Patti Austin to hold benefit concerts for ‘Yolanda’ survivors

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Jazz singer-songwriter Patti Austin, who last performed in Manila only last September, is coming back—this time in two benefit shows for “Yolanda” survivors: Dec. 29 at the ballroom of Solaire Resort and Casino; and Dec. 31 at the ballroom of Fairmont Makati.


In this e-mail interview, Austin recalls her personal experience with tragedy; she also bares plans on how she intends to help the storm survivors, apart from the money that would be raised in the concert.

How did Typhoon Yolanda affect you?

It affected me deeply because I have many Filipino friends, including those who live in America and who have families in the Philippines. These are people whom I care so much about, because they have also been such loyal fans.

I had just been back to the Philippines for a concert last September after 10 years. It rekindled my relationship with the country and I could not wait to return. I am so sad that I am returning under such a cloud of sadness.

But my goal is to bring some peace and joy through music and, more importantly, to offer hope for a brighter future. It’s very important to maintain hope in these times.

How did the benefit show that you are spearheading come about?

I was invited by Roni Merk to help put up a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity. I was honored by the invitation, and felt anxious to do something positive for the storm survivors. Of course, to be given the opportunity to do this in Manila makes it even sweeter. It also gives me the chance to work with some of my favorite Filipino artists, Lea Salonga and Martin Nievera. We have shared the stage over the years in the Philippines and in the United States, and I’m glad we’re doing it now for a great cause. Hopefully this benefit show will raise substantial money.

Is it true that you are bringing a house design for the storm survivors?

The house design is provided by Habitat for Humanity. What I am bringing in are furnishings for the house interiors. My dear friend Marguerite Lhuillier, who creates beautiful furniture at her factory in Cebu, has consented to work with me along with a marvelous designer, Butch Carungay; we will come up with a simple, comfortable, modular form of furniture that is cost-efficient. I hope that Habitat will like the idea.


Eventually we’d like to manufacture this modular furniture for the public, with a percentage of sales to go to Habitat for the rehabilitation of the Visayas.

We plan to donate the first prototype of this furniture for the interior of the first home from our fundraising efforts. I have been involved in interior design for quite some time now; I realize the importance of creating soothing environments, especially for people who have survived traumatic situations.

Can you recall an episode in your own life in which you experienced tragedy and loss? How did you cope?

We had a house in Garrison, a town in New York, that burned down. My parents escaped just as the entire roof was caving in. I did not shed a tear because all I lost were things. I must admit I used to be materialistic, but after the fire I realized how unimportant everything was to me. The only things I felt really bad about losing were photos and some private letters.

This point actually leads me to something in connection with the storm survivors. I know that many people lost loved ones and photos of their loved ones. It is very sad when you’ve lost someone and there’s no image to remind you of them. Since my parents died, sometimes I actually cannot conjure their image because I have no more photos of them. So, I am trying to come up with a way that the storm survivors can have images of their loved ones created by artists who usually work for police departments.

This can be done either through mechanical assembly, or computer-generated composites. If anyone reading this has an idea on how to do it, we would love to work with you. We are looking for a network of police artists who would donate their time to fulfill this mission.

Another tragedy for me is the loss of my parents over a five-year period. I adored both of them. They were married for 50 years and they were a great example of how to live, love, laugh and be happy. Death is a tricky tragedy to deal with, because if you have a belief system in a higher power and a higher place that one goes to after dying, there is no reason to fear it. Also, if you believe that you will reunite with that person, you will have a different mind-set about losing them. Still, it is difficult because you will miss that person very much while you’re still alive. 

How many times have you performed in the Philippines and what made each show special?

Since the 1980s I’ve performed in the Philippines too many times to remember at this point. As for what made them special, I would have to say that it’s always about the audience. The Filipino audience seems to know every song I’ve ever recorded; they will sing those songs with you, exactly like you sang them on the record, and they will let you know if you stray from what they love.

Better still, once the Filipino audience loves you, you are forever loved - it doesn’t get any better than that. I cannot wait to get to Manila to feel some of that love again, and give a whole bunch of it back. I want to tell them, if you say you love me, I love you more. Thank you so much for your support through the years. Now let’s support the storm survivors with some real good love from the Philippines. See you all very soon!


The Yolanda benefit show, “Brand New Day,” features Patti Austin with Lea Salonga, Martin Nievera and Richard Merk on Dec. 29 at the grand ballroom of Solaire Resort and Casino, Aseana Ave., Parañaque City; to be followed by “One Heart, One Voice,” also starring Austin with guests Richard Merk, Emcy Corteza, and the Sticky Band. Inquirer.net

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