Fundraising concerts for street children go virtual

Aneth Ng-Lim

Posted at Nov 30 2020 09:57 AM | Updated as of Nov 30 2020 02:14 PM

Mariel Ilusorio (leftmost) will perform with 10 young and promising violinists: (first row, left to right) Kyla Coronel; Marian Mayuga; Miguel Angelo Estrada; Raphael Espada; (2nd row, L-R) EJ Villarin; Jeanne Rafaella Marquez; Gabriel Art Mendoza; Janine Samaniego; (3rd row, L-R) Alain de Asis; and Micah Pecson.

MANILA - The year 2020 has been a disappointing one for many. COVID-19 is one glaring reason, and you can throw in the super typhoons too. Then there are businesses and institutions deciding to close their doors, including well-loved family restaurants and colleges with over a hundred years of history.

Let’s throw in to this mix orchestras and musicians around the world who were looking forward to this year with musical excitement, ready to perform and celebrate the 250th birth anniversary of German composer and pianist Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827).

The pandemic silenced them with cancelled shows and performances in public venues. The ongoing lockdown in cities across the globe robbed them of the opportunity to pay homage to arguably one of the defining figures in the history of Western music.

Well, you can trust gifted Filipino artists to be able to work around community quarantines and find a way. Come December, the Manila Pianos Artists Series will stage not just one, or two, or three, but four virtual concerts featuring Beethoven’s 10 Violin Sonatas.

Beethoven for Street Children: A Virtual Fundraising Concert will be released via social media feeds on December 3, 11, 13, with the final one set for Beethoven’s birthday, the 17th.

Organizing the virtual concerts is Filipino pianist Mariel Ilusorio, who was educated in The Juilliard School, Oberlin Conservatory and State Academy of Music and Theater Hannover Germany. After living overseas for 26 years, including nine years in South Africa, as an active musician, she returned home in 2014 and has been teaching and performing.

Proceeds through sponsorship and donations would go to the street children under the wing of Childhope Philippines, giving them urgently-needed aid from the devastating effects of COVID-19, as well as providing them better access to education, health and counselling services.

The partnership with Childhope Philippines came about from a benefit concert given by pianist Cecile Licad for the same non-profit institution a few years back. Ilusorio was in the audience and she was touched by the mission of the foundation.

“I wanted to reach out to the less fortunate in a more direct way, but because of the pandemic, helping with funding will have to do for now. I believe children are the key to the future and every child has a right to a decent life. I find Childhope Philippines’ mission very meaningful.”

Childhope Philippines is a non-government organization focused on the welfare of street children and their families. An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 children live and work in the streets of Metro Manila today.

Through the care, love and education from its street educators and social workers and its holistic programs for education, health and social welfare, Childhope Philippines transforms street children into productive citizens giving them hope and a future.

“We envision a Philippines where urban poor children can gain access to the fulfilment of their rights especially children in street situations. For them to develop and become accepted responsible members of society, they should be upheld and protected,” says Sherwin O, president and trustee of Childhope Philippines.

One of the hardest hit industries by the ongoing pandemic is the entertainment industry. While a virtual concert is a novel idea, Ilusorio and the violinists are aware that the audience will also adjust to this digital change.
Ilusorio is the first to admit there are unique challenges to mounting a virtual concert. “Recording a virtual concert actually entails more work and effort. Our perfectionism comes out as there are possibilities to retake. It is never good enough. In a live concert, it will have to be,” she adds.

Another challenge is that “we do not have the excitement of having an audience and yet we need to be expressive and energetic. We need strong willpower to imagine that there is an audience out there.”

Ilusorio also pointed out that “in recording, we are aware of every little noise around and we are more sensitive to controlling this, as opposed to a live concert where you just have to accept the circumstances. When we think of performing in a live concert, it is a very spontaneous act. We are more conscious when doing a virtual concert because it can be played over and over again so we want it to be more perfect than perhaps possible!”

Through Beethoven for Street Children, the organizers aim to promote the young Filipino string players by giving them a platform to develop, share and promote their talent. At the same time, they want to encourage camaraderie among musicians from different groups as well as musical growth and excellence despite the challenging times.

“We hope to challenge these musicians to higher levels as well as to share music with as many people as possible, as a tool for healing and comfort,” says Ilusorio.

Ilusorio will perform with 10 young and promising violinists: Kyla Coronel; Miguel Estrada; Micah Pecson; Alain de Asis; Gabriel Art Mendoza; Janine Samaniego; Marian Mayuga; Jeanne Marquez; EJ Villarin; and Raphael Espada. Between the ages 16 to 28 years old, they represent Casa San Miguel, Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra, St. Scholastica’s College, the University of the Philippines, and the University of Santo Tomas.

In choosing the 10 violinists, Ilusorio said she strived to represent the different schools in a balanced way. “I wrote to violin teachers of each institution and I am so eager to collaborate with each one of them. You will see how each violinist and interpretation is unique!”

The Ten Violin Sonatas to be showcased in the concert series are a monumental set and according to the organizers, the study of these pieces is essential for every violinist and for every pianist who is a serious chamber musician. In this exceptional time of staging concerts, even with the virtual experience, they hope the audience can delve deeper into the greatness of Beethoven’s genius, the magic of his music, and the power it holds in transforming society.

“I believe the audience can be moved by virtual performances, perhaps even more because everything takes on a deeper meaning. With the limitations of social distancing, every interaction, every breath of life becomes more significant. The need to communicate, to be touched, to look for comfort and inspiration is greater,” shares Ilusorio.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.