9 Works Theatrical's 9PO is the new orchestra on the block--with a difference

New orchestra on the block--with a difference
By Walter Ang
April 1, 2013
Philippine Daily Inquirer

9PO is the new orchestra in town. It's an affiliate group of 9 Works Theatrical and "was formed to cater to the growing demand for professional musicians," says conductor Joseph Tolentino.

"The 'P' stands for philharmonic, pit and pop-representing what 9PO is capable of servicing in terms of orchestral demand.

"Traditionally, a philharmonic orchestra consists of an ensemble with a large number of musicians. Usually the repertoire consists of mainly classical pieces.

"A pop orchestra's repertoire caters more towards the general public outside of the classical realm, such as show tunes, popular movie themes, etc.

"A pit orchestra is an accompanying orchestra for works that require orchestral accompaniment. An example of such works would be musicals, ballets, and operas. This was how 9PO started."

Tolentino had been a musician in several 9 Works productions and was eventually tasked to be the musical director of their 2011 musical "Sweet Charity."

"I was required to form a group just for the show. At first it was daunting. It was hard to find musicians and to get them to work together as one, rather than a pre-made ensemble where the musicians have played together for years."

They managed to get things off the ground during the show's run. "We realized that we'd stumbled on something special and decided to turn the 'Sweet Charity Band' into a resident orchestra for 9 Works Theatrical.

The new group had its debut as pit orchestra for 9 Works' "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" last year.

Making music
Joseph Tolentino
Born in Manila and raised in New York, Tolentino started his education in music at the Fiorello LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, the school featured in the 1980 movie "Fame" and its 2009 remake.

"Both movies are obviously a bit more over-the-top in some aspects, like the students dancing on tables. This famous highlight from the movie does not happen in the real-life. At least not while I was there. If it did, I probably missed all the fun," he laughs.

It was probably because he was too busy making music, having joined "as many ensembles as my schedule could permit." Aside from the orchestras in LaGuardia, he was a member of at least four other orchestras and even performed a few times along with the New York Pops, the only symphonic orchestra in New York City specializing in popular American music.

For his efforts, Tolentino graduated with high honors and also received the Presidential Music Award accorded by former US President Bill Clinton. "It's hanging in my living room above my piano."

Love and passion
"After graduating, I wanted something different and chose the farthest place from New York I could think of: the Philippines."  He'd originally planned on completing his music degree (major in piano under Raul Sunico) at the University of Santo Tomas' Conservatory of Music and return to New York.

"But things changed as I began to enjoy living here. The people I've met here and the new 'families,' such as 9 Works, have become a part of what has sealed my decision to live here for good."

After spending a few years here, he's also observed a unique trait among Filipino musicians. "The one thing I admire the most about [them] is their love and passion for their music. In the States, there are many opportunities for musicians to develop their skills and talent at a young age … something many musicians here wished they had when they were children. However, this does not hinder their spirit."

For now, he'll be busy handling the group's core of 13 musicians. "However, we have a roster of dozens of musicians we may call upon depending on what the performance will require."

The orchestra is composed of professional musicians "all trained in the fields of classical, modern, and contemporary or popular music, from the sonorous tones of the acoustic to the high-energy flavors of the electric. We can do classical, big band, acoustic and latin music."

He'll also oversee the different services they will be providing their clients, from professional productions and corporate events to private functions like weddings, debuts and parties-even pit work for other theater productions. "Anything that helps contribute to the theater industry."

"9PO can also provide musical composition and arrangement services. We can rearrange existing songs and music or come up with original pieces to suit our clients' needs."

9PO will provide music for 9 Works Theatrical's summer acting workshop recitals in May and for its production of "Grease" in November. To book 9PO or for more information about 9 Works' summer acting workshops for kids, pre-teens, teens and adults starting April 8, contact 557-5860, 586-7105, 0917-55405560 or info@9workstheatrical.com.

Also published online: