It was a warm, summer night on the second of June when a harpist from Singapore landed on our shores to deliver a magnificent performance that took us to places of nostalgia with her rendition of Claude Debussy's Clair de Lune, brought our minds dancing with the Carlos Salzedo's Tango and Rumba, and opened our eyes to visions of angels with the world premiere of Eric Watson's Winged Messengers.
What started as a normal Sunday evening on a sleepy weekend on the streets of Makati - a usually bustling business district that is filled with lights and sounds, traffic and people as far as the eye can see - turned out to be the perfect day for such heavenly music. The concert venue, BDO South Tower's Francisco Santiago Hall - a wonderfully built theater that lets one enjoy the music up-close and personal - was perfect for such a performance.
The master harpist from Singapore, Katryna Tan, graced this city with her virtuosic hands weaving along the numerous strings of the harp. The instrument she played - the Atlantide Prestige by Camac Harps - was indeed prestigious enough for the occasion. At 47 strings, this brand new pedal harp straight from the master harp makers of Camac Harps in France produced the most beautiful melodies that not only reverberated throughout the walls of the Francisco Santiago Hall, but also permeated the hearts of the audience and all who were there.
On the second half of the concerto, Katryna was joined by one of the Philippines'own, harpist JoAnn Cerdenia. Performing Carlos Salzedo's Tango and Rumba, the playful weaving of sounds of nearly a hundred harp strings from two harps with the use of the soundboard as percussion was a delight to the ears and a feast for the eyes. Together, the two harpists with their two pedals harps conjured music fit for angels.
Speaking of angels,the last and longest part of the performance had something to do with them: The premiere of composer Eric Watson's piece for harp and ensemble, Winged Messengers. A three-movement piece, Katryna spoke of the inspiration and ideas of the composer, intent on bringing to music visions of angels in all their wonder. She was joined by esteemed pianist Jesper Colleen Mercado of the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra, flutist John Raymond Sarreal; two time soloist of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Manila String Machine: a prolific ensemble composed of violinists Jose Carlo Tuazon and Czarina Evita Hipolito, Maria Corazon Reyes on the viola, cellist Theodore Philip Amper, and Ariston Payte III on the double bass.
The event was honored by the presence of the Ambassador of the Republic of Singapore, His Excellency Gerard Ho Wei Hong. Also gracing the concert was Ms. Elizabeth Sy, president and chairperson of SM Hotels and Conventions, and Mrs. Felicidad Tan-Sy, the wife of the late Henry Sy Sr. The event was further made special by the presence of Mrs. Lourdes de Leon Gregorio, the Philippines' first harpist and harp teacher.
Simultaneous to the concert, an exhibit of lever harps by Camac Harps France was held at the lobby featuring the models Isolde, Melusine, Hermine, and Ulysse. The exhibit,and the concert itself, was aimed at not only increasing the awareness of harp music and producing growth to the small harp community in the Philippines, but also making the instrument more accessible to the public, thereby giving our culture the gift of the wonderful and heavenly sounds of the harp in all its glory and inspire people young and old to take on the music of Angels.