Maestro Bob and his magic baton glowing like Excalibur

The Maestro and the Coloratura Sopranos, with Joey Albert.

I can never quell a stir of fascination, dread and longing, when the house lights dim and the curtain parts in every Filipino American Symphony Orchestra (FASO)’s gentle riot. It is spellbound.

“Enjoy whatever music floats the boat, never question your own taste. There is a world of music out there both old and new, so keep your ears open…the music you surround yourself with can be considered the soundtrack to your life…” thus spoke a superior conductor nicknamed Bob, as he shook the Alex Theater on a recent Saturday.

An ensemble and melodies so spontaneous and effervescent played with fire and abandon, as the gentlest and caressing repertoire, like poets, they dazzled, but never intrude, into the music.  Where else could we find musical expressions that would portray so many subtle shades of emotion, passing through an entire cauldron of feelings? Tenderness, romance, gaiety, nostalgia, pathos but above all love of country — of solid patriotism that evoked as Maestro Bob Shroder got more tireless and resilient.

FASO is not just for music lovers, but every facet of serious or light music, basically, it is just about the presentation of every branch of musical composition, from symphonies, operatic, chorales, vocal, chambers of music, and an overall repertoire that reflects its deep affinity with Filipinos that make us proud.

The sun came out for this Little Diva

But more than anything, it is about the first-ever Filipino symphony orchestra, outside the Philippines aptly called the Filipino American Symphony Orchestra, with Filipino musicians of various ages whose sound of their instruments turned on, spelled excitement, and no one can imagine that its birth took place on a back porch over a tete a tete conversation a decade ago.

It started from a question “is there a Filipino Symphony Orchestra in the United States?” It was replied by “none” and concluded with “there will be one” with the insight and resolve that made the birth of FASO possible by a revered couple in the Fil-Am community, with three other friends.

The insight and in depth perspective of Mr. and Mrs. Roger and Cora Oriel that made the birth of FASO possible, their conscious effort to sustain as well as reach out to the new audience is gratifying.

Bob Shroder and Andy Tecson celebrate 10 years of musical togetherness.

Looking back, the first performance at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills, shook the theater, literally an earthquake that did not even distract the spellbound audience, who simply watched in an  expression of pride, celebrating fellow Filipinos perform in a stunning, record-breaking, magnificent show, as they stood, an indomitable conductor mighty and sterling leading all, without ever forgetting,  not even for a minute:  FASO will flourish and triumph because of each one that is part of it.

Just as an artist knew the color of his palette, selecting and blending different colors and shades that will be spread on his canvass, the Maestro knew his orchestra.

Everyone on that orchestra was a musical personality, had a unique style and the quality of tone that was different from others, he knew how to mix them and how to blend them. He knew just how he wanted a pure of music to be played, knew exactly what he wanted to hear — a gifted music man who has been remarkably consistent and consistently remarkable.

The Maestro bowed gently, his gestures, were grand, as he spread out his arms wide to subdue the rousing admiration from the audience. That was even before Maestro Robert Shroder played a note.

The repertoire: It was like stepping into another time, when he conducted arias from the masters, another world as he transported us into bygone eras of Mozart, Rossini, Johan Strauss, Verdi’s La Traviata, the sad strumpet, to Granada, to a time when love meant “go out and love and suffer, yet still celebrate lover strength and not complain of its differences.”

Singing farewell, but not goodbye

Filipino music that constantly expressed intense longing, caring, devotion and oneness with their beloved. It can be romantic, patriotic, religious, mournful or a consolation of devotion and love of country as he brings to the audience an entire cauldron of feelings tenderness, romance and nostalgia, a path of deep spirituality and incomparable poignancy.

The maestro was always in search for new, richer, deeper venue of musical interpretations.

Here’s a gentle salute to the tenors, Erwin Andaya, Agustus Lara, Christopher Avendano, Gelo Francisco, Composer Vehnee Saturno.

Bob Shroder and his Magic Flute

But the sopranos, fresh incandescent almost sinfully satisfying, fashionably gowned inside flesh and blood, but can bring purity: sublimely, in every song, whether they sparkled in joyous songs or writhed in agony gifted artists. Joan Cano, Maria Christina Navarro, Joey Albert, the Broadway love team Dee Dee and Clifton Hall, and throw in the little dynamite, Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja.

For this gifted music man who has been remarkably and consistently remarkable in the field of music: thank you, Maestro Robert “Bob” Shroder.


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