ILOILO CITY—The concert’s surprise came in mid-performance, sweeping through the audience, the spark lit when the musicians played the “Mission Impossible” theme song (Lalo Schifrin) and Voltes V (Kobayashi Aso).
Then followed Mike Hanopol’s “Laki sa Layaw (Jeproks)” to start a medley of OPM (Original Pilipino Music) songs.
By the time the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) responded to shouts of “I-sa pa” (One more)!” many in the crowd had risen from their seats, joined a mass singalong and waved lighted cell phones. Others had spilled to the front of the stage and swing-danced to VST & Company’s “Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko.”
The PPO, the country’s leading musical ensemble and one of the best in the Asia-Pacific, is no rock or pop group, but during its first provincial gig this year last Friday at the city’s Freedom Grandstand as part of the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ (CCP) outreach program, its members appeared like rock and pop stars rooted in classical music.
“We are bringing the soul of the CCP to a greater number of people around the country,” said Michelle Nikki Junia, the CCP’s interim president. “We want to expand our reach to a bigger number of audiences and continue what our past CCP presidents have done in terms of doing outreach programs.”
Herminigildo Ranera, PPO associate conductor, told CoverStory.ph in an interview that he was “overwhelmed” by the audience response in Iloilo. “I think this is the best crowd we had compared to those in our other concerts in our outreach program.”
“The Ilonggos are very cultured, knowledgeable [in music]. They know when to clap … they even danced,” he said. “They were very appreciative, very warm, and their participation was beyond compare talaga.”
The 55-member PPO, established in 1973 as the CCP Philharmonic Orchestra, also received a standing ovation in Capiz where they performed for the “Kumpas, Tunog kag Kiay sa Roxas City!” at the Dinggoy Roxas Civic Center last Sunday.
“It was very successful! There was singing, clapping and dancing,” said Ranera, especially when he called Roxas Mayor Ronnie Dadivas and Uswag Ilonggo Rep. James Ang to conduct the PPO for its encore number “Jopay.”
The mix in the PPO repertoire from classical compositions to contemporary music, OPM songs and Broadway was deliberate. “The orchestra can create all kinds of music and, based on our past concert experiences, the audience was so happy that, wow, it was possible that the PPO could even make local music,” Ranera said in a pre-show press conference.
The Ilonggos’ enthusiastic reception of the PPO concert, which was free and open to the public, attested to the success of this initiative. They encountered both a world-class performance and the transformative power of music. The diverse songs shattered preconceived notions of orchestra performance, seamlessly blending classical music with contemporary hits to reach audiences from all walks of life.
Danica, a teacher at Phinma University, was surprised and delighted at the OPM numbers in the repertoire. “Ang nabal-an ko ya, classical music lang ina kag daw pang-elite lang,” she said.
The PPO also played “Die Fledermaus Overture” and “Tritsch Tratsch Polka” (Strauss), “Concerto for Oboe” (Mozart), “Symphony No. 4” (Tchaikovsky), “Chorus Line” (Hamlisch), “Usahay” and “Walay Angay,” closing with the medley of pop and OPM songs.
Ariel Doronila, a barangay councilor, came close to tears when soprano-songwriter Lara Maigue and singer-actor Gian Magdangal sang the theme song of the “Phantom of the Opera” (Andrew Lloyd Webber). It was the first time for him to attend a world-class stage act.
The concert not only entertained but also inspired, leaving an enduring imprint on the hearts of the Ilonggos and reinforcing the belief that the arts, in all its forms, have the power to unite, uplift, and transform communities, according to Gov. Arthur Defensor Jr.
“Now that the CCP building is being rehabilitated for preservation and retrofitting, it is important to bring CCP to the various regions to make them feel that CCP is present,” CCP head Junia said.
Last year, the CCP reported 21 live performances by the PPO, as well as by the Madrigal Singers and the Kabataang Gitarista, in Metro Manila and the provinces before close to 30,000 people.
The PPO performed more than once a month in 12 venues all over the country in the provinces of Guimaras, Iloilo, Laguna, Sorsogon, Palawan, Cavite, Cagayan, Negros Occidental, Aklan, Nueva Ecija and Bulacan.
The Madrigal Singers held shows in Lipa City (Batangas), Malabon and Pasig cities, and the CCP complex during the Pasinaya Festival, while the Kabataang Gitarista performed in Malabon in February.
A “balagtasan” competition under the Kanto Kultura program was conducted in Lipa in May.
This year, PPO shows have been scheduled in Tacloban City (Leyte) in April, Binan City (Laguna) in May, Cagayan de Oro City (Misamis Oriental) and Bukidnon in August, and in Science City of Munoz (Nueva Ecija) and the San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila, in December,
“We are spending more time on the road, so to speak, than before to bring our festivals, live performances, workshops, training and exhibitions to gain a wider audience, build relationships and bank on shared experiences,” said Junia, speaking before the PPO show in Iloilo City.
“In other words, enlivening the arts and culture mandate with our people, the very reason the institution exists,” she said, adding:
“In more practical terms, we want to prove that artists can make a living out of being one. If we can continue to hold shows like this in different parts of the country, we could help create an environment that sustains the livelihood of our artists.” —With a report from Cheryl Luis