The ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra is the latest addition to the country’s small number of symphony orchestras.
Composed of some 40 musicians under the baton of Gerard Salonga, the new orchestra is established through the collaborative effort of Philippine Holdings Corp. and ABS-CBN, the largest multimedia conglomerate in the country. Mickey Muñoz is the orchestra’s executive director.
Recently the orchestra was presented in a command performance for the press at Dolphy Theater of ABS-CBN. The performance was actually an “informance.” Salonga did not merely conduct but also introduced and provided notes to the program; expounded on the mission of the orchestra; and interacted with the audience.
He exhorted the audience to remove any inhibition for a fuller appreciation of symphonic music, telling them to applaud if need be without observing concert protocol, as clapping was a spontaneous expression of appreciation.
The program was eclectic, a potpourri of classics, Broadway, movie themes, OPM and Philippine classics.
The OPM “Laki sa Layaw” sported a handsome if sophisticated appeal á la Baroque Beatles. It was appreciated by the highly appreciative audience. It was followed by Glinka’s overture “Ruslan and Ludmilla,” which the orchestra performed with aplomb.
Salonga said the mission of the newly born orchestra was to perform, do recordings, and conduct outreach programs. He said the orchestra aimed to bring symphonic music closer to the grassroots.
He said the outreach program was aimed at all levels of audiences: grade-school children (Philharmonikids); high school students (Musicoveires); and the mature audiences (Philharmonic Discoveries).
ABS-CBN also envisions, Salonga said, to put up a youth symphony orchestra composed of poor but musically talented kids in the future. All of this is aimed at democratizing music, he added.
The performance lasted for over an hour. The orchestra dished out more familiar as well as serious tunes. Bernstein’s “Candide” was excitingly moving. Providing a stark contrast was Ennio Morrilone’s “Cinema Paradiso,” which literally chilled one’s spine. Principal cellist Ed Pasamba adeptly essayed the solo passage to engage the audience in sublime listening.
“Schindler’s List” provided another moment of absorbing listening.
National Artist Antonino Buenaventura’s overture “Mindanao Sketches,” based on a Manobo chant, which the conductor hailed as an exemplary piece in orchestration, was received with a hearty applause.
Salonga invited two women who gamely sang with the orchestra in “The Prayer.”
Next the youthful conductor offered the baton to anyone from the audience interested to lead the orchestra in the opening theme of “Star Wars.” The taker was a man who bravely stood before the orchestra ticking his right hand like a metronome, with the conductor turning the page for him.
The inaugural concert of the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra is slated at the BDO Francisco Santiago Hall in Makati on Aug. 18. The program will include Hector Berlioz’s “Roman Carnival” Overture; Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with Jovianney Cruz as featured soloist; and Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C Minor.
On Sept. 2, the orchestra will hold a tribute concert for American composer and conductor John Williams at Meralco Theater. Williams is known for his movie themes for “Superman,” “E.T.,” “Star Wars,” “Jaws,” “Indiana Jones,” “Schindler’s List.”
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