MANILA -- Manila Philharmonic Orchestra’s (MPO) founder and musical director Maestro Rodel Colmenar promised a night of musical nostalgia at the press conference of MPO’s 20th anniversary concert recently. And last September 1, at the full-packed Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, MPO delivered as promised.
The concert was MPO’s ode to its colorful history and excellence was written all over it.
Classical music dominated the full-packed venue in melodic accompaniments of violins, cellos, trumpets, piano for the first part. The concert, entitled "MPO Opus 20: Trailblazing Music Excellence," showcased classical compositions “Symphony No. 5,” “Egmont Overture” by Ludwig Van Beethoven and “Rhapsody In Blue” by George Gershwin, the latter featuring the show’s very first guest performer, piano virtuouso Dr. Raul Sunico.
When the second half of the program rolled in, the 100-member MPO went from classical music to pop and rock classics. The segment opened with a clever mash-up of Richard Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” and The Knack’s “My Sharona,” reminiscent of MPO’s ground-breaking “Guess Philharmonic In Jeans” concerts. The screens showed snippets of the seven-year milestone in MPO’s musical journey, best remembered for starting a “revolution” of sorts in bringing classical music to the masses.
When Colmenar introduced the orchestra’s medley of iconic band Eraserheads’ greatest hits “Alapaap,” “Ang Huling El Bimbo,” and “Magasin,” everyone let out an excited shriek, especially after lead vocalist Ely Buendia was acknowledged to be among the audience that night.
As Resort’s World Manila’s resident orchestra, the MPO also took the time to acknowledge musical theater at its finest with the kids from the musical “Annie” joining them onstage to perform “It’s A Hard Knock Life” and “Tomorrow” before wowing the audience with an entertaining medley of Ariana Grande’s hits.
Another well-applauded number was the UST Singers’ tribute to award-winning composer George Canseco with classic hits “Dito Ba,” “Gaano Kadalas Ang Minsan,” “Paano Ba Ang Mangarap” and “Ngayon.”
The night’s highlight was the much-awaited performance by Lani Misalucha on the MPO 20th anniversary stage. Proving herself to be world-class every step of the way, Misalucha sashayed to the center in a white gown accompanied by MPO’s brass section with her rendition of “Orange Colored Sky” by Milton DeLugg and Willie Stein. She stunned and wowed the audience at once.
Her succeeding songs equally lived up to the expectations – “Nella Fantasia” by Ennio Morricone, “Bukas Na Lang Kita Mamahalin” by Jimmy Borja, and her very own latest single “Timeless” which she proudly dedicated to her four grandchildren.
The show-stopper was the onstage collaboration between MPO, Misalucha and the UST Singers in the medley of classic songs by the Queen, arguably the greatest rock band of all time. This was easily my favorite part of the night. The songs “I Want to Break Free,” “Radio Ga Ga,” “Love of My Life,” “Somebody to Love,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” “Under Pressure,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “We Are the Champion” had the crowd singing and humming, and happily tapping their feet, along with the music.
And as if the night will never end, Misalucha capped her night’s performance with “Light of a Million Mornings” and “Mambo” from “West Side Story” earning a well-deserved standing ovation.
The encore number was the earliest Christmas greeting the audience received as MPO played a medley of Filipino traditional Christmas songs.
Taking it all in, “MPO Opus 20” was truly a spectacle. Indeed, MPO took its audience to a wonderful nostalgia of its rich history and managed to distinguish itself by being a trailblazer in the local music industry.