An Orchestra in search of a Home
Ida Anita Q. Del Mundo (The Philippine Star) - February 1, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - With the closing of the Philamlife Theater ABOUT two years ago, countless musicians, actors, dancers and cultural groups lost a superb – some even say the best – performance venue in the metropolis. Among them was the Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO), who had then been holding their season concerts at the theater on U.N. Avenue.

In 2014, the MSO again experienced an even greater loss – their regular rehearsal space. The orchestra was rendered “homeless,” with rehearsal venues changing from week to week. Musicians of the MSO – some coming from as far as Cavite, Bulacan, Rizal and Pampanga – would make their way to various school auditoriums and halls; theaters that could spare some extra space; and even a piano store located within a Home Depot branch in Makati.

Before the year ended, the MSO finally found itself a more permanent rehearsal area in Intramuros, through a venue grant given by the Intramuros Administration. This marked the orchestra’s return to its roots in Old Manila. A formal agreement between the orchestra and the Intramuros Administration is currently in the works.

For the MSO, finding a new home in Intramuros is a “coming full circle” of sorts – a welcoming home. And, the group is taking this change of venue not only as a challenge, but as inspiration for its upcoming concert season.

Dubbed “Music Everywhere,” the MSO’s 2015-2016 concert season aims to push the boundaries of space with its wide repertoire, and through experimenting with different venues – something that the group has experienced throughout the past year.

“Music Everywhere pushes both musician and listener to appreciate music in different forms, venues, levels of attention and innovation,” says the MSO management. “Music Everywhere is the rigorous pursuit to unlock classical music for the Filipino people from formal concert halls, from the affluent, from the connoisseurs, from tradition, from the music sheets, and even from the chairs.”

Calling itself an “iconoclast orchestra,” the MSO will explore the lengths of which their music can reach in their new season, with performances envisioned to take place in jeepney terminals, churches, cancer wards, orphanages, public schools, mountainsides – aside from the traditional theaters and concert venues.


The MSO, partnering with Ayala Museum, also launched the Rush Hour concert series in 2013, offering audiences – often packing the museum lobby to capacity – a few hours respite amid the stressful environment of Makati’s Central Business District. Due to its growing following, the Rush Hour concerts will be offered monthly at the museum beginning March this year.

The Ayala Malls also offered their shopping areas as rehearsal space, where mallgoers can catch a “behind the scenes” glimpse of how the musicians prepare for their concerts.

The students of the MSO Music Academy junior orchestra tried out the pop-up rehearsal venue at the Glorietta 5 Activity Center recently, much to the delight of shoppers.

Another area which the MSO plans to explore more this year is its online platforms. Aside from its presence in social media, the MSO can now be heard on Smart Spinnr, a P1/day streaming service for mobile phones and personal computers. Featured on MSO’s channel are excerpts from the 2013 Season “Color Your World” as well as other performances that will hopefully widen the reach of the likes of Mozart and Tchaikovsky, as well as Filipino composers including San Pedro and Buenaventura.

The MSO also continues to hone a new generation of musicians through its Music Academy and its “Music for Young Minds” free matinee concerts that aim to introduce children to classical music. “It is our way of giving back to educators and institutions who don’t have the means to expose their students to classical music.”


The latest turn of events is not the first time the MSO has found itself without a home – and it is surely not the most difficult challenge that the orchestra has had to endure.

As Asia’s first symphony orchestra, the MSO arose from the ruins of a Manila leveled by bombs in 1945. Though the group and the members themselves had suffered their own terrible loss during the war, they performed Beethoven’s “Eroica” among the debris of the Santa Cruz church for an audience of returning Filipino and American troops.

Celebrating their 89th year, the MSO stays true to its history as it strives to continue bringing its brand of music to audiences everywhere, upholding its mission and vision “to enrich the vibrant cultural life of Filipinos… of all walks of life.”

For more information on the MSO concert season, visit or call 523-5712.

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