A Filipino clarinetist in the Asian Youth Orchestra

Andrew Constantino in the Opera City Tower in Tokyo, Japan. Photo from Constantino’s Facebook page.

“Music really connects people. It doesn’t matter if you're Japanese, Korean, Chinese or Filipino. With the power of music, we can bring about world harmony and be of help to one another.”

Thus enthused Andrew Constantino, the only Filipino clarinetist in the recently concluded Asian tour of the Asian Youth Orchestra (AYO) founded by legendary violinist Yehudi Menuhin and music educator Richard Pontzious in 1987.

The 2019 tour logged a total of 14 concerts in China (Nanjing, Tianjin and Shanghai), Taiwan (Taipei and Chiayi City), South Korea (Seoul) and Japan (Fukuoka, Kumamoto and Tokyo). “From the audience of each country, we felt total acceptance and pure enjoyment from the audiences,” added Andrew. “Special to us is the reaction of young people who seemed to have completely connected with our program.”

Also in this AYO tour is his sister Alexis who is in the percussion section.

To be sure, not just any young musician across Asia can join the orchestra. They all have to pass the tough auditions involving equally talented musicians. “It’s really tough because I did not make it on my first four tries. On my fifth try this year, I finally made it. So many talented clarinetists across Asia and the orchestra only needs four. The musicians they want are those fully prepared and must already know the music that the AYO will play for the tour. From mind to heart to be precise.”

The four clarinetists are assigned one piece each and a decision will emerge who will be principal for one piece of music. The AYO clarinet mentor surprisingly gave him two pieces where he would be principal for the tour.“It was a big challenge because it was my duty and responsibility to lead the clarinet section and communicate with the whole woodwind section and on to the concert master of the orchestra.”

The legendary violinist Yehudi Menuhin (third from right) when he played with the Manila Symphony Orchestra at the UST Gym in 1948. Also in picture is Maestra Mercedes Matias Santiago with some teachers at the UST Conservatory. Photo from Pablo Tariman’s Collection.

The two sets of programs for two conductors (Richard Pontzious and Joseph Bastian) include Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol, Bruch’s Violin concerto in G Minor (violinist Mone Hattori) and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade and then Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks,

Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G (pianist Rachel Cheung) and Brahms’ Symphony No. 4.

Constantino said the two conductors, Bastian and Pontzious, simply exceptional. “They were fantastic although they have different taste in music. But then they have a special passion for music They have different tastes when it comes to music. But they have this common passion for the music that enables them to unify the orchestra as one. And yet they really have different interpretations.”

From this tour, he realized hard work pays off.

“No matter how hard it goes, it’s really worth it.After I went through countless sectional rehearsals, it was a relief that I can actually do it by strictly following the music mentor and the conductor who stressed:quality -- more than quantity-- matters.”

The perks of the tour aside from pre-tour professional training is that he got to perform in some of the best concert halls around Asia and work with other young musicians. “As the tour goes on, you actually develop a strong bond with other musicians and with the orchestra. It is a special privilege working with the best musicians across Asia.”

AYO artistic director Pontzious credits violin icon Menuhin as one of the moving spirits behind the orchestra. “I first proposed the idea to him (Menuhin). We met in Reno, Nevada, San Francisco, and then at his home in Chester Square, London. He was thrilled with the possibilities of bringing together young Asian musicians and signed on as music director without hesitation.”

By coincidence, Menuhin performed at the UST Gym as Mendelssohn concerto soloist of the Manila Symphony Orchestra in 1948 under the baton of Bernardino Custodio.

The Asian Youth Orchestra in Taiwan.

Meanwhile, Andrew is back to playing solo as one of the guest artists in the Evening of Opera at the historic Nelly Garden in Iloilo City on December 7. “I have been playing orchestral music the past three months and finally I go solo playing music based on opera. I look forward to this Iloilo concert.”

The other featured artists in the Dec. 7 Iloilo concert are tenor Nomher Nival, soprano Jasmin Salvo and pianist Gabriel Paguirigan.

For invitational tickets, call 09065104270 or 09175758040. Or email: artsnewsservice@gmail.com.


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