It’s easy to understand why OPM lovers are willing to keep watching Odette Quesada’s concerts here and elsewhere. After all, while she may not have Regine Velasquez’s stratospheric range and penchant for jaw-dropping curlicues, she nonetheless sings her relatable, self-penned compositions with moving empathy and relish.
Moreover, Odette’s pitch-perfect renditions are made more appealing by judiciously sung melodic tweaks that never veer too far away from their hum-worthy melodies—which probably explains why those hit singles don’t quite sound the same way twice.
Odette’s style is uniquely her own, whether she’s bestowed the title “Nostalgia Queen” or not. That is precisely why it’s foolhardy for anyone to expect her to sing like the recording artists who popularized her songs, like Verni Varga (“Love Me Again”), Sharon Cuneta (“To Love Again”) and Kuh Ledesma (“Till I Met You”).
And when she covers the jukebox-channeling staples of male singers like Gary Valenciano (“Growing Up”), Raymond Lauchengco (“I Need You Back”), Ariel Rivera (“Ayoko Na Sana”) and Ric Segreto (“Hopeless Romantic”), the stories behind each song could take on different meanings or retain familiar themes with a more personalized context.
Take “Till I Met You,” sung by Kuh at Odette’s Newport concert and, later, by Odette herself at her recent two-night show at the Samsung Performing Arts Theater in Circuit Makati. Odette’s version easily turned Kuh’s enduring ode to romantic love on its head and, instead, revived it as a daughter’s earnest tribute to her mother!
The last time we had a long chat with the singer-songwriter, we talked about our respective mothers—Thelma (hers) and Vinefreda (ours)—and how we’re coming to terms with aging and their sometimes discombobulating “geriatric concerns.” So you can imagine how moved we were just by listening to “Till I Met You” as it has never been sung before. To be honest, we’ll never be able to listen to the song the same way again.
In that same show, the Anything is Possible (AiP) production team made up of producer/writer/talent manager Noel Ferrer, director/producer Rowell Santiago and their partners announced that, as we consistently urged, they would also be taking Odette’s concert on the road in key cities around the Philippines, not just in countries with significant Filipino communities (email [email protected] for inquiries).
That’s great news for OPM lovers in the provinces, who also deserve to hear “Friend of Mine,” “Give Me a Chance,” “Habang Panahon,” “Don’t Know What to Do, Don’t Know What to Say,” “Farewell” and others as they’re sung live by the woman who wrote them.
‘Like my children’
“My songs are like my children, I love them even when others don’t”—that was how Odette described her compositions to us.
Odette’s most recent show in Makati was made doubly special by the presence of Odette’s mom Thelma, now 87 years old, who admitted to Noel in a quick video interview that it was really her first time to see her daughter perform in a concert in the Philippines. The last time she came home was nine years ago.
In that chat, we also learned that, indeed, “apples don’t fall far from the tree”—because, as her mom related, Odette grew up in a musically inclined family.
Thelma, a noted jazz singer and pianist, said how pleased she was to see her child perform in front of a huge crowd. She mused, “[Watching her] made me feel like there was somebody else other than me who liked entertaining people. I’ve always considered myself an entertainer … I entertain people regardless of what I’m doing (laughs).
“Odette probably got her musicality from the Quesada side. But the truth is, my father was a composer … he self-studied and never learned [that skill] from a university. In fact, he had a couple of compositions, but he passed away during the war. My mom also sang, but she was into classical music.”
When asked to give her daughter a message, Mom Thelma said, “I love what she’s doing and I love her very much. I hope she enjoys more success in the future.”
As it turned out, Mom Thelma also has Odette’s hefty sense of humor. When she was asked which of Odette’s songs was her favorite, she gamely answered, “I like ‘A Long, Long Time Ago,’ originally sung by Kuh Ledesma. [It may be a sad song,] but I guess it’s also like my life—a lot has happened in it a long, long time ago (laughs)!”