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A Joust between the Classics and Pop

By Jess Q. Cruz

The classics are the classics and pop is pop and never the twain shall meet -- or can they? Guess? Jeans makes sure they do in its Philharmonic in Jeans Concert Series. The opening concert this season billed as "Philharmonic in Jeans Meets the Power of Two" brings to the Glorietta Activity Center the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra and the country's reigning queens of pop, Kuh Ledesma and Regine Velasquez.

The program concentrates musical themes from the movies, television and recordings from the '70s to the '90s that have sprung from classical music. This intention is immediately announced by maestro Rodel F. Colmenar and the brasses blaring in full force, like the trumpets of Judgment Day, the opening bars of the theme from Stanley Kubricks's 2001: Space Odyssey from Richard Strauss' Thus Spake Zarathustra. As Strauss slowly fades in diminuendo into the din of the mall, the MPO breaks into the wild rhythms of the Knack's My Sharona. The sudden incursion of a popular piece is greeted by the crowd with such applause that if you are to judge a contest between classical and pop according to the reaction of the mob, you know which head gets the axe.

Add to pop the power of two queens of song and it wins all the aces -- and the crowd goes into a frenzy over their Evergreen. Regine's voice soars light and free like that of the lark ascending above Kuh's huskier, duskier tone, like that of the nightingale, their voices blending beautifully. They complement each other, not only vocally, but also temperamentally -- the first singing with impish charm, the other with regal dignity. Their contrasting qualities are much in evidence in their respective solo numbers -- Regine's Ikaw and Kuh's If I Could Reach You. After they blend voices again for Bakit Pa, the uproar means that the mass in the mall craves for more, more!

Maestro Colmenar and the MPO accord the songbirds more esteem than popular singers are usually given in the arena of showbiz. The audience had listened to the ladies with rapt attention but now that they have left the stage to the orchestra, the din in the shopping center rises again to cloud the clarity of Antonio Vivaldi's La Primavera (Spring) from "The Four Seasons". This composition is part of a body of works entitled "The Contest between Harmony and Invention." On this occasion, it might well be a contest -- or a joust -- between the MPO and the shoppers at the mall on who makes the louder sound. The serious listener will have to listen with an inner ear to hear the strings celebrate the awakening of nature in spring and see with the mind's eye the buds bursting into blossoms in the festive spirit of the season. The applause from the gallery, alas, is less than enthusiastic.

The four-note figure that opens Beethoven's Fifth Symphony has a different meaning to different generations. To the old farts -- if there are any in the audience besides this writer -- it is the dot-dot-dash of the Morse code by which the Allied Forces sent messages during World War II. To the young ones, it recalls dreary hours in the music appreciation classroom. To the folks at the mall who hate classical music, it turns out to be a false alarm because the MPO cuts Beethoven short and breaks into a medley of disco sounds from the '70s. A brisk walk down memory lane brings recollections of a very young John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever doing his gyrations to the Bee Gees' Stayin Alive, of Irene Cara and company in Fame as they leap about in the streets of Manhattan, dreaming of a break on Broadway; and Jennifer Beals doing her acrobatic steps in Flashdance.

And acrobatics the Urban Crew Dancers offer much of in leaping and tumbling about to fiery Ralion Alonzo's OPM-Latin Rampa. Ralion, singer-actor-dancer, makes the adrenaline rise when he delivers Ricky Martin's La Vida Loca in his own inimitable style.

After all the hot stuff -- all the chili -- in this number, you'd suppose that anything that comes after would be anti-climactic. Not at all, if it is sung by the lark and the nightingale.

Kuh's Anak has a new arrangement -- one different from the Freddie Aguilar original. In the second half, the theme receives a dissonant treatment that intensifies the agony of a mother over her prodigal son.

After Kuh's rendition of two more OPM songs, Baliw and Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika, Regine returns with Make It Happen. And then the two songbirds combine voices once again for an inspired and inspiring, When You Believe, a fitting finale to the concert. The medley of Yuletide carols offered by the MPO comes as an anti-climax, but it serves as a recessional for the crowd to file out of the Activity Center feeling a sense of anticipation of the Christmas season.

The concert was aired by GMA 7 the following evening.

regine_k (resized) (Copy 1).jpg (31255 bytes)   Regine and Kuh Ledesma

In the forthcoming days, Guess? Jeans is bringing Maestro Colmenar and the MPO to other shopping malls: Shangri-La EDSA Plaza, Nov. 14; SM Megamall, Nov. 27; Robinsons Place Manila, Dec. 11 and Alabang Town Center, Dec. 19.

In olden days, musicians and playwrights received the patronage of popes, kings and emperors. In our time -- for good or ill -- big business has taken over in supporting the arts. Guess? Is doing its part in uplifting the quality of classical music. Taking into account, however, the repertoire of the MPO and the choice of guest artists, is it likely to achieve its purpose?

If "Philharmonic in Jeans Meets the Power of Two" is a joust between the classics and pop, which side is likely to win? Does Vivaldi's dagger stand a chance against Ricky Martin's dynamite?

Thanks to Regine Fan Raffy and 2net for all their help.     


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Regine & Kuh
make a good 'pair'.



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