by Nickie Wang
The Cultural Center of the Philippines brings together seven of the country’s finest symphony orchestras in a week-long rendezvous of exquisite music and extraordinary talents.
From Sept. 21 to 25, the country’s Mecca of culture and the arts hosts the first-ever National Orchestra Festival featuring more than a hundred musicians who are members of the FILharmoniKA, the Manila Symphony Orchestra, UP Orchestra, Angono Chamber Orchestra, the UST Symphony Orchestra, the PREDIS Chamber Orchestra, and the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra.
Dubbed “Magnitude 7 on the Orchestra Scale”, the musical extravaganza will culminate with a performance of Festival Orchestra, comprised of selected members from the seven symphony ensembles. The seven conductors namely Olivier Ochanine (PPO), Jeffrey Solares (PREDIS), Edna “Michi’ Marcil Martinez (UP Orchestra), Herminigildo Ranera (UST Symphony Orchestra), Arturo Molina (Manila Symphony Orchestra ), Agripino “Nonoy” Diestro (Angono Chamber Orchestra) and Gerard Salonga (FILharmoniKA) will take turns in leading the Festival Orchestra.
The finale will offer Leonard Bernstein’s Three Dance Episodes from On the Town, Richard Wagner’s Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral from Lohengrin, Johannes Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture, Ralph Vaughan William’s Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis and selected movements from Gayane Ballet Suite by Aram Khachaturian.
For the opening salvo, CCP’s resident symphony orchestra (PPO) will perform Colas Breugnon Overture by Dmitri Kabalevsky, Pastorale d’été, H. 31 by Arthur Honneger and Symphony No. 40 in G Minor by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It will be followed by PREDIS and Manila Symphony Orchestra performances on the next day (Sept. 22).
On Sept. 23, the orchestra group from the UST will share the stage with FILharmiKA to relive the enduring music of Mozart and Leonard Bernstein. Meanwhile on Sept. 24, the UP Orchestra and the Angono Chamber Orchestra will render their performances of classics from the likes of Mozart, and Tchaikovsky, to name a few.
“This festival came about to sort of democratize the musical atmosphere in the Philippines. It’s about time to open our doors to them (other orchestra groups) because they also need our support…support from the community,” said CCP official Raul Sunico.
For the tickets and information call the CCP Box Office at 832-1125 local 1409 and direct line 832-3704. Discounts are available for students and senior citizens.
Sharing best practices
Since each orchestra has its own unique style, one of the main objectives of the event is to share best practices.
According to Martinez of the UP Orchestra, the festival is a marvelous experience for the young members of their group because apart from the exposure, the music festival serves as a fertile ground for the students to learn from the more experienced musicians.
“Performing at the CCP is already a very special privilege because it will inspire a lot of student musicians,” said Martinez, the only female conductor in the festival.
FILharmoniKA director Salonga mentioned that new and experienced musicians alike will get to work in rehearsal situation, “And this is how the kids could immerse and get the taste of the professional environment,” he furthered.
Promoting classical music
Orchestra conductors participating in the National Orchestra Festival believe that marketing classical music in the country is becoming a difficult task. Promoting the genre, which is perceived as daunting and exclusive to the elite, in a country where pop is given more prominence is already a big challenge.
That’s why they need to exert extra effort to draw people in concert venues.
In western countries, crossover artists have been widely accepted. Musicians who promote the fusion of classical music with popular genres attract varied audiences.
“There’s something hip about these artists. We have to consider that the industry is personality-driven and that we can only generate interest if we offer something different,” Gerald Salonga said.
But in broad-spectrum, fusion of two music genres is not as sophisticated as the original form. Thus, the general sentiment of musicians who promote classical music is that to develop an appreciation for classical music, one must be exposed to it at an early age.
“One thing that we could do is to bring the kids in concert halls,” Salonga added.
To Edna “Michi’ Marcil Martinez, apart from reaching people at young age, there’s a simple way to attract people to watch and see classical music performances. She suggests that all artists should have the initiative to patronize their co-artists as well.
“Orchestra music in not wide-accepted that’s why if marketing can’t sell our products (our performances) we should learn no buy ourselves…attend the concerts of our co-artists. It’s our responsibility to help each other grow,” she affirmed.