The Filipino American Symphony Orchestra (FASO), founded in 2008 as the first Filipino symphony orchestra outside of the Philippines, has done it again with a concert held last Saturday, Nov. 14 at the world-class Alex Theater in Glendale, Calif. Billed “FASO Goes Pops!,” the glamorous evening celebrated generations of pop music, from popular songs in films to contemporary compositions, with special moving tributes to Original Pilipino Music (OPM).
With a full orchestra of over 50 talented musicians from all ages and backgrounds, and headed by maestro-conductor Robert “Bob” Shroder, FASO impressed audiences with a stunning lineup of different genres within the extensive world of pop music.
The opening number of the concert was Gioachino Rossini’s rousing “William Tell Overture,” showcasing the rich talent of FASO as a well-rounded, clean-sounding, and versatile orchestra that can perform everything from pop culture to classic French opera.
Hearing the classic piano, bass, and distinct percussion section was a highlight of each musical number, as well as each of the talented violinists in maestro Shroder’s circle, including concert master Cecilia A. Coo-Cruz. The guitar, strings, and well-rounded horns were also evident, especially in dance numbers that made audiences want to get up and groove.
The singers, who auditioned through show manager and resident music arranger Dr. Louie Ramos, held nothing back. From young children to experienced stage singers and groups, each vocalist had a chance to shine and capture the hearts of their audience.
With a special homage to the “King of Pop,” nine-year-old Ian Chen (who plays Evan in ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat”) opened the show with an adorable performance of the young Michael Jackson hit, “Ben.” Wearing a black shiny tux with the signature white glove, Joshua-Kai Dawson, also 9, gave his all to the song and popular dance moves in “Billie Jean.”
Other child performers included the young Bryce Gomez (“Tatak ng Pilipino”), Michael Keith and Gian Paolo Jimenez (singing/dancing to Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are”), and the beloved FASO Children’s Ensemble (featuring Elizabeth Cruz, Sabrina Evangelista, Casteen Legaspi, Andreas Makiling, Jolleen Mejia, Sophia Nack, and Nicole Padilla) singing the Whitney Houston hit, “Greatest Love of All,” to a standing ovation.
Young talent was prominent in the show, which also featured riveting performances from Kaitlyn Fajilan singing “Tayo Ay Pilipino,” Daryl Ogalino singing Odette Quesada’s “Give Me a Chance,” and a powerful Whitney Houston/“Bodyguard” medley sung by 14-year-old Mikaela Bautista.
Another highlight of the show was an alluring performance from singer-songwriter and former Rose Parade princess, Gabrielle Current, who sang Cecile Azarcon’s well-known “Lift Up Your Hands.” The performance began with a special video message from Miss Azarcon herself, congratulating FASO on another successful show and year.
Wearing a sparkling blue dress, 10-year-old Sydney Haik also performed an outstanding “Let It Go” from Disney’s “Frozen,” with an exclusive video message introduction from the multi- award-winning, half Filipino composer Robert Lopez.
For many Pinoys, nostalgia hit with a fine-tuned OPM medley, featuring “Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika” (Ryan Cayabyab), “Ewan,” “Natang-bata Ka Pa,” “Ngayon at Kailanman,” and “Umagang Kay Ganda.” People also sang, laughed, and danced along to a medley of songs from the popular disco group VST & Company. Sharon Cuneta’s well-loved ballad “Bituing Walang Ningning” was also sung by vocalist Sharon Rose Orosco. Right before intermission, audiences were treated to a moving arrangement of a Filipino-favorite, Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
Another noteworthy feature of the FASO Goes Pops! concert was the presence of a few guests, respected Filipino writers and composers, including a special performance from writer Odette Quesada, who sang her well-known hit “Till I Met You.”
OPM hits “Hanggang Huli’y Ikaw (performed by Nilo Alcala), “Ikaw Lamang” (performed by Shelby Miguel) and “Minsan Lang Kitang Iibigin” (performed by Sharon Rose Orosco) were accompanied by special appearances from the song’s original composers, Sarah Jane Gandia, Dodjie Simon and Aaron Paul del Rosario.
The evening concluded with a high-energy performance of “Age of Aquarius” and an encore number, “Isang Mundo, Isang Awit,” featuring the talents of all the singers and full orchestra. It was a spectacular end to the evening, thanks to the hard work of Maestro Shroder, the performers, volunteers, and FASO’s dedicated Board of Directors.
In April 2015, FASO also performed a tribute to timeless Broadway hits with “FASO goes Broadway!,” also held at the renowned Alex Theater. Next spring, FASO will host a special big band music and swing dancing dinner-concert at the Glendale Hilton.