MUSIC DIRECTOR AND CONDUCTORManila, August 13, 2003 (STAR) By Joseph O. Cortes  - The Manila Philharmonic Orchestra prides itself as an all-Filipino orchestra that is "owned and managed by artists." This vision makes the MPO unique from all other orchestras in the country, because all decisions are collectively made by orchestra members, from concert programs and choice of guest performers to mundane issues, such as rehearsals. In fact, the orchestra does not make enough to pay its members for their duties.

Says MPO music director and principal conductor Rodel Colmenar, "The orchestra members do not receive a single centavo during rehearsals. We all gather together solely for the love of music. We perform because we love to play and we love to make music."

MPO resident conductor Gerard Salonga says this, in a way, ensures the continued existence of the orchestra.

"The existence of this orchestra does not depend on funding. We are not here for the peso," Salonga explains. "We can continue with our concert seasons regardless of what happens around us as long as we continue to want to play and as long as we have a venue to play."

Early this year, the MPO received valuable support from the Philippine American Life Insurance Company, when it offered the orchestra free use of the Philamlife Theater for its rehearsals and performances. In effect, the MPO found a home, and it is now able to organize a concert season, providing Metro Manila’s music lovers an opportunity to enjoy its music making.

In fact, the MPO 2003-2004 concert season offers a diverse program of classics and pop hits, a winning combination that has bolstered the orchestra’s appeal when it previously toured the major malls in the metro under the aegis of Guess? Jeans USA in its "Jeans in Philharmonic" concerts.

Opening on Aug. 16 with Cecile Licad in the Saint-Saens Piano Concerto No. 2, the MPO concert season alternates concerts of classical programs with crossover hits.

Concert 2, All American Concert, with guest conductor Eduardo Browne, on Sept. 20 features Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, with Raul Sunico as soloist, and chanteuse Vernie Varga in Gershwin standards. Concert 3, dubbed MPO plays OPM, features Salonga with pop idols Janno Gibbs and Aiza Seguerra.

Concert 4, Classics with the Maestro, presents long-time Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra music director now conductor laureate Oscar Yatco in the rare Violin Concerto by Soviet composer Aram Khachaturian; Concert 6, Remembering Red Romero, features Romanian violin virtuoso Alexander Tomescu in another rarity, the Lalo Violin Concerto No. 1 in F.

The Christmas concert, Music Transitions, offers a broad survey of vocal music from the Baroque era to opera and operetta, from musical theater to pop music. The season finale, The Best of Philharmonic in Jeans, features contemporary Filipino and international hit tunes in orchestral arrangements specially made for the MPO.

Surely, if there is anything the MPO cannot be accused of it is of uninspired programming. Its concert season has a variety of music to inspire even the uninterested to visit the Philamlife Theater for any of its show.

Part of the proceeds of the MPO 2003-2004 concert season will go to the Aid for Basilan Children Fund Drive of the Philam Foundation.

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For inquiries regarding the MPO concert season, call 705-1728, 722-7137, 0917-5374841 or e-mail

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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