Pinoy Singer Gets Standing Ovation in Frank Sinatra's 100th Birthday Concert in Europe
(Copy from Alfred Yuson of Phil.Star)
Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday was celebrated in a grand manner last Dec. 12 at the Smetana Hall in Prague with a concert organized by “Sinatrology” conceptualizer Jan Smigmator, known as the Czech Republic’s own “King of Swing.”
And there to do us proud and represent the rest of Asia as well — for the once-in-a-lifetime event held in one of the most beautiful concert halls in the world — was our very own Arthur Manuntag. Here he’s billed as “The Crooner” and often called “Bogart” by friends, most of whom know him as our version of Tony Bennett, and who is said to out-Bennett even the original.
For weeks now, going viral in social media has been a video clip showing Art performing How Do You Keep the Music Playing at that concert, backed by the RTV Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Felix Slovacek, with the enchanting sax solo of Markéta Smejkalova.
It was yet another triumphant gig for the veteran balladeer whose self-assurance on any stage is built on years of impressing audiences with his powerful voice, pluperfect styling, charming deportment and easy-does-it wherewithal. Heavily built and at six feet tall, the pony-tailed, chinky-eyed Art Manuntag melts the hearts of audiences with what has been described as a powerful but soft and deep voice.
Personally invited by Sinatrology author Jan Smigmator to join the international cast of singers paying tribute to Frank Sinatra, Art took along his beloved wife Kathryn and arrived in the Czech Republic on the first week of December, days earlier than the Grand Gala Concert in Prague. He joined the travelling troupe for lead-up concerts in several other cities: in BRNO, Ostrava, and Moravia, before wrapping it all up in Jablonec.
Standing ovations became the order of the day, as German singer Tom Gaebel joined up with Jan Smigmator and Arthur Manuntag to portray the “Rat Pack” with their renditions of Sinatra classics. Art recounts what led to his wonderful week as a prime participant in Sinatrology:
“Ten years ago, Mr. Jan Smigmator who is also a jazz crooner in Prague was searching for Tony Bennett on YouTube, and he kept seeing videos featuring me, so he became curious and started communicating, even becoming a fan and subscribing to my YouTube page so he could follow my activities.
“Then, five years ago he started his Facebook account, and added me as a friend. We’d exchange PMs, and often expressed how we both wished we could someday do shows together. In June of 2014, while my wife and I were travelling in Italy, the good news came about this big event that he would be organizing for December 2015: ‘Sinatrology — The 100th Anniversary Of The King Of Swing’!
“He invited me to represent Asia and join musical artists from all over Europe. Of course I immediately responded with a resounding yes. And the rest is history!”
Indeed, Art Manuntag made history by becoming the first Filipino singer to perform in the Czech Republic’s storied concert halls.
Smigmator’s own musical journey had been heavily inspired by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin and other swing aces. He has become one of the respected European singers who transmit swing music as lively interpretations for future generations, while lending the genre a whole new dimension.
The first concert was held in Moravia on Dec. 9, followed on the next two nights by concerts at the Boby Centrum Theater in BRNO City and the Gong Theater in Ostrava. For these, Art did a couple of spot numbers (For Once In My Life and How Do You Keep the Music Playing?), a duet with Smigmator (Come Fly With Me), and two production numbers with Smigmator and Gaebel (New York, New York and My Way as the finale.).
The fourth concert was the Grand Gala Night at Smetana Hall, followed by two more concerts there on the next day, while the final concert was in Jablonec City on Dec. 14.
One of the highlights of the Grand Gala Night was Art’s selfie act with the audience. Introducing himself after his first song, he greeted and thanked everyone for the invitation, then asked to be given the opportunity to have a selfie with the entire hall. Everyone laughed as he drew out his cellphone, then asked the orchestra conductor to join him in turning their backs to the audience for the picture-taking.
Going to his next song — How Do You Keep The Music Playing — he bantered: “Everytime I sing this song I dedicate it to my beautiful wife, my favorite wife (again to much laughter) who is somewhere in the audience tonight… where is my wife?” The 10 lady violinists stood up and waved their violins and bows in claiming the distinction — to even more laughter.
The Czech Ambassador to the Philippines, Jaroslav Olsa Jr., was part of the happy audience that night. Art recalls everything vividly, how he and the rest of the artists reaped standing ovations in all seven concerts.
“Grabe! Dito kasi sa atin never ako nakatikim ng standing ovation, hahahaha! At hindi din naman ako pinapansin ng mga TV networks natin, hahaha, pero okay lang kasi happy naman ako sa kinatatayuan ko sa industry. Basta maka-awit lang ako sa quality audience eh masaya na ako.”
Well, Art does enjoy terrific repute that he’s built up over the years. Also last December, he won yet another Awit Award for 2015 Best Jazz recording for the song “Hindi Magbabago” written by Tats Faustino and arranged by Arnold Buena. The original recording was by Randy Santiago. Previous to that, last November, he was chosen by the Gawad Amerika in Hollywood, USA as the 2015 Most Outstanding Artist in the Field of Solo Performances.
Later this year, he might do L.A. gigs after having suggested to friends there that they do a tribute to Tony Bennett who’s turning 90 on Aug. 3. Meanwhile, he might have a gig at Rock Cafe on Jan. 30.
The world-class performer whom I call Mr. Mellifluous actually started his music career in the early ’80s as a drummer and lead vocalist of the Kryptons band that played a combination of folk, country and rock — from The Beatles to Santana, Eagles, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple et al. They played at Shakey’s Pizza Parlor that was then popular among teenagers and rock music buffs for its live entertainment.
After a year and a half of playing rock ‘n’ roll, Arthur got tired of the noise and decided to return to his first love, crooning the classics. As a young boy, he had been a big fan of standards, listening to the records of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, Matt Monro, Johnny Mathis, and Diomedes Maturan who was a schoolmate of his dad’s in high school.
Art committed himself to singing songs that would appeal to all ages. And the satisfaction has since remained: that he’s been able to do that up to the present time.
In 2006, he won the 19th Aliw Awards’ Best Male Performer in Hotel Lounges & Bars. He hasn’t looked back since. “Bogart” gained that tag after recording a naughty song a few years ago — “Asia’s Big Bird,” which should’ve become a bestseller had it been given enough playing time in local radio stations.
Well, Asia’s Big Bird has started making the international rounds, to much acclaim, for being Mr. Mellifluous as our very own King of Swing.http://www.philstar.com/arts-and-culture/2016/01/11/1541182/art-manuntag-our-own-king-swing