GLENDALE, California – It was an evening of sweet memories and undying melodies that the Filipino American Symphony Orchestra (FASO) concert and a bevy of talents delivered August 13 at the John Wayne Performing Arts Center in Glendale.
Going to the concert was all excitement for us because the headliner was Sylvia La Torre, the Queen of Kundiman, who was appearing together with her granddaughter, rising Hollywood star Anna Maria Perez de Tagle.
We got to know Sylvia from her “Tang Tarang Tang Series” on TV with the comedian Pugo as her father, and those “Oras ng Ligaya” days back in the 60s.
TV shows then were most anticipated in our entire neighborhood. Our house turned into a mini-theater by the afternoon, with its own orchestra, loge and balcony seating. Every night we were packed like sardines. It didn’t matter much to us because in our neighborhood, everybody seemed like an extended family.
The TV was our only window to the world. Sylvia was most loved for her own antics and wide-ranging talent. She had her own charisma and her singing a la coloratura was a source of wonder and joy. So Sylvia charmed her way into our hearts, with her kundiman, “Waray Waray,” “Sa Kabukiran” and “Mutya ng Pasig.”
She doesn’t know that she helped us a great deal through tough times when my dad’s promising career was cut short and he was relegated to a chair for life. Despite our misfortune, those nightly TV shows were not just relievers, but also the best help we had to make it through the night.
Seeing her here in LA, in concert, Ebyang did not disappoint. She has aged gracefully at 82. There was so much love from the audience. She still got it and could still hold those long, difficult notes. She began with “Tanging DIyos Lamang ang Nakakaalam” and also picked the nostalgic “Nasaan ka Irog.”
Tonight we came to give her our homage and see for ourselves the person we hold dear to our hearts. Yes, she really got us smiling, clapping and laughing again. It was not on TV anymore but live. The great lola came with her greatest glory, her granddaughter Anna Maria Perez de Tagle who has become a distinguished star herself.
Rocking in the mainstream
Anna has built her own career in Hollywood having rocked her way to mainstream TV, Disney, Broadway, and concerts with the likes of Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers Demi Lovato among others.
Anna’s rendition of “On My Own” from “Le Miserables” was flawless, crisp and compelling. She is world class. Her “I Enjoy Being a Girl” from “Flower Drum Song” was infectious, with so much life and clarity yet very controlled and melodic. Her rendition of “Bituing Marikit” was a revelation. She got the nuances of the song and the sentiments of a Pinoy doing a kundiman. Class act.
The show’s greatest moment was Sylvia’s duet with Anna in the immortal “Waray Waray,” which brought down the house in a rousing thunderous standing ovation. It was simply beautiful, more so because it brought a lot of old, beautiful memories. Both were magnificently dressed by no less than designer Oliver Tolentino of Beverly Hills.
Magic through the evening
The FASO concert was almost eclipsed by La Torre’s presence. But thanks to its own store of incredible talents and featured artists, the orchestra made the magic last through the evening.
Joan Almedilla’s narration of “Peter and Wolf, Op 67 A Symphonic Tale for Children” was brilliant, as she ably put everyone in a trance, the make-believe magical world of Peter. It was like a hypnotic act. Louie Ramos gave a little tutorial on how a symphony orchestra works, with the Pampango ditty “Ati Ku Pung Singsing.” Narrated by Kaitlin Aquino, it was fun listening to the different sounds made by strings, wind, brass and drums separately.
The FASO children ensemble came to impress with their “When You Believe” from movie “The Prince of Egypt,” blending so beautifully with the orchestra. MIkaela Bautista masterfully rendered “Bituing Walang Ningning.” This young lady has very bright future in singing as she now sings like a pro. Equally promising was Christina Blay with “For the Good” from “Wicked” together with Mikaela.
True to hype
Drummer Vinnie Aguas lived up to the hype. This young boy discovered by David Benoit has a heart bigger than his size. Accompanied by the orchestra, he showed he is his own rock star with that “Smooth” piece.
The FASO under the Maestro Bob Shroder has become better and bigger through the years. Running a 60-piece ensemble and assembling top talents are a gargantuan task. Kudos to Shroder has nurtured the FASO, the only Filipino orchestra outside the homeland, from its inception. It takes a heart bigger than a mountain to make this artistic endeavor a success.
The orchestra played the theme of the Olympics and wrapped things up all-time favorites “Throne Room” and End Title from “Star Wars” with audience members bringing out their own “Star Wars” lighted gadgets and the maestro himself using a lighted sword for a baton.
It was a wonderful night.