December Rhapsody: A Concert

Dec 10, 2013

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A rhapsody in music is defined as a one-movement work that is “episodic yet integrated, free-
flowing in structure, featuring a range of highly contrasted moods, color and tonality. An air of
spontaneous inspiration and a sense of improvisation that makes it freer in form than a set of
variations.”

Thanks to the Paterno Velez Foundation, Inc. and Dame Marinela Neri Velez, classical
symphonic music as only a full orchestra can render with the proper pomp and verve equally
gratifying for the composer, musician and listener roared back with a vengeance to the hallowed
halls of Lourdes College Auditorium last Wednesday, 4 December with December Rhapsody: A
Concert.

And a rhapsody it truly is, featuring some of Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental’s finest in
concert with the magnificent Manila Symphony Orchestra under the baton of maestro Arturo
Molina and Jeffrey Solares : Vocalist Nena Neri Hernandez, Pianists Ana Maria Velez dela
Fuente and Jed Balsamo, and the Lourdes College Junior and College Chorale.

The evening’s program was eclectic but meticulously selected to equally please the hard core
classicos stepped in this western genre to the very fiber of their genes, to the casual music lovers
who would appreciate orchestral renditions of traditional folksongs and Hollywood Christmas
pops and movie themes.

The evening’s program started with the MSO’s take on Gingoog City’s pride Jed Caballero
Balsamo’s Rurok, CB. 28 (MMXXIII). Commissioned by the Land Bank for its 50th
Anniversary gala “Kaagapay sa Tagumpay” (Partners in Progress), it is Jed’s salute to
humanity’s constant struggle to reach for better heights and is also his personal tribute to film
composers who influenced his musical journey.

This was followed by Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 26 in D Major, KV. 537 (“Coronation”)
with Jed Balsamo this time on the piano and the MSO under the baton of Maestro Arturo Molina.

My personal favourite of the evening, mostly perhaps because of a personal affinity with the
piece which I first encountered in one of my late Dad Rene’s vinyl LPs, was George Gershwin’s
immortal “Rhapsody in Blue” with what I imagine must be one of the original orchestrations
by Ferde Grofé. With Ana Maria Velez dela Fuente on the piano and the MSO this time under
Jeffrey Solares, this 20-minute epic originally written for solo piano and a jazz band was my
personal favorite of the evening, with its mélange of classical music and jazz. Bravo to Teacher
Ana and Jeffrey and the MSO for a truly bravura performance that must have elicited the same
amount of enthusiasm from the appreciative crowd when first performed in an afternoon concert
long ago on February 12, 1924 by Paul Whiteman and his Palais Royal Orchestra, dubbed An
Experiment in Modern Music at the Aeolian Hall in New York City with no less than Gershwin
himself at the piano.

After a 10-minute intermission (mostly needed to move Lourdes brand new baby grand from
the center to the sidelines) the MSO was back with Jeffrey at the helm with an Overture of
Philippine Folksongs that many classical newbies in the crowd must have welcomed for their
familiarity.

Next in line was our Tita Nena Neri Hernandez, who sang a trio of famous Hollywood
film songs from The Happy Ending (“What are you doing for the rest of your life?”), The
Promise (“I’ll never say goodbye”) and Summer of ’42 (“The Summer Knows”) with all-new
arrangements and orchestrations by Jed Balsamo and Chino David.

To sing with a symphony orchestra was a lifelong dream of Tita Nena whose budding singing
career under Danny Holmsen of Sampaguita Pictures while studying music at the Philippine
Women’s University was cut short when she had to come home to manage the family’s “Ang
Katarungan” newspaper.

In the spirit of the season, the MSO still under Jeffrey’s baton next swung into three songs by
John Williams from the movie “Home Alone” (Somewhere in my Memory, Star of Bethlehem,
and Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas).

Maestro Arturo next took up the baton for a pair of Filipino Christmas favorites, “Payapang
Daigdig” by Felipe P. de Leon, Sr. with text by Brigido C. Batungbakal and Eduardo P. de Leon,
and “Simbanggabi” by Lucio D. San Pedro with text by Virginia Palma-Bonifacio this time with
the Lourdes College and Junior Chorales.

For the grand finale, Jeffrey again took up the baton for that all-time Bisayan favorite Christmas
ditty: Carol Vicente P. Rubi and Mariano Vestil’s “Kasadya” this time with Tita Nena and the
two Lourdes choirs segued into Ryan Cayabyab and Jose Javier Reyes’ “Kumukutikutitap”.

Maestro Arturo obliged the crowd’s shouts for an encore with Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride,
the signature song of the Boston Pops Orchestra first recorded in 1949 under the baton of the late
great Arthur Fiedler.

Established in 1926 by Viennese conductor Alexander Lippay, the MSO is one of Asia’s first
orchestras It is now based at the St. Scholastica’s College School of Music and is composed of
60 committed musicians under the musical direction of Prof. Arturo Molina.

Many members the orchestra are young music students who are also enrolled in the various
colleges and conservatories of music in the Metro Manila area. Many have won in the National
Music Competitions for Young Artists (NAMCYA) and represented the Philippines in various
international music festivals and workshops.

MSO is committed to nurturing young talent. Its Orchestra Academy and its linkage with the
Philippine Research for Developing Instrumental Soloists (PREDIS) has produced a steady
stream of highly trained instrumentalists who are now in various leadership positions in various
orchestras and other music development programs locally.

Some of these instrumentalists have established active performing careers abroad. The MSO also
shows its commitment to the youth by making itself available and affordable for student recitals,
giving young soloists an opportunity to performing with an orchestra. Its outreach performances
in schools, churches, malls, and town plazas have helped develop an appreciation for classical
music among various sectors of society.

Time was when the then Cagayan de Misamis was considered the cultural center for Misamis
region with virtually a piano in every home. Dame Girlie aims to bring back those glory days
with her P10-million grant for the Marinela Velez string program for Lourdes College starting
the summer of 2014.

“I dream that someday we will have an orchestra like the MSO in Cagayan de Oro,” she said.

Sooner than later, I hope. I am looking forward to hearing Teacher Ana play Sergei
Rachmaninoff’s immortal Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18 with the Lourdes College
String Orchestra in my lifetime, and I am sure it will be sublime.

Thank you Dame Girlie, for helping us dream again, at least, for an evening. Encore!

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