The Sound of Grand by Gay Domingoby admin
ABS-CBN and First Philippine Holdings team up to create an orchestra that brings a new sound to the network
In a way, it was serendipitous, says Gerard Salonga. He accompanied sister Lea’s performance at the 50th anniversary of the Lopez-owned First Philippine Holdings (FPH) Corporation—and there, met and talked with FPH COO Federico “Piki” Lopez about the state of music and specifically, orchestras in the Philippines.
“I was amazed at how much he knew about the activities of orchestras around the world, and that he too felt that for a country with so much natural talent, a solid career path in music was lacking. Things just went from there. Several meetings later, I learned that ABS-CBN had for a long time been wanting to assemble an orchestra,” he says.
In this StarStudio exclusive interview, Gerard tells us more about the network’s new Philharmonic orchestra, how it came to be, and how it is changing the way Kapamilyas look at classical music.
Bringing classical music to the general audience is one of the objectives of ABS-CBN Philharmonic. Why is it important for people to also listen to classical orchestra music?
The same reason that we need to read great literature and look at great art. The wealth of music that is available for an orchestra to play (and it's not just classical music), like all great art, demonstrates the highest potential of the human creative mind. Great musical works hold very powerful messages, so strong that there have been works that have resulted in the composer's arrest, or the complete ban of the music altogether. I understand the importance of music as medium of entertainment, but there's so much more to it than that, and I would like to help people discover it. It's about opening people’s ears and their minds to human potential. Just look at what it takes for an orchestra to pull off a successful performance. There you see how an orchestra can serve as a model. Discipline, teamwork, personal sacrifice for a common goal are traits to be found in all the good orchestras and traits to be found in the citizens of a highly developed nation, too.
Aside from concerts, what are the other activities and plans for ABS-CBN Philharmonic?
We're discussing recording projects now. Full-blown orchestral scoring is something that I really hope will happen soon. Slowly but surely, our first score-related recording session will be taking place soon for a new television show.
What makes this new assignment as ABS-CBN Philharmonic’s music director exciting for you?
Just the possibilities for us, given this type of support system which is unique to this country. In the UK, BBC has five professional orchestras, in Tokyo there's the NHK Symphony Orchestra, and in Seoul they have the KBS Symphony Orchestra. For ABS-CBN and FPH to support a professional orchestra with the goals of widening the audience base and democratizing classical music means that it's not all about ratings and kilowatt hours for them. They understand why a top-quality orchestra is important to a station, a community, and a country, and they also understand that championing Filipino music is not about paying lip service, but doing something tangible. Then there's the sheer variety of work that comes with working for network. As someone who loves ALL kinds of music, it feels like a perfect fit for me.
Please tell us more about the different programs you have. How will these be implemented?
I'm very excited about this. We've prepared special concerts for different age groups: Philharmonikids for the young grade schoolers, Musicoveries for older grade school till around early high school, and Philharmonic Discoveries for everyone else, all the way to adults. These are intended as an intro to orchestral music, and include selections from the classical repertoire to film, to popular music. We want to get rid of the fear associated with attending an orchestra concert, and really blur the lines. There's still a misconception that an orchestra, and the music they play, are just for the wealthy, educated, erudite few. We're here to explode that myth. By “popularize symphonic music” I don't mean to imply that we'll be degrading anything or dumbing anything down. We're doing something much more difficult, but long overdue. I hope that by the end of all of this, we'll have a listening public with broader minds, and deeper tastes for all genres of music. It's a long shot and will require a lot of work, but nothing worth having is easy to get.