(May 21)--Finally, after months of hard work to raise travel funds, the UP ARCO, the string section of the UP Orchestra, flies today, May 21, for Paris en route to the Festival International de Music Universitaire or FIMU slated from May 26 to 28 in the old town of Belfort in France. The string orchestra’s participation marks the first time that a Filipino group has been invited to the festival and scores a landmark in the history of the country’s involvement in international music events.
In representing the Philippines in this reputable festival, the UP ARCO instinctively serves as the country’s music ambassador of goodwill. While the Philippines has already made sterling marks in choral music with our leading choruses earning critical acclaim in various parts of the world, not much can be said where our travelling chamber orchestras are concerned.
Dr. José S. Buenconsejo, Dean of the UP College of Music, states that to bring a student chamber orchestra in Europe is an extremely difficult task because of the high demand for musical maturity where classical music is concerned. In very succinct terms, he says: “UP ARCO’s trip to Europe is a milestone in the history of Filipino achievement in classical music. This project drives home the point that our instrumental music education at the tertiary level is at par with global standard and that the UP College of Music leads once more in the field of musical training, i.e., our students have already attained a very high level of musicianship and musicality that warranted the festival organizers to invite them in the first instance.”Fully cognizant of this milestone, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda issued a call to benefactors to support the UP ARCO and “boost the confidence of nascent travelling string chamber groups in the Philippines to participate in international music festivals.”
Admittedly, fundraising for the UP ARCO’s European trip was not a picnic. But fortunately, many heeded the call. And to them, heartfelt gratitude is in order: the Office of the President of the Philippines, the UP Office of the President, the UP Alumni Association, the UP Diliman Office for Initiatives in Culture and the Arts, the Dagupan City Council, the Department of Tourism, the Friends for Cultural Concerns of the Philippines, Geopacific Resources, Inc., the Magill Memorial Church of Lucena City, MUSARFOUND, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Nexus Technologies, Inc., the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, the Rotary Club of Diliman, the Trans World Trading Co., Inc., the Philippine Gaming Corporation, Van Aarsen, Mr. Ramoncito Abad, Mr. Lito Carating, Ms. Beth Cristobal, Ms. Trina Davis, Atty. Antonio Pastor, Ms. Chloe Romulo-Periquet and Congresswoman Linabelle Ruth Villarica, to mention a few.
Started in 1986, the FIMU, as the international festival of University music is more popularly known, is organized by the Belfort Town Council. It gathers student musicians and chorists from all over the world during the Whitsun weekend in May to perform in the old town of Belfort. Two hundred fifty concerts have been scheduled to happen during the 3-day festival. As an urban event, FIMU is friendly and a venue for social bonding. It is held largely in open spaces, thus sanctifying the old city of Belfort by making it alive with music.
FIMU as a festival feeds on diversity. All music is represented—traditional, classical, jazz, electronic, avant-garde—with performers coming from every continent. In 2010, more than 80,000 people listened to 142 bands and orchestras from 29 countries that included Algeria, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Equador, Spain, the United States of America, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Madagascar, Morocco, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Switzerland, Turkey and Vietnam. This year, the UP ARCO adds the Philippines as a participant in the festival.
One hundred and thirty two groups have been invited to perform this year. Aside from the UP ARCO, there are several orchestras that will play during the festival. Among them are the Barcelona Laptop Orchestra, the National Music Orchestra of Shanghai University, the Orchestra of Young Jazzmen of Burgundy, the Orchestra di Mandolini e Chitarre Il Plettro, the Accordion Orchestra of Sundgau, the Guitar Orchestra of Provence, the Orchestra of the University of Geneva and the University Symphony Orchestra of Budapest.
The UP ARCO is also scheduled to do concerts in other cities in Europe. Prior to the Festival, it is slated for two performances in Paris. On May 23, the string orchestra will have a concert at the Sainte Bernadette Church, organized by the Philippine Catholic Mission in France and spearheaded by Mr. Elpidio S. Caimoy, a UP alumnus and former faculty of the department of European Languages at the College of Arts and Letters. On May 24, the UP ARCO is set to perform at the Cercle des Delegués in UNESCO Miollis, also in Paris, hosted by the Philippine Embassy in France with Ambassador Cristina G. Ortega and coordinated by Consul Rose Prospero. After the festival, the UP ARCO hies off to Geneva, Switzerland for another concert on May 30 at the Notre Dame Church, organized by Ms. Amelia Bonacua.
The UP ARCO began during the term of the late Dean Reynaldo T. Paguio as College of Music dean when a string chamber orchestra was conceived to become one of the resident performing groups of the UP. Today, the UP ARCO is composed of select student artists of the strings and chamber music department of the College of Music and is under the musical directorship and guidance of Prof. Edna Marcil M. Martínez. It stands independent from the orchestra class of the College of Music. It is the resident performing string orchestra of the University Theater, a privilege it enjoys together with the UP Orchestra.
The UP ARCO has likewise trained with Prof. Wilfredo Pasamba, one of the Philippines’ leading cello players, and Prof. Chona Noble, also from the college’s strings department. It has performed major string orchestra works of Arcangelo Corelli, Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Lucio Vivaldi, Georg Friedrich Handel, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Benjamin Britten, Edvard Grieg, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Sir Edward William Elgar.
The entourage of musicians going to Europe includes: Violin I: Jonathan R. Tapac, Bernice Elaine U. Go, Harrel James R. De La Cruz, Patricia Isabel S. Bautista and Luisito R. Santos; Violin II: Ramón Alfonso C. Soberano, Julianne G. Bonacua, Anna Janine O. Samaniego and Ashleigh Marian G. Cristobal; Viola: Micah James C. Sanchez, Emlyn S. Ponce, Pamela Lee S. Almeda, Monic B. Cuevas and Christine N. Laron; Cello: Patrick John C. Espanto, José Enrico R. Tuazon and Samuel Emmanuel S. Altobar; and Double Bass: Lawrence M. Palad, Micah Lejandro P. Villena and Jan Lester Dela Vega.