Arts & Culture

Damodar enchants in PPO concert

Eleven-year old
Damodar Das Castillo provided a glaring visual contrast with the
members of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) in a recent
well-received youth concert at the Cultural Center of the Philippines
afternoon of July 31.

He looked
diminutive compared to the seasoned adult musicians in the background
but again, the self-confidence was there and there was no trace of a
kid as he settled on his soloist seat.

The initial sound
that opened the allegro non troppo movement of Saint-Saens’ first
cello concerto was full and resonant one could not mistake it as an
authoritative tone coming from a child musician. He was thoroughly in
control unleashing an aggressive sweep from his instrument and thus
providing a deep, highly felt contrast to the lyrical, if, meditative
theme that followed.

Like it or not,
the child knew the piece inside and out. His double stops in the
animato passage bode that he could handle a much faster tempo with
yet another theme.

How he made
something of the light but haunting minuet in the middle movement was
indeed a tribute to his thorough understanding of the concerto.

With themes
coming from the first and second movements, Damodar provided the
beautiful contrast in the finale.

It was an
inspiring sight, seeing an eleven-year old wrap up a piece in perfect
sync with the orchestra. It was even more daunting knowing that the
piece was more than a hundred years old with its first performance at
the Paris Conservatoire on January 19, 1873.

The PPO led by
Herminigildo Ranera was a highly inspired ensemble in this concert.

The young CCP audience in the PPO concert.

The student
audiences came from different schools and indeed it was a big treat
seeing an 11-year cellist perform like a professional. It was a
hushed audience intrigued and, by turns, awed by a gifted child. The
applause was spontaneous coming from equally young audiences.

Two conductors
figured in this young people’s concert.

Fukumura — who took quite a while to make his entrance — opened the
concert with Rossini’s Overture to La Gazza Ladra (“The Thieving

The funny moment
was that the audience mistook the entrance of the snare drums as a
prelude to the national anthem and they stood up. Gradually, they
took their seats realizing their musical faux pas.

The highlight of
the concert was the introduction of the different instruments with
some student volunteers getting to conduct the orchestra.

In the end, the
national orchestra dazzled with Arturo Marquez’s Danson No. 2 under

The good news is
that Damodar is headed for an outreach concert at the Nelly Garden in
Iloilo City. It is a unique concert venue opened by no less than
Cecile Licad in November last year.

The concert is a
tribute to the late cellist Miguel Lim Cornejo who was a former
member of the Asian Youth Orchestra (AYO). He happens to be the son
of former Tourism Secretary Narzalina Lim.

The August 17 Iloilo concert of Damodar Das Castillo is dedicated to the late cellist Miguel Lim Cornejo.

The last time Lim
saw her son Miguel in Australia, she was struck by the blueness of
the sky and sea. “The colors were intense and so was the light. I
thought of Miguel and his own quiet intensity which found outlet in
his music, his letters, journals and long hours of fishing which he
told me, were occasions to meditate.”

The young Damodar
through his father Alvin Castillo said he is happy to dedicate the
Iloilo concert to another outstanding cellist who gave so much of
himself to his music and his cello students.

A first prize
winner of the International Competition for Young Artists in Estonia
(Eastern Europe) and presently a scholar of the Mozarteum in
Salzburg, Damodar is just as lucky getting his dose of mature
nurturing from his father.

For one, Alvin
makes sure the child does not feel extra special with all the prizes
he won at a young age and getting his share of audience adulation. “I
make sure he knows there is more reward in remaining humble and
making God the center of his universe.”

There is no doubt
in the father’s mind that his child has far more grasp and
understanding of his young life as an artist.

“He knows the
value of discipline at a very young age. He does not want to perform
any piece if he is not ready. If I don’t stop him, he wants to
practice six hours a day. Now it’s down to just 3-4 hours a day. I
have to remind him there is a lot to know and study other than
playing the cello,” Alvin said.

(The August 17
Iloilo concert of Damodar Das Castillo at the Nelly Garden with
pianist Dingdong Fiel is presented in association with the Miguel Lim
Cornejo Scholarship Fund and Richmonde Hotel Iloilo. For inquiries,
text 09065104270 or email: