Poppert Bernadas comes into his own

He has spent most of his performing career in groups—in musicals, on television, or in concerts—but on that November night at the Music Museum, Poppert Bernadas had the spotlight all to himself.

“Who Put the Pop in Poppert?” was only his second solo concert, with the first one taking place only last January at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The overall concept and title came from award-winning director and playwright Floy Quintos, who said of Poppert on a Facebook post shortly after the concert: “He sailed effortlessly through a difficult but wildly entertaining (repertoire). The sheer range of his musical choices was nothing short of amazing. Love, love, love working with this guy.”

Despite that glowing praise from his director, Poppert told The Post that it was “nerve-wracking for me, as I’m still a baby as a solo concert performer.”

Poppert at the Museum Museum

Those nerves hardly showed though. From the first riff of Freedom! 90 by the late great George Michael to his encore performance of Ben&Ben’s Araw-Araw, Poppert took his audience on a trip through various eras of pop hits: from Tom Jones to Stevie Wonder to Jungkook, with some Joni Mitchell and Shirley Bassey thrown into the mix. His rendition of Bassey’s What Kind of Fool Am I merits a special mention, as it was both powerful and heartfelt.

He also paid homage to Original Pilipino Music (OPM) through his medleys of Ryan Cayabyab’s novelty songs Limang Dipang Tao and Da Coconut Nut; jukebox hits Mula sa Puso by Jude Michael, Remember Me by Renz Verano, Bakit Kung Sino Pa by Lloyd Umali, Kahit Konting Pagtingin by Ric Segreto, and Larawang Kupas by Jerome Abalos; and power ballads Bakit Pa by Jessa Zaragoza, Forever’s Not Enough by Sarah Geronimo, Wala na bang Pag-ibig by Jaya, and Come in out of the Rain by Regine Velasquez. His powerful rendition of Minsan Pa, with lyrics by National Artist for Theater and Literature Rolando Tinio and music by Jose Mari Chan, tugged at the heartstrings.

If he could have added more songs to his OPM lineup that night, Poppert said those would have been hits by Martin Nievera, Gary Valenciano, and Ogie Alcasid.

From ensemble to solo performer

“I still want to continue creating my own songs, my original compositions. For my next concert, I want to hear the audience singing my own songs. That’s my dream.”

Poppert started his career like many other local singers did: by joining community singing contests. His late mother was his earliest and biggest fan and, to this day, serves as his inspiration to soar higher in his career.

As he had both the talent and the desire to perform in front of large audiences, he caught the eye of National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab, and has been a mainstay of the Ryan Cayabyab Singers (RCS) for the past 16 years. He has since become a four-chair-turner on The Voice Philippines, a television actor, and a stage performer, most notably in Rak of Aegis, a musical by the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) and Rama, Hari, a powerhouse musical by Cayabyab, Tinio, National Artist for Dance Alice Reyes, National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, and  National Artist for Theater and Design Salvador Bernal.

Being both an ensemble and a solo performer, he knew the hard work entailed to succeed in both. Whether performing in a group or going solo, he said: “I have to know my part by heart—lyrics, timing, cues.”

When he was starting with the RCS, Poppert related that it was a bit difficult at first, as they all had to adjust to and get to know each other. It became easier as the years passed, especially because now the group was more like family to him, his “comfort zone.”

Being both an ensemble and a solo performer, Poppert knew the hard work entailed to succeed in both.

When performing in musicals, he did not only have to sing, but also memorize a lot of lines. Acting made him nervous, he said, as he still considered himself a newbie in this field. “I have so much more to learn. But, in general, that nervousness usually just comes at the beginning. When I’m already familiar with the material and the character, I really enjoy myself.”

As a solo concert performer, the demands are different. When performing with the RCS, he could rely on his group mates and Cayabyab himself to collectively carry each performance.

“But this time (with the concert), I was on my own, running the whole show. Of course, there were the director, writers, and musicians, but I was in charge of the show on stage: the energy, the vibe, the engagement with the audience. It’s a lot of pressure, but I love it. It makes me feel really good,” he said. “It has always been my dream to perform on stage, in front of a huge crowd.”

He also enjoyed being part of the whole process, from the creatives and even the production, he said. “Having a solo concert brings a different kind of fulfillment – it’s priceless.”

While it has not even been a month since he mounted his show, Poppert is already dreaming of the next one—this time, hopefully, with more of his own songs.

“I still want to continue creating my own songs, my original compositions. For my next concert, I want to hear the audience singing my own songs. That’s my dream,” he related. His latest single, Bitaw, was a fulfillment of yet another dream: to collaborate with Regine Velasquez.

In the meantime, Poppert continues to hone his skills, performing with the RCS on various gigs all over the country. He has no intention of ever stopping. After all, he is living his dream.

The new lifestyle.