Manila Symphony Jr. Orchestra tops Vienna tilt

THE Filipinos’ artistry shone once more in the global stage as the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra (MSJO) bagged the top prize in the 12th Summa Cum Laude International Music Festival (String Orchestra Competition Category) held in Vienna, Austria.

Staged at the Golden Hall of the Musikverein on July 8, the festival is Austria’s most prestigious musical event, with more than 30 participating ensembles from 14 different countries. It is supported by the Austrian government as well as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization or Unesco.

Directed by Prof. Jeffrey Solares, the four-year-old MSJO is the youth orchestra program of the Manila Symphony Orchestra, the country’s first orchestra, and is composed of the most advanced students of the MSO Music Academy as well as other qualified students eight to 18 years old.

The MSJO played their entire program from memory consisting of Mozart’s Divertimento in D, Dvorak’s Scherzo from “Serenade for Strings,” Nilo Alcala’s “Dayo Dayo Kupita,” Florante/Consolacion’s “Handog” and Castillon/Solares’ “Kruhay,” which is an Antique-themed music.

According to Solares, hard work and discipline were the keys to their victory in the tilt, and noted that they played more Filipino pieces this year and entirely from memory.

After their 25-minute set, Austrian juror Christoph Ehrenfellner stood up and gave a quick comment about their performance. He remarked on the warmth of their sound and their movements on stage that evoked the waves of the sea—something that he and his fellow Austrians admire about the Philippines.

This year’s MSJO had 47 young musicians aged 10-23, three teachers that included Solares, violin/viola teacher Sara Maria Gonzales, and cello teacher Arnold Josue. Standard Insurance Group Chairman Ernesto Echauz, who has been a major patron since 2017, joined the delegation.

Last year, they won runner-up honors in the same tilt and had concert tours in Salzburg, Vienna, Prague and Munich. They regularly rehearse a diverse repertoire, with special focus on classical and Baroque masterworks, together with especially-arranged contemporary and Filipino compositions.

Several MSJO members are also featured as soloists in their various programs as part of their training experience of performing with the ensemble.

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