dubai. I only did 6 arrangements for the show (3 medleys and 3 single songs), the rest we farmed out to other arrangers, but it was probably one of the hardest things I've ever done! Because I did them while touring 5 countries for 6 smashing shows with Bamboo in 18 days, sound check, shuttling from hotel to venue and back, 12+ airport stops, 4 time zones. Jet lag, packing and unpacking hectic-ness (6 hotels), and the occasional hangover (eep), while coordinating with the other arrangers, with the artists, production team, and suppliers in Manila.

It was hard to do arrangements in the mobile workstation, away from my home studio. All the while missing my husband and daughter.

(victory pose after the gig in Dubai)

Sometimes when my comrades toured whichever city or shopped while I locked myself up in the hotel room to work, I'd question why I was doing this. But after everything, I now bask in the realization that it was all worth it. Music is my sport, the training can be gruelling, and then we go all-out during the show. Rinse, recover, repeat.

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(I made some very notable exceptions, though. Do I stay in the hotel room to work, and miss bar-hopping in Ireland? No way!)

Walking in beautiful and unfamiliar streets, removed from my usual contexts, gave me a creative energy that helped me to attack the workload relentlessly, and opened up my mind. It also helped that Spicy Lemon production/touring group put us in posh hotels in lovely areas, all 6 stops.

It helped that many of the songs in Divas were girl-power anthems that got my blood running, heheh.


After the first rehearsal

Ironing out harmonies with KZ and Yeng

A few light moments with extraordinary musicians Michael Alba and Karel Honasan before the countdown began

- - - - -

I realise I haven’t had the time to organise my photos from the Bamboo Tour. I’ll just save that for the next blog post.

- Ria Happy

Gig With Bamboo at Lovapalooza

Ok, I don’t have any pictures to show for it yet (maybe I’ll just wait for people to upload videos and photos), but I had a great time playing with Bamboo at the 2009 Lovapalooza. I know I’m a full-time arranger/composer now, and I’m more into scoring, arranging for albums, writing for orchestra, than actually performing, but it’s really nice to be able to perform live once in a while. And I know that while my first love is jazz, I’m also into rock and pop. And I think I should explore.

I do miss playing jazz, and playing in a trio/quartet. Ever since I got my piano again (inherited it from my family), I’ve been playing at home a lot. Maybe it’s time to take my playing out on the road again.

Yeah, yeah, maybe’s, what if’s and wishes. “Well done” is better than “well said.” Let’s see if I’ll really do this.

I’ll leave you with a video of my last gig with Bamboo before this Lovapalooza event. It’s been two years since!

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This Week's Tasks, Plus Some Tidbits About My Dad

1.) 37 Final Countdown plus 7 Showdown numbers for Singing Bee - due on Monday, July 21

Been writing transcriptions for Singing Bee for 2+ months now. For some reason, the load got doubled this weekend. It's probably because my dad, who is the musical director of the show, is doing other shows this month. My dad is the type to farm out his work to other arrangers when he wants to focus on certain projects, to churn out quality arrangements. He is heavily involved in the planning, writing, and of course, music, for Dolphy's show. He's the perfect choice for that show because he's a natural comedian.
(Sometimes I regret that I didn't inherit his showmanship or sense of humor, or ability to command the attention of whatever room he is in, with the least amount of effort. I'm more of my mom in personality, and many of my strengths are different from his, I think.)

My dad, Mel Villena, the Singing Bee Maestro, with the Bandble Bee. Photo taken from http://bumbleaidz.multiply.com/photos/album/34/Singing_Bee#3


2.) 1 big band arrangement for The CompanY's album - due on Wednesday, July 23

This gives me two days to write it... Hope I do it well despite the time crunch! A big band arrangement is always a dream project for me - even if I do still struggle with the medium sometimes, what with me not being a wind player - but neither was Maria Schneider, Gil Evans, Angel Pena, Michael Giacchino, and a host of other arrangers I truly admire, who write for big band. In other words, no one should use that excuse to explain shortcomings in writing for wind instruments (that he/she isn't a wind player), he he.

The CompanY is coming out with an exciting album! I'll post more details as soon as the project is well under way (I don't want to post spoilers).

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a video of The CompanY performing an arrangement of mine - A Night in Tunisia for Big Band. (I wrote for the big band while The CompanY arranged all vocal parts)

3.) 2 medleys for Dolphy's upcoming show - due on Friday, July 25

I also have two days to do these numbers. Yeeee! Good luck to me.

Pressure is good, in some ways.

My dad will be musical director of this show. Do we smell some nepotism with regard to my current gigs? He he. Well, in defense of his choice of arrangers, I do believe I've earned a bit of experience to be considered his "colleague" (a newbie in comparison to him, maybe, but a colleague nevertheless). He did wait for me to get hired by other people as an arranger, before he decided to hire me in some of his projects, and before he started referring me to his contacts. I got lots of stories and funny incidents related to being the daughter of a well-known and accomplished musical director and arranger here in the Philippines. But I will save those for other posts.

The current onslaught of arranging gigs given to me by my dad - those that aren't related to Singing Bee - may be due in part to shared tastes in music. I grew up listening to his sounds around the house. We both love big band, jazz, world music, and any kind of pop which has some quirkiness to it - mixing genres, experimenting. He is particularly good at big band, soul, show tunes, and novelty or arrangements with a lot of character. His arrangements, more often than not, show an original and highly imaginative mind. He confesses to not being the most mainstream arranger, because his music often has more quirkiness to it to be really considered mainstream, but I'd say he's in a very good niche which not many people are in, and thus the jobs still flow freely. (But of course the real reason is God's providence, behind it all... )

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