The world-class music of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) should not be limited to the theaters of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) — it belongs to all the communities of the Philippines.
He believes in the power of music to change the lives of the Filipino people
Such has been the vision of CCP president Arsenio “Nick” Lizaso when he embarked on a challenging journey to bring the PPO to the different regions of the country, performing at unconventional venues such as parks, gymnasiums and schools — wherever their music brings them.
Even before he assumed the position of CCP president, Lizaso had been a staunch supporter of the PPO. He believes in the power of music to change the lives of the Filipino people. In the past years, he has been spearheading the PPO outreach program.
More than just following its mandate to promote music appreciation throughout the country, the PPO — led by its music director and principal conductor Maestro Yoshikazu Fukumura — aims to provide world-class performances of diverse, yet accessible classical musical entertainment that enriches different audiences, the Filipino communities and the orchestra itself.
“We hope to connect and unite the Filipino people through music. The PPO outreach concerts bring music and world-class performances to those who cannot travel to the CCP, or to those who may not otherwise have access. This is our way of bringing CCP closer to the Filipino people, especially to those living in the regions,” Lizaso enthused.
For the first time, the PPO traveled all the way to the Queen City of Mindanao to bring the wonders of live symphonic music to the people of Davao. The back-to-back concerts were made possible through the support of the city government of Davao City, headed by Mayor Sara Duterte and the Davao Tourism Office.
Over 3,000 people flocked to the Rizal Park to witness the performance of the premiere Philippine orchestra, under the baton of Maestro Herminigildo Ranera. The orchestra serenaded the crowd with classical pieces and all-time favorite Filipino songs, with singer Erik Santos as guest soloist.
The music continued the following day at the gymnasium of the Rizal Memorial Colleges (RMC). Leo Magno, RMC president, was generous enough to host the PPO concert.
Approximately 3,500 people came to watch, including the music students from the Davao School for the Blind, led by their bandmaster Dondon Ondaya.
“Die Fledermaus Overture” gave a preview of the melodies and rhythms that would be heard throughout the night. Excerpts from Swan Lake, including “Swan Lake Suite, op. 20” and “Dance of the Swan,” “Hungarian Dance (Czardas)” and Geronimo Gimenez’s “Intermedio” from La Boda de Luis Alonso spilled effortlessly — one after the other — from the orchestra.
Maestro Fukumura conducted the first part of the program, which was meant to introduce classical music to the audience. Information about the Johann Strauss Jr. and Tchaikovsky pieces was flashed on the LED screen.
The excitement grew as The Nightingales, a vocal duo composed of singers Bianca Camille Lopez and Rhina Paula Palma-Cruz, started their performance with “Habanera,” the famous aria from the opera Carmen.
The duo showcased their vocal prowess with the fast flurry of notes from “The Flight of the Nightingales.” This was their version of “The Flight of the Bumblebee,” an orchestral interlude written by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The guest singers gave their rendition of “Runaway” and “Shine.”
The audience was quite surprised when the PPO performed its 2015 and 2016 Playlists, both arranged by Derrick Atangan. They experienced pop songs like they never had before. The orchestral pop program, under the baton of Maestro Herminigildo Ranera, captivated the audience, who provided the lyrical narrative for each piece. They sang along with so much gusto, to the delight of the musicians.
Balladeer Erik Santos serenaded the crowd with a Basil Baldez medley, arranged by Jedrick Itugot. His soulful voice echoed throughout the gymnasium as he sang “Ikaw.” As an encore, he sang “This Is The Moment,” his trademark song, the piece that won for him the grand prize in ABS-CBN’s singing competition Star in a Million.
The concert culminated with Beyonce In Concert, a medley of the American singer’s famous songs, and a Modern Ballroom medley.
Aside from the concerts, the PPO also conducted workshops, with about a hundred young musicians and students learning the basics and new technique straight from orchestra musicians Glober Calambo, Ricson Poonin, Benedicto dela Peret Jr., Angelica Uson, Bernie Paete, Gerry Gonzales, Ariston Paete III, Jayson Rivera and Jonathan Garlan.
Outreach concerts, according to Lizaso, are not easy to organize. It is a task that requires blood, sweat and tears.
“To make this possible, we need to coordinate many things, transport the full orchestra, negotiate for the transport of the equipment and instruments, find budget to accommodate and feed over a hundred people. But no matter how challenging and daunting the task is, seeing how happy the audience is after the concert or how much music touches their hearts and changes their lives, make organizing these outreach concerts worth it,” he concluded.
Photos by Francisco Cabuena