The initials “UUU” stand for Japanese words that translate as “Music Unites the World.” The UUU Project of Japan was founded in October 2011 for the purpose of giving free classical music concerts to the children of Cebu. The first show was held in February 2012.
The second was mounted recently at the Northwing Atrium of SM City Cebu, with a large group of children from Tejero Elementary School. Twenty-three young men and women came with their conductor, Masaaki Nagati, and joined the Cebu Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) for a memorable performance.
Akihide Naguchi, a young man who was once a member of UUU, is now based in Cebu, playing the clarinet with the CPO. He was a coordinator of the SM City Cebu concert, and was asked to give the opening remarks.
He also asked Ingrid Sala Santamaria, who was in the audience, to say a few words. In past occasions, Ingrid had given inspirational talks to the CPO and UUU groups. “You are my inspiration,” Akihide had told her.
A few years ago, he saw a documentary film by NHK of Japan which showed Ingrid and her efforts with the Salvador and Pilar Sala Foundation to set up a music development program in Cebu—which gave birth to the Cebu Youth Symphony Orchestra, now known as the Peace Philharmonic of the Philippines. Many of the musicians in the CPO came from these groups. Among them are Reynaldo Abellana, CPO conductor, and March Hamlet Mercado, first violin and concertmaster.
First in the program of the SM City Cebu show was the visiting UUU winds orchestra playing “Sedona” by the American composer Steven Reineke. It was followed by “Kaze no Mai” by Y. Fukuda of Japan.
The flutes and piccolos were wonderful in a spirited rendition of “Whistle While You Work” from the Disney movie “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”
Applause was loud for UUU’s interpretation of a suite from “Carmen” by Georges Bizet, and “El Cumbanchero” by R. Hernandez of Puerto Rico.
Of course, Ingrid was asked to play the piano. A hushed audience, notwithstanding the noise in the mall on a Friday night, listened to the Chopin etude “No Other Love,” whose lyrics were heard being hummed or whispered among the crowd.
Later, the CPO joined UUU for more delightful music. Reynaldo Abellana has blossomed into a brilliant conductor. Baton in hand, his body language conveyed subtle power. A glance, a movement of an eyebrow, even the slight parting of lips, defined his rapport with the orchestra.
Three modern works stunned the audience: “Runaway,” “Love Affair” and the “Superman” suite. Classical suites performed were those from the operas “Barber of Seville” and “Cavalleria Rustiocana.”
Also heard was the famous “Radetzky March” by Johann Strauss I. Everyone clapped along with enthusiasm. “We could be in Vienna!” an Arts Council trustee exclaimed.
The finale number was “Polovetsian Dances” from Alexander Borodin’s opera “Prince Igor.” It captured the passion and sensitivity of the Russian spirit. Akihide shone in the clarinet solo.
“Bravo! Bravo!” the crowd cheered, some of them surging to congratulate Reynaldo and the rest of the orchestra. SM City Cebu vice president Marissa Fernan informed the CPO that the group will play in a church concert on April 1. That will be at the Chapel of St. Pedro Calungsod on the eve of his feast day.
Ingrid said she was so happy to have attended this concert. Her most recent appearance in Cebu was in December last year when she performed with the CPO, also at SM.
In January, she was quite busy in Manila with the 22nd Romantic Piano Concerto Journey Tour. She sang the soloist part while her former mentor, Reynaldo Reyes, played the orchestral accompaniment on a second piano. The program consisted of the Rachmaninoff “Concerto for Piano No. 2” and the Tchaikovsky “Concerto for Piano in B-flat major.”
On Jan. 12, they were at Sonia Garcia’s Garden in Tagaytay. Next day they proceeded to Luneta in Manila for “Concert at the Park,” coordinated by Gie Arnold.
On Jan. 16, amid fabulous artworks, they were hosted by Jaime Ponce de Leon at his gallery in Legaspi Village, Makati City.
A memorable day was Jan. 18 when they performed at the GSIS Museum of Art in Pasay City. “Our background was a stunning Fernando Amorsolo painting,” Ingrid said with childlike glow.
The concert had been coordinated by patroness of the arts Minerva Tanseco, who invited Imelda Romualdez Marcos as guest of honor. On this occasion, the former first lady was presented with an award.
In her time, she had given the idea of the building’s design, inspired by the Ifugao Rice Terraces.
Finally, on Jan. 23, Ingrid and Reynaldo played at the Don Bosco Joy Center along Pasay Road in Makati City. It was coordinated by Dr. Claver Ramos and attended by 400 students and faculty of Don Bosco.
“I love doing these outreach concerts,” said Ingrid. She is already planning her 23rd tour for July and August this year. “We have been requested to perform in Iloilo,” she related.
How about Cebu? “I have a bigger plan for Cebu. You’ll see, and hear,” she said with a wink.