Wednesday, April 22, 2015

'Bach Vs. Beatles' rematch and MSO's Music Everywhere in Baguio

Queue outside the museum. That's historian Benito Legarda Jr.'s back on the right.

The size and mix of Bach Vs. Beatles audience--it's any concert organizer's dream

Of the rush-hour concerts that the Ayala Museum has hosted for Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO) since 2013, none matches the standing-room-only crowd and ovation that the country’s oldest orchestra at 89 years received for “Bach Vs. The Beatles.”

Even before the museum’s doors opened on March 26, two orderly queues formed, one for those who reserved their tickets and were paying on the spot, another for walk-in customers who waited for the others to be seated before they could be admitted.
The lobby buzzed with excitement. The all-black plastic chairs were uniformly pegged at P500 each, including the ones that businessman Jaime Zobel and wife Bea sat on.

A winning combination

Although tickets and chairs were numbered, there were accidental duplications. The ushers diplomatically sorted these out. To reserve seats for concert companions who were still lined up outside, some parked hankies, bags, even the small four-page program printed on folded coupon bond paper.

Jeffrey Solares, MSO executive director, served as annotator for the evening, announcing that 10 more rush-hour concerts are lined up for the year. The next is “Soundtracks and Symphonies” on April 23 at 6:30 p.m. at Ayala Museum.

He noted that the audience’s size was, for the series, “unprecedented for the classics,” adding, “I know. Some of you came for The Beatles.”

The program was divided into three rounds like a boxing match, with Bach preceding The Beatles. Jeffrey gave informative tidbits before every round.

Jeffrey Solares, MSO's executive director and associate conductor

He told of how Johann Sebastian Bach composed a lot of church music, then tried to seek a job in the royal court. Failing at this attempt to improve his finances, he put his Brandenburg Concertos in a baul and didn’t hear it performed in his lifetime. When the box was opened and the music sheets discovered after his death, that was the beginning of the concertos’ acclaim. It continues to be performaned to this day.

Flutist Gaille Ramos in the number "Beatles in the style of Bach"

The baroque treatment given to the British quartet’s hit songs—“Eleanor Rigby,” “Yesterday,” “Blackbird,” “Lady Madonna,” “Michelle,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “I Will,” “Hey Jude” and a medley of “Got to Get You Into My Life,” “When I’m Sixty Four” and “Get Back”—proves how timeless they are. They can be thrown back by centuries to Bach’s period and given a fresh interpretation.
These arrangements/adaptations were made by Solares himself, David Johnstone, Peter Briener, Allison Krauss and David Garret.

The next day, the administrator of MSO’s Facebook page threw the gauntlet: “Who wants a ‪#‎BachVsBeatles‬ REMATCH?” The status received a lot of “Likes.”

Any flower child, even members of Generation Y, can identify the faces of the four men projected onscreen.

Meanwhile, Joseph Uy and Alan Andres of the Cultural Arts Events Organizers (CAEO) met up on March 27 with Hill Station’s Mitos Benitez and marketing consultant Vixienne Calulut on the possibility of beginning a classical music concert series in Baguio this summer.

Concertmeister and first violinist Gina Medina Perez has a solo part in Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G-major

Given the many private music schools in the city and the fairly new music program and conservatory of the University of Baguio (UB), the summer capital could also be a cultural capital. Envisioned are summer music camps for students and teachers alike, all hinging on a gamble like a fine music series.

Present at the meeting were music aficionados Ben Tapang, a retired UP Baguio economics professor, and this blogger who both thought there was nothing wrong in indulging in wide-awake dreaming.

Supposedly to jumpstart the series, now named “Classics at the Hill," was Viva Voce, a group of classically trained singers under soprano Camille Lopez Molina. But they were unavailable because of a commitment to do Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury at the Cultural Center. Viva Voce, however, will do an abridged concert version of Puccini’s La Boheme on May 24 in another dinner concert at Hill Station.

As they were about to leave Baguio, Uy and Andres learned that the MSO was available on the weekend of April 24-26 for a possible concert and outreach activities to the northern city. Jeffrey’s dream was to give the musicians a much-needed break from their city routine of open technical rehearsals at different venues, performances and outreach concerts. The latest one was in Cavite with pianist Ingrid Sala Santamaria as soloist..

Mitos hesitated a bit when she considered the orchestra’s size, but was assured when she learned that “Bach Vs. Beatles” involved 20-25 MSO members rotating at any given time. Baguio woke up to news that Hill Station, housed in the city’s oldest building, would kick off its classical music series with a bang: a repeat of “Bach Vs. Beatles.”

The format is a buffet dinner on April 25 at the restaurant’s Justina Garcia function room downstairs at 6:30; the concert at 8:15 at the main dining hall upstairs.

Perla Macapinlac of the ICM House of Prayer with Al Andres and Joseph Uy of the Cultural Arts Events Organizers

The ICM House of Prayer under Sr. Perla Macapinlac and the Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary (MES) under administrator Olive Gregorio are housing the MSO musicians, their instruments and crew. Choosing these open and spiritual spaces as shelter was deliberate on the organizing team’s part to give the MSO rest, recreation, retreat and renewal for more challenges in Manila. Hopefully, for the first-time Baguio visitors among the MSO members, the lushness of these spaces will enable them to appreciate the quiet activism of the religious community that enabled these open and green spaces to remain evergreen

Genesis Transport Services Inc., under its president Riza Moises and with help from its marketing officer Loren Zubia, offered two air-conditioned buses with wide luggage space below to transport 45 musicians and a crew of five to Baguio. UB, through its president JB Bautista and John Glen Gaerlan, UB Chorale adviser, is sending its instrument majors and teachers for the MSO’s morning masterclass on April 25 at Maryknoll and partially supporting the MSO’s board and lodgings.

Jeffrey had earlier voiced a desire for the MSO members to interact with Baguio's musicians.The Manila Chamber Orchestra Foundation, the Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco) and Don Henrico's (Pizza Pasta and More) stepped in to also help make the season opener happen.

Ground support came from the Baguio Writers Group (the president is Jennifer Patricia A. Carino) in drafting and endorsing letters, organizing transport between venues, including a short city tour, looking for housing for visiting artists. The BWG is part beneficiary of what has become a community project. On May 18, the BWG together with the University of the Philippines Baguio will host "Aspulan: A Gathering of Literary Writers, Journalists, Teachers and Students of Literature." Conference convenor is Junley Lorenzana Lazaga, BWG vice president and UPB assistant professor.

The free masterclass follows the 10 a.m. matinee of “Soundtracks and Symphonies” at the MES’s courtyard this coming Saturday. The free half-popular, half-classical matinee is for the religious community, the staff and families of the retreat houses, the Baguio Writers Group members and families and interested cultural workers. Attendees are advised to RSVP with the MES at tel. no. (074)424-5745 or c.p. +63915-6555-745 because of limited seats or bring a portable chair, banig, umbrella or hat.

Who says Baguio has become a city of potholes this summer? The art community (writers, visual artists, musicians and art and music patrons) has always made the town a happening place. It still is in the summer of 2015 in spite of the simultaneous roadworks on major thoroughfares and small streets of the city, driving some commuters, residents and tourists alike, almost batty. There's always solace in the arts.

There's a universal force/source out there, too, that makes pipe dreams possible.

The driveway leading to the Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary Photos by Babeth Lolarga
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