Danielle Kuhlmann of Cultures in Harmony USA is one of four musicians who integrated with the Tagbanua community in Culion island, Northern Palawan. Culion is one of those affected by Super-typhoon Yolanda, but it remains largely out of the public eye in terms of relief and rehabilitation work because of the attention focused on Leyte. The musicians brought not the usual kind of relief goods. They had a learning exchange workshop to enable the Tagbanuans "to find strength in the richness of their own traditional music and culture" and for the Americans to see the similarities of indigenous and the classical and how they could co-exist.
That's Frank Shaw (left), who played the viola, and Danielle talking about their immersion experience and also about the music they're about to play to the audience at the Manila Symphony Orchestra's Rush Hour Concert No. 6, billed as "a different kind of traffic jam." There was no traffic on Aug. 21, a holiday, on the roads leading to Ayala Museum. One of the most touching Filipino pieces that the Americans played was the Bikolano folk song "Si Nanay, si Tatay Di Co Babayaan," arranged by Maestro Jeffrey Solares. Although it was only the music that Shaw and cellist Kim Patterson performed, it still carried that sense of gratitude for the mother on whose breast a child once suckled; as an adult he/she realizes that what the mother gave can never be repaid.
It's always a joy to watch the MSO Junior Orchestra players perform under Solares. After they're seated, they have an ate-kuya (older sis-older bro) system in place. Apart from sharing the music sheets, the bigger or more experienced kids sit alongside the younger ones to guide them and ensure that their instruments are in place.
Yes, they are truly kids and act like kids but only after performing like pros. How many times did we hear someone from the audience (and I'm 98 percent sure it ain't a relative of a young musician) exclaim, "Ang galing naman!" after the last note was played, including the penultimate "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" by child wiz Mozart. Jenny Juan, grandmother of one of the teenage violinists, is optimistic about what's ahead of these kids: "Give them some more years, then we'll have our own orchestra that's on par with the New York or Berlin Philharmonic!" Let's continue to hope so, Jenny, and be around during their energetic performances whenever we can.
Look for the female French horn player with the instrument's mouth painted a pretty pink--she faithfully transcribed "Paalam," a Tagbanua folk song, for the Cultures in Harmony USA, the MSO Strings and the MSO Junior Orchestra to play after a video of the community members singing and playing the tune using makeshift jew's harp and percussive instruments from tin cans was shown. The audience rose as one, cheering and thanking the musicians who premiered the work that now can be played by any orchestra.
Danielle poses with my niece Bianca L. Susi, the family's own private pianist.
Jenny Juan with Danielle who's holding a copy of friend Geraldine C. Maayo's collection of short fiction that I told her she could read on the plane back to the US. Cultures in Harmony USA left the country Aug. 22, but what they had given and received is beyond measure.Photos by Babeth Lolarga