ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra plays John Williams’ music again
Bot Glorioso (The Philippine Star) - November 4, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - As soon as everyone was settled on the cushioned seats inside the Dolphy Theater of ABS-CBN, music conductor Maestro Gerard Salonga leaped onto the podium, started to whip his baton in the air and the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra began to transport the audience to a soothing moment filled with melodies from various musical instruments.

All hands automatically shot to the air to applaud after every performance. I immensely relished the smooth sound that filled my heart with joy.

Gerard made a good guess when he said that most of the musical pieces were familiar to the audience. That’s because those were musical scores from blockbuster films such as Harry Potter, Jaws and Schindler’s List. The performances were so excellent that one instantly recalled the films’ breathtaking scenes. It was a treat to hear the orchestra playing the theme of the NBC News. They were all works of American composer, conductor and pianist John Williams.

Williams, according to Wikipedia, has composed popular film scores in cinematic history, including Star Wars series, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Indiana Jones, Memoirs of a Geisha, Home Alone and Hook. He also created themes for TV series like Lost in Space and Land of the Giants.

One of Gerard’s favorite Williams’ compositions is Close Encounters of the Third Kind “because it’s so good it was performed well and convincingly that sometimes I think it’s better than the film.” He, too, was certain that its sound easily affects people for its great material.

Obviously, Gerard is a big fan of Williams for he knows exactly the 83-year-old music genius’ work style.

“It has to do with his method. He is a traditional pen and paper composer. He doesn’t do synthesizer demos,” said Gerard on what sets Willams apart from other musicians. “You know, when you work on a keyboard using synthesized sounds — samples are (those of) Hans Zimmer — it leans you toward a certain type of composition and writing, very keyboard-centric writing. John Williams is free of all that. His mind is much freer. I know (because) when I’m composing on the computer with sounds, it leads me to a certain style versus (another) iba yung dating talaga pag sinulat ko muna saka ko ipapasok sa computer.”

The musical spectacle at Dolphy Theater was indubitably just a quarter of what is about to unfold at The Theatre of Solaire Resort and Casino when the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra, with Gerard as musical conductor, performs in a show billed The Magic of John Williams on Dec. 12 at 8 p.m. Although it is not the first time the orchestra will play Williams’ famous musical pieces on stage, Gerard assured that the show will definitely be an hour and 45 minutes of great musical experience.    

“We are adding Home Alone and Hook so they’re two new things we have to this concert. We still have Jose Mari Chan and Nikki Gil to sing If We Were In Love,” he shared. “There’s also Can You Read My Mind from Superman which, last time, was sung by Karylle but this time it will be Morissette Amon.”

The original Williams’ arrangements were acquired from the US three years ago. Gerard and the team behind the production had meetings to select which pieces were suited for the show.

“The first thing we thought (was), what are the famous movies na alam ng lahat like, of course, Harry Potter, ET, Superman; mga must-haves ‘yun so next we thought what are the other things interesting about John Williams’ works that people didn’t know like the NBC (theme) when we played at the Meralco Theater, and that signature John Williams came up, everyone said, ‘Ahh, s’ya pala may gawa n’yan. It was good,’” said Gerard. “I think it’s pretty easy to pick the materials. You could put together two or three concerts of John Williams with different repertoire and they would all hit very well. At marami pang materials na di pa nadagdag and whether you know them or not, tatagos pa din kahit di mo s’ya kilala.”

When it comes to prepping up for the show, it normally just takes them four or five rehearsals perfecting the whole musical repertoire. “Orchestra members learn the music prior to convening for rehearsal. Each learns the music by himself at home, rehearsal is for getting it to work out as a group.”

Is it a challenge for him to get the exact sound of the original? Gerard affirmed by telling that people have already seen the movies many times and they will know if their version is far from the original tune.

With numerous performances here and abroad, Gerard said he still looks forward to the day when he can take on the music of Viennese composer Gustav Mahler.

“A lot of his music is similar to the music of John Williams. It’s romantic, very lush, very emotional and he has his second symphony (that) requires 400 singers and 100-piece orchestra. It’s huge, extremely emotional and heavy sa dibdib but it’s not complicated; it’s just very dramatic music. It’s just like you died and went to heaven, ganun ‘yung feeling so one of these days I wanna do that.”

Since listening to orchestra music gives a relaxing feeling, Gerard admitted performing onstage entails much energy.

“It’s very different on this side (on stage) when you’re the one performing. Even if the music is languid or quiet, you’re in a very high intensity sort of state. Kasi it requires energy to get to you para tumagos sa inyo kailangan naming lagyan ng energy so it’s very intense for us.”

Other movie scores that the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra will perform are themes from Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Yes Giorgio and the 1984 Olympics anthem.

(For tickets, call Ticketworld at 891-9999.)

ACIRC CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND DOLPHY THEATER GERARD HARRY POTTER HOME ALONE JOHN WILLIAMS MUSIC MUSICAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA WILLIAMS
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