A symphonic orchestra that UP can finally call its own made its debut on the evening of December 13, 2018 in a concert, Unang Pasko. The newly established UP Symphony Orchestra (UPSO) joined other acclaimed musical groups from the UP College of Music at the University Amphitheatre in playing holiday classics for the UP community for free.
Proudly identifying itself as the “Sixty-Five Strong”, clearly inspired by the “Sixteen Strong” nickname of the UP Men’s Basketball Team, the UPSO is under the direction of Prof. Josefino “Chino” Toledo of the College of Music. Its members consist of 24 alumni, 34 students, six faculty members and one staff member of the University. These musicians underwent a rigorous audition process to earn their slots. They come from three different constituent universities of UP¬–Diliman, Manila and Los Baños.
The UPSO wasted no time in proving itself, playing Dmitri Shostakovich’s Festive Overture in A Major, Op. 96 as their first piece. This was followed by a series of festive medleys of popular Christmas tunes, certain to put the audience in the mood for the holidays. First of these medleys was the Glorious Sounds of Christmas, arranged by American composer Dwight Gustafson. It included excerpts from popular classics like Joy to the World, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Away in a Manger, and Angels We Have Heard on High.
After their rendition of Leroy Anderson’s Bugler’s Holiday, the UPSO welcomed the first of many distinguished guest performers, the ConChords. The singing group, with the UPSO, performed a Toledo-arranged medley of romantic songs, including: Pasko Na, Sinta Ko; I’ll Be Home for Christmas; and, Merry Christmas, Darling. Later, the UPSO also accompanied the award-winning UP Dance Company in an interpretation of dances from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s popular ballet, The Nutcracker.
In perhaps the most rousing performance of the evening, the UPSO, together with members of three UP-based choral groups,the UP Concert Chorus, the UP Los Baños Choral Ensemble and the UP Manila Chorale, interpreted Filipino holiday classics. These included National Artist Lucio San Pedro’s Simbang Gabi, and National Artist Ryan Cayabyab’s arrangement of songs, Namamasko, Mano Po, Ninong, and Pasko! Pasko!.
The formation of the UPSO is one of the latest and greatest in UP’s bid to create a vibrant performing arts culture in the University. It was formally approved by the UP Board of Regents during its 1337th meeting on August 30, 2018, which established its status as UP’s official system-wide orchestra, funded by the UP System and hosted by the UP College of Music. Not only will the UPSO serve as a training ground for UP’s emerging musicians and conductors, but it also as UP’s representative on the national and global musical stage. A second concert is being planned for February, with the UPSO aiming to mount at least six concerts per year. (Andre dP Encarnacion, UP MPRO)