Manila’s classical music enclave is abuzz with live concerts opening here and there after more than two years of online isolation.
Add to that the good news of new theaters opening their doors to the performing arts community.
The Ayala Museum venue has finished renovation and would soon feature live concerts.
But the biggest news is the opening of the 1500-seater Samsung Theater for Performing Arts (STPA) in the Makati Circuit district this Sunday (June 19, 5 p.m.) just in time for the Father’s Day concert of the Manila Symphony Orchestra with special participation of the MSO Music Academy students, the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra with the participation of the Makati Youth Orchestra.
The family concert called “PAPA MIA” is a happy blend of both classical pop favorites.
The big attraction is Juilliard-bound young violinist Jeanne Marquez playing Tango Por Una Cabeza by Carlos Gardel as arranged by John Williams.
“This girl (Marquez) is Juilliard bound and is sounding better than ever when I listened to her. Hard work and dedication work! I feel like a proud Papa,” Diomedes Saraza Jr., her teacher said after the first rehearsal.
The Makati Circuit district is now known as the city’s arts, entertainment, and culture district.
The Europe-based Filipina ballerina Anna Villadolid visited the new venue and said: ““What a glorious space equal to the beautiful theaters you see in Europe. I already feel special just entering the grand lobby!”
The French, British, Spanish, Italian, German, and Japanese cultural attachés have visited the country’s newest performing arts venue and were highly impressed.
(Cultural attaches are diplomats with special responsibility of promoting the culture of their homeland.)
MSO executive director Jeffrey Solares said: “The space is very elegant and the location is very accessible. As far as acoustics is concerned, it can still stand some improvement. We might need to build an acoustic shell to be able to mount orchestral concerts with no need for electronic amplification.”
“I feel excited and rejuvenated relearning the ropes of organizing performances with live audiences. Of course, we have to cope with health protocols that include vaccination and RT-PCR tests, among others. It is a big relief our art is finally going somewhere once again,” he added.
Another welcome surprise is seeing their online students reporting for live rehearsals. “We finally saw how they have evolved during the pandemic and how they are coping now with the opening of live concerts. Some of our students have grown more mature over the years.”
What was obvious during the first rehearsals was that the young musicians were very eager to perform on a real stage with real audience.
The lessons the musicians young and old learned during the pandemic can be summed up thus: learn to adapt, expand horizons, be creative and flexible.
The past year also saw MSO members winning several international competitions and are now enjoying scholarships abroad. “Hopefully they all come back and contribute to raising the standards of musicians here in the Philippines.”
Another welcome development among the ranks of the MSO is the recent marriage of conductor Solares to violinist Sara Maria Gonzales.
“My wife and I are both tied to the MSO, the MSJO and the Academy. With our marriage comes the commitment to make sure these institutions succeed and flourish. We have started to think in terms of long-term plans for the MSO Foundation and really securing a stable future for all our programs,” Solares enthused.
Meanwhile a concert season is on hold while the orchestra campaigns for more support from sponsors.
The MSO Foundation has envisioned a symbiotic relationship among its three main projects: the professional orchestra, the youth orchestra (MSJO) and the academy.
Solares concluded: “Everyone is welcome to join our growing family of supporters. It takes a village to a build a world-class orchestra. Everyone can be part of this musical village we are trying to build.”
(The June 19, 5 p.m. program at the Samsung Theater for Performing Arts includes Divertimento in F, Allegro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Concerto Grosso no. 12 in Bm by Georg Frederick Handel; Leron Leron Sinta Folksong/Arr. Saunder Choi, For Good from “Wicked” by Stephen Schwartz; The River Flows in You by Yiruma; Concerto in A Minor by A ntonio Vivaldi; Humoresque by Antonin Dvorak; The Two Grenadiers by Robert Schumann; Minuet by Johann Sebastian Bach; Atin Cu Pong Folksong/Arr. Ryan Cayabyab; “O Mio Babbino Caro”(Iona Ventocilla-Borja, soprano)Tango “Por Una Cabeza”(Jeanne Marquez, violin) by Carlos Gardel. For inquiries, call 09154415294.)