Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Bayan Ko" by Lea Salonga

Birthday wishes go out today to Lea Salonga, the Filipina actress and singer best known for creating the role of Kim in Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil's* musical Miss Saigon**, for which she won a Tony Award; she was also the singing voice of Princess Jasmine in the 1992 film Aladdin and sang for Mulan in both Mulan (1998) and Mulan II (2004).

On a more sombre note, she is shown here singing Bayan Ko at the funeral of former Philippine president Corazon Aquino at Manila Cathedral in August 2009. The patriotic hymn was very much a feature of the days surrounding Aquino's death, and surely there was no one better to sing it here than Salonga.

*Music by Schönberg, lyrics by Boublil and Richard Maltby, Jr.
**Already well-known for their adaptation of Victor Hugo's 1862 novel Les Misérables, Schönberg and Boublil
relocated the story of Giacomo Puccini's 1904 opera Madame Butterfly to the Vietnam War in the 1970s.
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"Suddenly Seymour" by Ellen Greene

I was among the millions of regular viewers watching The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson one random evening in February 1987 when Ellen Greene emerged gingerly onstage from behind the famous curtain and, after a charmingly starstruck interview with the great man himself, proceeded to blow the roof off the joint with her rendition of Suddenly Seymour... Much of the strength in her performance of the show-stopping number from Little Shop of Horrors is due to an incredible talent, but it didn't hurt that Greene had sung the song so many times during her stint in the musical's Broadway run.

The work of the late composer Alan Menken and his widower, the lyricist Howard Ashman, Greene is here accompanied by Michael Leslie - who once played the voice of Audrey II, the killer plant voiced in the movie version by Levi Stubbs; the video is posted here now on the occasion of Miss Greene's birthday, which the Pop Culture Institute is pleased to celebrate.
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In Memoriam: George Washington

There are many myths regarding the life and character of George Washington, the majority of which seem to spring from his youth and early adulthood; the most famous of these - the old saw about chopping down the cherry tree, invented posthumously by Parson Weems - says as much about Weems' aspirations for the leadership of his country as it does about the necessity of myth in the shaping of any nation...

PhotobucketBorn on this day in 1732 at Pope's Creek Plantation, to Augustine Washington and his second wife Mary Ball, young George spent much of his childhood at Ferry Farm. His father dead by the time George was 11, he was taken under the wing of an elder brother named Lawrence, whose move to Mount Vernon (inherited from his father) meant that George received a similar windfall in his inheritance of Ferry Farm.

At seventeen Washington was made official surveyor for Virginia's Culpeper County, a lucrative post which allowed him to purchase even more land. Such successes as he'd already experienced - even from an early age, Washington was a skilled landowner - were offset, though, by the loss of his brother and mentor to tuberculosis in 1753; an even greater tragedy, however, was avoided when George survived a bout of smallpox contracted while attending his brother's convalescence in Barbados.

It was the military and political career of George Washington which established the central tenet of the American Dream - one later ruined by the likes of exceptionalists - that as good as things are they could always stand to be better. Washington's early career and indeed his handling of much of the American Revolution was fraught with the kind of failures that would have made a lesser man give up; Washington, on the other hand, took the time to learn from his mistakes and, given his innate humility, didn't take failures as bruises on his ego but as opportunities to learn. It was just such a trait which would have made him an excellent President at any time in history, but made him the ideal one by which all of his successors would be compelled to measure themselves.
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POPnews - February 22nd

[So important to Filipinos were the EDSA I and EDSA II Revolutions that Jaime Cardinal Sin, the iconic Archbishop of Manila, had a shrine and church built to commemorate them at the corner of Ortigas Avenue and Epifanio de los Santos Avenue in Quezon City, adorned by this statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.]

1797 - The Last Invasion of Britain began when 1400 soldiers of La legion noire in four French warships under the command of the Irish-American Colonel William Tate came ashore near the Welsh village of Fishguard.

1819 - Spain sold Florida to the United States for $5 million, in accordance with the terms of the Adams-Onis Treaty.

- The Republican Party held its first national convention, in Pittsburgh.

1862 - Jefferson Davis was officially inaugurated for a six-year term as the President of the Confederate States of America in Richmond, Virginia; he had previously been inaugurated as a provisional president four days earlier at Montgomery, Alabama.

1879 - F. W. Woolworth opened his first Woolworth's 5-and-10 cent store in Utica, New York; among the innovations introduced by Woolworth was the fixed-price, eliminating the need to haggle. Although the Utica store failed within weeks, another, opened in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was successful enough to launch his mercantile empire.

1889 - US President Grover Cleveland signed a bill admitting North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Washington into the Union.

1924 - US President Calvin Coolidge delivered the first radio address from the White House.

1943 - Three of the members of the White Rose movement - students Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans Scholl, and Christoph Probst - were executed by the Nazis for resisting the regime of Adolf Hitler and distributing anti-Nazi propaganda at the University of Munich; they would later be followed by fellow-members Alex Schmorell, Willi Graf, and their philosophy professor, Kurt Huber.

1948 - A Communist coup toppled the democratically-elected government of Czechoslovakia.

1958 - The President of Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser, and the President of Syria, Shukri al-Kuwatli, signed a pact intended to unite their two countries as the United Arab Republic.

1959 - Lee Petty won the first Daytona 500.

1974 - Samuel Byck attempted to fly a plane into the White House to kill US President Richard Nixon. The only problem? None of the First Family happened to be in residence at the time.

1979 - Saint Lucia gained its independence from Britain and its membership in the Commonwealth of Nations; the celebration was attended by the Queen's cousin, Princess Alexandra, the Hon. Lady Ogilvy.

1980 - At the Olympic Winter Games held in Lake Placid, New York, the so-called Miracle on Ice occurred when the US hockey team defeated the Soviets 4-3, in what is considered to be one of the greatest upsets in sports history; even though, as a Canadian, I've always been more partial to Game Eight of the 1972 Summit Series.

1983 - The notorious Broadway flop, Arthur Bicknell's Moose Murders, opened and closed on the same night at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre.

1986 - EDSA I - more commonly known as the People Power Revolution - toppled Ferdinand Marcos from power in the Philippines and replaced him with Corazón Aquino, widow of his former chief rival Benigno Aquino.

1995 - The Corona reconnaissance satellite program - in existence from 1959 to 1972 - was declassified.

2002 - Angolan political and rebel leader Jonas Savimbi was killed in a military ambush.

2006 - At least six men staged Britain's biggest robbery ever, stealing £53m (about $92.5 million US or €78 million) from a Securitas depot in Tonbridge.
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