Arts seen and our arts scene

POINT OF VIEW - Dorothy Delgado Novicio - The Philippine Star

A gratifying part of living in New York is the extraordinary chance to immerse into the city’s ever-vibrant culture scene. We are fortunate to have attended performances at the 132-year old Carnegie Hall, which “has set the standard for musical excellence,” the Lincoln Center where their “stages bring a tapestry of artists from across the globe to New York City,” in consulates or foundations that promote artists exchange or in storied Broadway theaters.

It is a pleasure to watch famous symphony orchestras or witness the genius of child prodigies as they blossomed into world-class performers. In these halls, one’s appreciation of classical composers and their enduring masterpieces expands. Broadway shows allow us to marvel at timeless literary works or compositions transformed into spectacular productions. They never fail to captivate.

Whether it is watching the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra perform at the Lincoln Center or the visiting Kazakh State Symphony Orchestra in concert at the Carnegie Hall (as part of the Global Music Partnership), the individual movements of every violinist, cellist, double bassist, pianist or the percussionist are spellbinding. Their seamless movements as they gracefully play the violin, lay their delicate fingers on the piano keys or strike the cymbal with exquisite accuracy to create immaculate music make one wonder about how they spend hours of practice to refine their craft.

On Broadway are long-running shows we didn’t want to miss and more recent ones that waited to be discovered. And discover did we. With my daughter’s prodding we watched “Hadestown,” bannered as “an epic celebration of music, togetherness and hope.”

She wished to watch the much talked about act of multi-talented artist Jordan Fisher, while I was intrigued by the show’s theme. I thought of how timely it would be to start 2024 by watching a musical premised on togetherness and hope.

Inspired by Greek mythology, Hadestown tells of the poor man Orpheus and his gift of music, which he used in a battle between good and evil and to win the heart of Eurydice. It is a tale of difficult times, how people respond to hardships and how in the end love wins. Woven into the drawbacks of contemporary society, it was hard to ignore brave lines from the songs such as: “because they want what we have got…/we build the wall to keep us free…/ the enemy is poverty.” On one hand, it was redemptive to have heard compelling lyrics like, “To the world we dream about and the one we live in now!” Here in America where social commentaries come in multitude of forms, artists effectively channel their freedom to express through milieus like the arts.

I find meaning in the “world we (I) dream about” by narrowing it in the context of our arts scene, specifically in the performing arts. Oftentimes I grin with pride reading the show’s Playbill, especially when an artist comes from a Filipino ancestry. At curtain call or when heading home post event, I tell myself how splendid it would be to have our own version of Broadway or London’s West End somewhere in Metro Manila. Over the years, we have produced some of the most talented, world-class artists who have made New York, London or the whole world their stage.

While we have a pool of promising talents, particularly in the performing arts, what we must probably reinforce is the way we could support young artists and prodigies hone their skills and make use of their gifts. We need more accessible and affordable venues where our own local audiences could witness and appreciate the highest forms of human expression. We also need more institutions, private individuals, patrons and lifelong benefactors of the arts.

I thought about this after attending another intimate performance by Salon de Virtuosi, an organization founded by the late American pianist Charlotte White, who once said that “the secret to a long life is not a special vitamin or exercise but to have a reason to wake up in the morning and to have a passion.” By establishing the Salon, Ms. White aspired to discover and support “extraordinarily gifted emerging artists from around the world.”

This has been going on for the past 35 years and many of those artists that the foundation supports have gone on to worldwide acclaim. We once attended an event called East Meets West at the consulate general of India in New York. It featured two grant artists from India who played indigenous instruments called sarod, a stringed instrument quite close in appearance to our kudyapi, and tabla, a hand drum popular in Hindu music.

How fine it was to have witnessed young talents promoting their own classical instruments and music in front of an international audience.

From what I learned during a chat with my friend, a patron of the Salon, and from the late Ms. White’s granddaughter who now presides over the organization with the same passion and vision as her late grandmother, they thrive and flourish because of the sustaining contributions of friends and benefactors. As they unfailingly announce in every program event, it is the perfect blend of their audiences’ “discerning ears and critical financial support” that keep their lofty musical heritage vibrant. This empowers them to relentlessly support and celebrate young talents from all across the globe. For a fixed contribution every season, one could be a member, friend, patron, sustaining patron or benefactor and be entitled to attend the Salon’s performances. Patrons and benefactors invite friends along and it is through this larger audience where greater awareness of the organization and its goals and the exceptional gifts of young artists are discovered and valued.

I envision a foundation like Salon, its objectives and vision as a doable template for what we could further do to support our young Filipino talents, promote our music and instruments and elevate art forms from our home to the world.

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