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Bacolod City, Philippines Saturday, February 2, 2019
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Memories and the Philharmonic

Ninfa Leonardia

Not once, but twice. That’s the number of times I watched and listened to the performances of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra that enthralled music lovers, and converted even the ones who were not, when the ensemble came to Bacolod and made a very fitting introduction for the celebration of the Bacolaodiat. It was, indeed a great privilege for Bacoleños to be able to listen and realize why the group is considered such a great pride to the country.

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Its first performance was at the SMX Convention Center, a “by invitation only affair” that, however, seemed to gather live music lovers, not only from Bacolod, but also from other towns and cities in the province. And it was gratifying to note that this time, the audience consisted, not only of adults supposed to be the ones who go for the so-called “long-haired” music, but even a lot of young students, some of whom even went to listen to them again at the Bacolod City Government Center again last night! Music hath charms, indeed!

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It was especially delightful to listen because of the very versatile repertoire they presented. I am sure that the inclusion of pieces that had managed to have their tunes adopted for what had become “hits” when lyrics were written for them and they became popular songs still being sung or played, even now. While the audience at the SMX were too formal to “sing along” when such well-known tunes from My Fair Lady, like “I could have Danced All Night”, “On the Street Where You Live” and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face”, it was not so at the BGC last night, where even teenagers could be heard humming them!

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As a tribute to the start of the Bacolaodiat Festival, managed by the local Filipino-Chinese community, the traditional Chinese folksong “Jasmine” was also played. As expected, among the most popular pieces were those from Johann Strauss who is also one of my favorites. “Waves of the Danube Waltz by Ivanovici” made me feel deep regret for not seriously taking my lessons in piano, and remembered my late teacher, the very talented Yolanda Fama Caballero. What memories music can bring back!

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And all that, because of the talented and dedicated group of artists gathered by the PPO, some of whom still looked very young, but were so intense in their performance you could tell their music was everything to them. I guess this attitude was really sensed by their audiences, who applauded heartily every piece they played. It was also an added accomplishment for the audience when the maestro took the time to introduce, and explain the function of each instrument, which made the concert educational as well.

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But of course, the biggest credits go to the two conductors, who wielded their batons like magicians, evoking the perfect responses to their commands. Filipino Hermenigildo Ranera, and Japanese Yoshikasu Fukurama, both amazed their listeners with their seemingly modest, but very impressive hold of their players who responded perfectly even if they didn’t seem to be closely watching their conductors. What talent bordering on genius, they must have to be able to do that!

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I was truly proud of my fellow Bacoleños and Negrenses for the way they responded to the performances. I am sure that many of them felt some regret, as I did, that they had not given more of their time to acquiring skills in playing some musical instrument when they were young. During my own student days, my school, La Consolacion College-Bacolod, had a very creditable Music Department, but alas! Most of those studying there had to be forced, even threatened by their parents to study.

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I was among those who started piano rather late and was able to muster some simplified Strauss pieces. Now the piano at our house has been attacked by termites and nobody cared to have it repaired. My brother Bing even wants to throw it away already but I’m keeping it as a memento of what might have been. Now I look at it longingly after listening to the PPO performers, and sigh. Also, because of the accident to my finger recently at the Seda Hotel, I doubt if I can even manage Chopsticks now. So I am very happy that I had the chance to listen to the really gifted ones, and thank the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra for bringing back so many memories with their performance in Bacolod which I hope they will visit again soon.*

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