One of the few, glamorous black-tie events in Manila, the annual Johann Strauss gala concert is widely anticipated by the diplomatic corps.
The main attraction is the live music performance by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO), set in a partner hotel of the organizer, Johann Strauss Society of the Philippines (JSSP). This organization was formed in 1998 to promote appreciation for classical music, the Viennese Waltz and to raise funds for the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP)and other civic groups.
By custom, the chair of the board of advisers is always led by the ambassador of Austria, Strauss’ birthplace.
Its gala concert 2017 was hosted by New World Hotel. General manager Farid Shoucair wrote in the souvenir program that the concert’s objectives reflect the hotel’s values in corporate social responsibility and community involvement.
The program included a roll call of diplomatic corps, speeches by the top JSSP officials and induction of the new members.
JSSP officers handed CCP president Raul Sunico a check of P550,000. As CCP’s support arm, the JSSP’s donation goes to audience development, the CCP Arts for the People Program and the Young Artists Scholarship. The other beneficiary is the Psychological Center of Marillac Hills, a rehabilitation center for sexually abused or battered women and children.
This year, traditions were broken at the gala. Instead of Austrian guest conductor Ernest Hoetzl leading the PPO with an all-Austrian repertoire, Ruggiero Barbieri, former PPO conductor, was flown in from his native Italy. The repertoire combined music by popular Italian composers Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Puccini, Pietro Mascagni, Gioachini Rossini and Ottorino Respighi, along with Austrian composers Franz von Suppé, Franz Lehar, Johann Strauss I and Johann Strauss II.
Moreover, no ambassador from Austria has been assigned to the Philippines to collaborate with JSSP advisers, composed of Washington SyCip, Zenaida Tantoco, Cristina Ponce Enrile, former Supreme Court Justice Art Panganiban and Suzie Madrigal-Bayot.
Still, guests enjoyed the company, the food and the songs rendered by soprano Rachel Gerodias and tenor Randy Gilongo. As in past years, some guests were so touched, they wrote out checks or made donations for JSSP’s charities.
“The concert is a gift to the people who have supported our causes,” said JSSP chair Fortune Ledesma.
Likewise, its president Olga Martel noted in her speech the importance of the arts, particularly music, in rejuvenating the spirit.
Come September, JSSP folks will let their hair down at the annual Disco Party. —CONTRIBUTED