Saturday, August 6, 2011

Virgo rising

I can only speak of his story from the time he joined to tell the story of Timoune in the play, Once on this Island in 2006. I did not know him or of him before that. He was coming in with a clean slate and with nothing else but sheer talent and passion for his craft - any theatre director’s delight.

One of the two roles he played in that musical was Agwe, the God of Water, who early in the play takes center stage with a song that sets Timoune on a journey. A veteran of choirs and singing competitions, he was a theatre novice at the time, yet he performed the role with such aplomb, such conviction that one might think that he has been on stage all his life. He is a joy to be with during rehearsals, engaging the staff and fellow performers in playful banter and would occasionally fill up the room with his booming, baritone laughter. But once onstage, he totally shuts out everything else and devotes his whole being to telling the story. Always eager to take in anything that would make him a better artist, he listens to directions attentively and accepts criticisms graciously.

While he is aware that God has gifted him with a wonderful singing voice, he knows that there is always room for improvement, and he works hard to further develop that gift. And he generously and readily shares that gift with anyone who wants it. He would always be seen giving advice to his fellow performers, imparting all that he has learned in years of vocal training, both formal and informal.

He never settles for mediocrity, and for him, and this is one of the reasons I love working with him, there’s no such thing as a minor production, or a small gig. He treats every single performance as a performance of a lifetime. Whether it’s at the ballroom of the Baguio Country Club, or a cafeteria along Session Road, or on a makeshift stage out in the open in some park. And he expects nothing less from the people he works with – he would encourage, push, and motivate everyone around him to always strive for excellence, whether it’s a major production where he’s getting paid a decent professional fee or a pro bono performance, where the only compensation he will get is the audience’s applause.

Since joining Open Space five years ago, he has been seen as Pilate in the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar,” Judah in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” and as one of the storytellers in “Kafagway: Sa Saliw ng mga Gangsa.” Earlier this year, we did a series of performances at the Art Park of Camp John Hay, which showcased his versatility as a vocalist: one night he would be heard singing classical arias, pop hits in another, and Broadway favourites the next. And it almost never fails - someone would come up to him after each performance, ask about him, where else he performs, if he has a recording. One Russian tourist, in town for a few weeks, perhaps missed visiting much of what Baguio had to offer for after hearing him sing one night, she made it a point to be there every single time this artist went on stage. A senator was driving by the Art Park one afternoon while he was onstage singing, and the senator stopped, got out of her car, and just stood there, with eyes closed listening to his wonderful voice. Weeks later, the senator requested a command performance, an encore just for her and her friends.

One might come to the conclusion, with all of the above, that he may currently be a big name in the industry. That perhaps fans crowd around him wherever he goes. But no. Not yet anyway. In one singing competition here in Baguio, the judges didn’t even think his voice merited a spot in the finals, when perhaps the real reason was that this guy was just too good to be true for them, too good to be in a competition set in the middle of a tiangge in the park. Or maybe it’s because while there right in front of them was world-class talent, a voice that reaches deep inside of you and stirs up emotions you didn’t even know you were capable of feeling, what they were looking for was just another pretty face.

Yet unheralded he may be, but not for long, for Virgo is rising. Lloyd Virgo, baritone, that is. With his recent performance in the qualifiers for Pilipinas Got Talent, where he left the judges in awe with an inspired rendition of “Nessun Dorma,” Lloyd Virgo may finally get the recognition he deserves and reach a much wider audience hungry for real, pure talent.

Lloyd Virgo is rising, and it’s a very good sign, for this Baguio-based talent deserves it. And we are very lucky to have him in our midst. 

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