Bringing orchestral music to the masses by Natalie Tomadaby admin
Manila, Philippines - To say that orchestral music can only be appreciated by privileged classes is a misconception that Gerard Salonga hopes will change what with the formation of the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra.
“There are people who think you have to be cultured to appreciate (orchestral) music. In reality, there is no such rule. Everybody can listen to an orchestra, and then they can clap when they feel like clapping to it,” said the notable conductor and ABS-CBN Philharmonic music director during a recent press presentation of the orchestra, comprised of 40 instrumentalists, at the Dolphy Theater.
The ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra played a mixed repertoire of OPM anthems and popular Hollywood themes with great classical pieces from the likes of Brahms and Liszt as if to drive the point that music is all-embracing.
“We want the general public to appreciate it because appreciating music is free. It doesn’t require a doctorate or a master’s degree, you just need open ears and open minds. People don’t realize that’s how simple it is. Of course, in classical music, the pieces are long, but if they’re played well, and (the listener) is open, you won’t notice how long the piece is. Music is natural to us. We just have to get used to (orchestral music) and what’s lacking is the opportunity to see it,” Salonga added.
The Berklee College of Music-educated Salonga is overwhelmed at the opportunity to bring symphonic music to the masses, with this “unprecedented” initiative from a “commercially-oriented” TV network.
“It’s pretty incredible actually that this has happened because getting funding for an orchestra here is just (difficult), then a commercially-oriented TV station to do it? No way, Jose. No way, it’s gonna happen, but look it’s here, they did it. It’s a risk but it shows that when they say in their slogan ‘In the service of the Filipino,’ they mean it,” Salonga said.
“This is unprecedented in the Philippines. (ABS-CBN) is the first network to have its own full-time, professional orchestra, and not just a pick-up orchestra that they will just call for a show. (The orchestra’s members) are all ABS-CBN talents. We’re here every day. We work here (at the Dolphy Theater) and rehearse here every day.”
So, how did the idea of the orchestra come to be?
“It (was) like two things at the same time. ABS-CBN always wanted an orchestra but the organizational side of it, it’s just so hard to put up an orchestra. At the same time, I met Federico Lopez, chairman of First Philippine Holdings Corp., and we started talking about orchestras, and one thing led to another, and the next thing I knew I was sitting in front of the board of ABS-CBN. It was literally like that,” Salonga related.
According to Mickey Muñoz, ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra executive director, “promising and exciting” plans and projects are underway for the group like concerts that the station is producing or co-producing.
These include a tribute concert to American conductor John Williams on Sept. 2 at the Meralco Theater. Williams is the genius behind the iconic film scores of such Hollywood blockbusters as Superman, Jaws, E.T., Indiana Jones, Schindler’s List and Star Wars.
Salonga said, “We’re trying to break away from the traditional model. It needed a fresh approach, a new idea of what an orchestra does and what it does for people. We’re not going to have a traditional season as the traditional orchestras would. We’re trying to come up with innovative concert concepts just to improve the experience of going to watch an orchestra in a concert — na hindi lang back-up ang orchestra, but it’s the one being listened to.”
An album is a strong possibility as well as film scores, given that ABS-CBN has its own recording and movie outfits.
Muñoz also said that “soap operas are talking with us for their theme songs, and the singers are also excited” with the prospect that they can do away with canned music and perform with a live orchestra during shows.
What they are also truly looking forward to are the educational outreach programs meant for the young.
Muñoz said, “That’s very important to us considering everybody is into iPads, iPhone and synthesized music. So bringing back the live and full orchestra music, that’s one of our goals.”
Through the outreach work, Salonga said they also hope to impart values being that an “orchestra is an example of teamwork, sensitivity, hard work, practice, which are applicable to all aspects in life,” as well as nurture fresh musical talents and encourage the creation of new works through workshops.
(For updates on the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra, follow @absphilharmonic on Twitter and visit its Facebook page at facebook.com/ABSPhilharmonic. For tickets to the Sept. 2 concert, call 586-6732 or 0915-1949760)
Link of the article from Philstar.com