The Filharmonic and Harana headline the Summer Opening of the renovated Ford AmphitheaterBy Cecile C. Ochoa
Los Angeles —The $66 million renovated John Anson Ford Amphitheater along Cahuenga Pass opened its doors this month featuring selected performances including the internationally-renowned groups of The Filharmonic and Harana Men’s Choir.
Set in a 32-acre Los Angeles County Regional Park which is located across the Hollywood Bowl along the historic Cahuenga Pass, the Ford hosted a nostalgic collections of Original Pilipino Music (OPM), some hip-hop and Top 40s hits, performed by the two Filipino groups that have recently gained local and worldwide acclamations by a diverse audience.
Under a comfortable open air seating, “The Fil-Am Collective Show” showcased July 24 the Los Angeles-based acapella sensation, semi-finalists in NBC’s hit musical competition “The Sing-off” and that landed in a big role in the hit movie “ Pitch Perfect 2.”
The members of the the Filharmonic VJ Rosales, Joe Caigoy, Trace Gaynor, Barry Fortgang, Jules Cruz and Niko del Rey did not disappoint the multi-generational patrons as the former dished out their own version of Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September.” Young and old members of the audience stood up to dance to their rendition of Billboard’s favorite “Shut Up and Dance,” hip hop “No Diggity,” “Sugar,” and “One More Night.”
Their video appearance on the Late Show with James Corden (CBS) competing with “Pitch Perfect “2 star Anna Kendrick has become viral with over 2 million hits. Their video of “Flashlight” received more than 3 million hits by now, according to bass vocalist Jules Cruz.The group credited producer and singer Annie Nepomuceno and her husband Ed, for inspiring them to continue to promote Philippine arts and culture outside of the Philippines. Proving that international popularity has not diminished their loyalty to their kababayans, they included Rihanna’s reggae -inspired “Work” in their repertoire. They premised the song with a question during their performance: “What is the most common profession of Filipinos abroad? “Nursing!” the crowd enthusiastically responded and thus, the song “Work” was aptly dedicated to Filipino American nurses. “Work, work, work, work, work, work He say me have to Work, work, work, work, work, work!..”
“What brought you to the Ford?,” was a common question asked by Filipino Americans to each other.
They filled the theater to a capacity. The iconic amphitheater built in the 1920s has recently attracted many Filipino American audiences as they hosted performers from the Philippines together with other notable well-screened mainstream events. Its brochure states:
“The Ford Summer Season was designated by Board of Supervisors to be a major venue to allow music, dance and theatre groups in LA County. Each performing group are selected through a competitive application process, receiving front of the house, production, and marketing support as well as the majority of the box office proceeds”.
It seats more than 1,200 patrons and its acoustics derive from the surrounding hillsides and trees. The lighting provided a backdrop of waterfalls effect that accompanied every nuance of melody from the performers. Theater-goers appreciate the new sound barrier that muffles the noise from the adjacent busy 101 freeway.“I came here because I heard the Filharmonic would be performing and I’d like to see them in person after watching them perform in “Pitch Perfect 2,” said Amy Bardelosa from Northridge.
“I’ve watched Harana Men’s Chorus at the Disney Hall and I’ve followed their performances in Los Angeles,” said Herm Antalosa of Burbank.
The Harana Men’s Chorus was featured in Act 2 of the show. Their repertoire appealed to the homesick: “Harana Medley” including “Dungawin mo Hirang,” “Ay o Pag-ibig.” Their rendition of Apo Hiking Society’s favorites never fail to entertain (“Mahirap Magmahal ng Syota ng Iba”; “Panalangin,” among others). Nepomuceno’s arrangement of Beatles ‘ favorites “Can’t Buy me Love” and others was among the night’s favorites.
According to Nepomuceno, the group was initially formed with former members of the world renowned “Philippine Madrigal singers.” It is led by former Los Angeles Master Chorale member Ed Nepomuceno who arranges most of the groups’ songs; and for this show, he directed, conducted and played piano and guitar, alternately. Members are Erwin Andaya, Dennis Jardiel, Lord Kevin Rantins, Mike Zuniga, Don Sagarbarria, Kenneth Laurente, Jake Labado, Lemuel Penola, Gershon Napod, Eli Rada and Froilan Fulgencio.
“The Fil-am Collective Show” was opened by veteran singers Cecile Rojas Azaret, Sharon Rose Orosco and singer composer Nepomuceno. Azaret is a session vocalist in the Philippine Music Industry; Orosco is a Christian Contemporary vocalist who also sings with the Orange county Pacific Chorale; and Nepomuceno, besides being the producer-director the show, is a soprano soloist and winner of the Awit Award in the Philippines. ( Earlier version posted in Inquirer.net, a content partner of TheFilamLA.com)