View From the Wing – MSO in Baguio City
By Pablo A. Tariman

(Photos: Anna Leah Sarabia)

BAGUIO CITY – The Manila Symphony Orchestra under Arturo Molina had a well-received sold-out outreach concert at the 100-year old Hill Station at Casa Vallejo Saturday night and got a rousing standing ovation.

MSO conductor Arturo Molina with Brandenburg concerto soloists  Gina Medina Perez and Sarah Gonzales. Haydn and the Beatles in one evening.

MSO conductor Arturo Molina with Brandenburg concerto soloists Gina Medina Perez and Sarah Gonzales. Haydn and the Beatles in one evening.

In an evening concert aptly billed as “Bach Vs. The Beatles,” the musical ‘bout’ featured three concertos by Bach and some well-arranged Beatles favorites like Michelle, A Hard Day’s Night, When I am sixty Four and Hey Jude, among others.

Earlier,the MSO also staged a matinee concert at the Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary and got the same ecstatic reception from both the young and old alike with a movement from the symphonies of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven and capped by music from the movies.

The concerts were unique as they unfolded in a mountain setting more than 5,000 ft. above sea level.

Film music closed the Saturday matinee concert with annotator Solares drawing a parallel situation between the displaced Ibalois vis-vis the white colonizers in the film, “The Mission” starring Robert di Niro and Jeremy Irons. In the said film scored byEnnio Moricone, the evangelists used music to pacify rebel natives in Brazil. In the film, the natives became friendly to the evangelists after hearing “Gabriel’s Oboe” performed in the MSO concert by Roy Ressurrection to good audience response.

Pablo Tariman with National Artist Bencab and partner

Pablo Tariman with National Artist Bencab and partner

The history of Baguio City and the history of MSO merged in the two well-received concerts at the Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary and the Hill Station of Casa Vallejo.

The two Saturday concerts unfolded just two days before the observance of the 70th Baguio Liberation Day that saw the surrender of the Japanese Imperial Forces under Tomoyuki Yamashita.They surrendered to the American authorities at the High Commissioner’s residence now the United States Ambassador’s Residence) in Camp John Hay on September 3, 1945, marking the end of World War II.

On the other hand, the Manila Symphony Orchestra also held its post-war historic concert at the ruins of Sta. Cruz church in Manila in 1945 with surviving musicians present.

MSO executive director and concert annotator Jeffrey Solares noted that the early MSO Baguio City concerts in the 1930s could be the local Ibalois’ first exposure to Western music. “We got stories that conductor Herbert Zipper’s wife, Trudl, got nervous when the local Ibalois attended the concert in G-strings with spears to boot.

The MSO was founded in 1926 by Alexander Lippay who was also director of the UP Conservatory (then based in Hidalgo Street in Quiapo) from 1925 to 1930.

Herbert Zipper took over and looked at Baguio City as a place where he could stage concerts like the famous Salzburg festival in Austria. He died in 1997 in California at the age of 92. Zipper’s life was the subject of the documentary, “Never Give Up” which was nominated for the Oscars for best documentary.

View from the top: the  MSO concert at  Casa Vallejo.

View from the top: the MSO concert at Casa Vallejo.

Meanwhile, the two MSO Saturday concerts revealed the orchestra’s stable of good soloists in the persons of violinists Gina Medina Perez, Christian Tan, Sarah Maria Gonzales and cellist John Paolo Anorico, among others.

In the matinee concert, young cello scholar John Paolo Anorico did very well as soloist in the first movement of Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 in C Major. His tone was well-defined, his musicality bordered on the natural and there was excellent rapport between him and the orchestra under Arturo Molina.

Sister Nora A. Maulawin of the Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary referred to the concert offering as “music of the Gods.”

She said classical music directly connects humans to nature and allows people a deeper understanding of what life has to offer. “It gives us extra energy to face life amid pollution and environmental tragedy,” she added.

Seen in the matinee concert was environmentalist Karlo Altamonte who waged a continuing fight against a shopping mall which caused the cutting of ancient trees in the City of Pines. It was Altamonte’s facebook crusade that caused Sting to cancel his Manila concert in a venue associated with the shopping mall.

Tenor Glenn Gaerlan who now heads the University of Baguio Conservatory of Music said the state of music appreciation in Baguio remains fairly good especially among the old timers of the city. “These MSO concerts help local residents get good exposure to classical music. Still we have to educate potential audiences and even more education the local government who doesn’t see music as a big factor in improving the cultural climate in the city. I am planning to run for city councilor to give the arts a face in the local government,” he added.

MSO soloist John Paolo Anorico: a highly promising young cellist.

MSO soloist John Paolo Anorico: a highly promising young cellist.

The concert was planned in a span of three weeks by writer-journalist Elizabeth Lolarga to whom MSO dedicated the theme song from “Superman” for a job well done. “Only a superman can pull off a concert involving so many musicians to be transported to the City of Pines,” said Solares.

Among the distinguished artists who have performed in Baguio City in the past were pianist Cecile Licad and cellist Antonio Meneses, Russian violinist Vladimir Spivakov, pianists Mary Anne Espina, Rowena Arrieta and cellist Victor Michael Coo, tenor Lemuel de la Cruz and pianist Oliver Salonga, among others.

The Baguio concerts were made possible with support from the National Commission on Culture and the Arts, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), the staff of Hill Station at Casa Vallejo, Genesis Transport Service Inc; the Manila Chamber Orchestra Foundation; Baguio Writers Group; ICM House of Prayer; Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary and University of Baguio, the Benguet Electric Cooperatives and Don Henrico Pizza Pasta, among others.

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