MANILA -- Singer-actor Arman Ferrer doesn’t seem like he is in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, with all the activities lined up in his busy schedule. He is one of the few performers whose calendar remains loaded, although he has been working from home most of the time.
“Since the start of the quarantine, I have been very busy,” Ferrer told ABS-CBN News in a phone interview. “I had been doing a lot of collaborations with other artists.”
Last July, Ferrer recorded a duet, “Giliw,” with Martin Nievera for the frontliners, released under Jesuit Communications.
“Even before, all my collaborations with other artists have been focused on positivity, giving joy and hope to others,” Ferrer said. “That’s my main goal. This pandemic is really draining physically, emotionally and mentally. Everybody is super stressed. We need to create music to lighten up everything around us.”
This month, Ferrer is also starting to record a Christmas album, with the music of National Artist Ryan Cayabyab, Nonong Buencamino, and Fr. Manoling Francisco with arrangements by Paulo Zarate, Toto Sorioso and Gino Cruz.
“I’m releasing a Christmas album to spread hope and love,” Ferrer said. “I’m a huge Mr. C. fan. I love his music so much. I’ve performed a lot of his songs in every gig. I also recorded his songs.”
Ferrer earlier recorded Cayabyab’s “Sometime, Somewhere,” originally sang by Basil Valdez. The song is the title track and carrier single of Ferrer’s solo album released in January under Jesuit Music Ministry (JMM). Other selections include “Tanging Yaman,” “Huwag Kang Mangamba,” “Pilgrim’s Theme,” “Giliw” and “Lipad ng Pangarap.”
In the opening of ASEAN Games in 2017, Ferrer also rendered Cayabyab’s “Awit ng Pagsinta,” from the musical, “Rama Hari.” More recently, Ferrer worked with Cayabyab in a benefit concert of PLDT.
“It’s a blessing that we have music during this pandemic,” Ferrer maintained. “Mr. C spearheaded ‘Bayanihan Musikahan,’ an online fundraising concert for corona virus relief efforts. I was really glad and honored to be part of that show.”
Known as a powerful tenor and an acclaimed theater artist, Ferrer started 2020 on a high note. Apart from the release of his solo album, he guested on the two-night homecoming concert of singer-songwriter Odette Quesada, “Hopeless Romantic,” at the Maybank Theater.
In musical theater, Ferrer has received recognition and plaudits for his performances in acclaimed productions like “Mabining Mandirigma” with Monique Wilson, “Sweeney Todd” with Lea Salonga, “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” with Kayla Rivera, and “Binondo: A Tsinoy Musical” with Sheila Valderrama-Martinez.
Last month, Ferrer was honored to have been handpicked by songwriter Fabian Obispo to record one of the tracks for “A Divergent War: Songs for the Pandemic,” with lyrics by Joi Barrios and music by Obispo.
“Jed Balsamo, composer of the musical, ‘Mabining Mandirigma,’ messaged me to say that Fabian Obispo had a project for me,” Ferrer recalled. “Without even knowing yet what the project was yet at that time, I readily knew I’d be happy to be part of the project.”
“A Divergent War: Songs for the Pandemic” is released by Ma-Yi Studios. The musical outing is a collection of five original songs in Filipino, with English subtitles, to be interpreted by five artists to essay songs about longing, poverty, resistance, cleansing and tomorrow.
“It’s still a mystery to me how I got into this project,” Ferrer said. “I was just surprised. I’ve known Mr. Fabian Obispo since I was young because of his chorale works. I am so honored to have been a part of his latest project.”
Ferrer has been assigned to record the romantic song, “Awit ng Pag-ibig.” He shared part of the hopeful lyrics of the love ballad. “Kailan pa matatapos ito? Kailan pa kita muling mahahagkan. Kailan pa kita ulit mayakap, kung ang bukas ay hindi matiyak…”
“There’s that longing for our loved ones,” Ferrer explained. “While we’re in a pandemic, we are like fighting in a distant war. We are apart from each other. That’s what’s happening now. There’s always that uncertainty. The war is this pandemic.”
Also featured in “A Divergent War: Songs for the Pandemic” are tracks recorded by Monique Wilson, Joshua Cabiladas, Rafa Siguion-Reyna, Chat Aban and Pendong Jr. of Ang Grupong Pendong. Each song was filmed, edited and mastered remotely. Music direction is by Ejay Yatco, sound mastering by Jan Levi Sanchez and video editing by Adjani Arumpac.
Ferrer didn’t get to listen to the other songs by other artists in the project. He did the audio and video recording of his “Awit ng Pag-ibig” from home. “I did everything from the house,” Ferrer shared. “Work from home ang set-up ko sa house.
“My song underwent a lot of revisions while we were recording because it is an original song,” Ferrer disclosed. “In the process of recording and studying, there were a lot of revisions during the rehearsals. It’s normal when you’re dealing with original work.”
According to Ferrer, “A Divergent War: Songs From the Pandemic” is inspired by the role of the traditional kundiman in the 1896 revolution. “We tell our stories through poetry and music,” he said. “The five tracks will be released online and will definitely be available for everybody.”
Ferrer is likewise busy with “Scorpio Sabado,” which features live performances for Kumu, an online outlet for singers and performers. “Primarily, we wanted an outlet to perform,” Ferrer said. “When you’re a singer or a performer, being just stuck in your house can be exhausting. What we love to do is to express ourselves and be able to perform. If we’re just stuck in our houses, nawawala ‘yung live energy namin.”
Recently, Ferrer recorded with Toto Sorioso a cover of “Far Greater Love,” a haunting ballad penned by Fr. Manoling Francisco and Fr. Johnny Go. The song was written back in 2012, specifically for the sainthood of 26-year-old Jesuit seminarian Richie Fernando, who died in 1996 while protecting his Cambodian students.
Ferrer is also preparing for a Marian concert as well as a Christmas concert, under Jesuit Music Ministry, both happening in December.