The ushers at the Cultural Center of the Philippines have never been so busy in a Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) concert, tip-toeing their way to the middle seats to ask some members of the audience to please stop answering SMS, tweeting and updating their Facebook status.
But all formalities in a classical concert had to be abandoned three Sundays ago, Nov. 13, to fully enjoy “Aegis in Symphony, Symphonic Aegis,” the benefit concert at Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater) marking the 40th anniversary of the CCP Complex Employees Organization (CCPCEO). It is meant to raise funds for CCPCEO’s welfare and financial assistance pro- grams, as explained by its president Gemma Marco.
That night, for the first time, the country’s premier orchestra was trending topic in social media in real-time. The genius behind it all was concert director Ariel Yonzon. He and maestro Herminigildo Ranera collaborated for the songs to be played by PPO.
Setting the mood was a pre-show, a hilarious one-man- comedy skit by theater actor Phillipe Palmos playing a technical crew member doing last- minute sound check while singing Aegis tunes. Palmos is known for his role as Jewel, the gay amateur fashion designer who belts like an “Aegis” singer in the hit rock musical “Rak of Aegis.”
For warm-up, PPO did an overture of Aegis’ greatest hits. One of the highlights of the show came early with “Nessun Dorma,” sang by the three female lead vocalists of Aegis, the Sunot sisters Mercy, Ken and Juliet with the PPO.
Introducing to the Aegis crowd some samplers on how they perform on a regular night, the PPO did “Light Cavalry Overture” and “You’re Still You” (from “Malena”) with young tenor Arman Ferrer.
When PPO did instrumental excerpts of foreign pop songs, audience attention was brought back on stage. PPO followed them up with excerpts from some of Eraserheads’ more popular songs.
After the 15-minute interval, Aegis performed their hits without the PPO. For added attraction, there were interpretative dancers from a group called Artzone Dancesport Team. As if not enough, there was a gravity-defying performance by pole dancer Sheila Morfe when Aegis did a cover version of Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”
For the finale, “Halik,” back on stage were the PPO, Ferrer and Palmos, together with the pole dancer and the dancing group. The concert proved that night a philharmonic orchestra can reach the masa and the millennials. When it was maestro Ranera and the PPO’s turn to take their bows, the audience gave them a standing ovation and nearly a minute-long applause.
“Aegis was decidedly chosen for their extreme genre against the philharmonic. As one elderly guest put it, it was like Deep Purple playing along-side the London Philharmonic in the ’70s,” Yonzon tells the INQUIRER a week after the show.
CCP Main Theater has a 1,644 full capacity and it is hardly filled to the rafters during a PPO night. “Aegis in Symphony” brought in 1,180 people. It was still short by a few hundreds to be called a jam-packed venue but because tickets were sold less than three weeks be- fore the show. “The employees had to prioritize the regular shows,” Yonzon said.
As early as now, Yonzon said there are requests for a repeat before the Christmas holidays and another for next year’s Valentine’s Day. Busy months ahead for the ushers.