Tenor Kevin Gomez: Davao gem in the rough, rising

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 14 January) — It was night to remember, a night to be proud, not only for the parents Nikki and Neng, not only for friends, not only for Ateneo de Davao U, but for the entire Davao and Mindanao.  It was a fitting close to the birthday of my wife Jasmin last January 6:  a rarity, she said, to cap one’s birthday listening to a tenore di forza (‘strong tenor’ in Italian) recital.

Kevin Mikhail Hernandez Gomez wowed my wife and I with his powerful and plaintive renditions of Handel’s “Comfort ye – Ev’ry Valley, Donizetti’s “Una furtiva lagrima,” Henri Duparc’s “Le manoir de Rosemonde,” Robert Schumann’s “Ich grolle nicht,” Franz Schubert’s “Nacht und Traume,” Mozart’s “Il Mio Tesoro” and Nicanor Abelardo’s “Bituing Marikit” as arranged by Ryan Cayabyab.  Whether it was in old English, Spanish, French, German, Latin or Filipino, Kevin’s voice came out crisp and clear.

Tenor Kevin Mikhail Hernandez Gomez, 32, sings in Adieu!, s fundraiser recital on 6 January 2023 at the Ateneo de Davao University. Photo by SAMAHAN Creative Team

Kevin played so skillfully with the musical notes evoking very powerful and rich sounds and lifting our souls whenever he ventured into the higher pitches.

What took the cake, so to speak, that night, was Kevin’s belting of “Usahay” by Gregorio Responso Labja – heartfelt, meandering, waltz-y (if there is such a word), almost like a lullaby, a love lullaby. At encore, the audience unanimously thundered for a repeat rendition of the song.

A star is born: tenor Kevin Mikhail Hernandez Gomez. Photo by SAMAHAN Creative Team

At the end of the show, journalist and friend Carol Arguillas animatedly narrated to us the true story of this song, considered one of the greatest masterpieces ever composed among Visayan songs. Popularized by voices of Susan Fuentes, Pilita Corrales, Dulce, South Border and many more, the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that “Usahay” was originally composed by Greg Labja of Davao… almost twenty years after his passing.  Labja, then a band leader of the Harvardian Colleges in the 1950s, wrote the song for a beautiful majorette named Noemi Ortega from the Davao Central Institute.

Dabawenyo tenor Kevin Gomez (center) with pianists and fellow Dabawneyos Daphne Cabaguio Jocson and Jose Mari dela Pena. Photo by SAMAHAN Creative Team

We concluded that night “a star is born” or was born, we just did not know that “the star” had been streaming light  in increasing intensity for some time now, 16 years in fact if my calculations are correct.  Kevin started with the ADDU Ateneo Subdominant 7 chapel choir in 2007.  In between higher studies, Kevin sang with the Ateneo Chamber Singers and Villancico Vocal Ensemble en route to conducting music for one of biggest grand choirs at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mt. Carmel in Quezon City.

Kevin closed the recital proper that night with Gabriel Faure’s “Adieu.”  Kevin leaves for Brisbane on the third week of January to further hone his timbre at the Griffith University’s Queensland Conservatorium where he will pursue his Master’s Degree in Music Studies program, major in Opera Performance.

At 32, Kevin’s star has a lot more shining in store as he matures and regales the world.

That night, Kevin was more than ably  assisted by fellow Davaoenos and classical pianists Daphne Cabaguio Jocson and Jose Mari dela Pena.

On Saturday,  January 21, Kevin will perform in a concert, “Of Songs & Arias” of the Manila Pianos Artist Series, with pianist Gabriel Paguirigan. The concert starts at 6 p.m. at the Manila Pianos Showroom, 4/f Ronac Lifestyle Center, Paseo de Magallanes, Makati City.

(Born in Ozamiz City, raised in Cotabato City, married to a Dabawenya, Marriz Manuel B. Agbon  spent his “years of living dangerously’ as a young news reporter at the San Pedro Express in Davao City in the 1980s. Now in his 60s and “officially” retired, he spends his time doing his daily runs and swims,  and cooking meals for his wife and daughter in his current base in Taguig City while continuing to provide business advisory services)