Brigham Young University’s Chamber Orchestra is looking forward to traveling where no BYU performing arts group has gone for 20 years: the Philippines. After touring to China in 2011 and to Italy, Slovenia, Hungary, and Turkey in 2014, Chamber Orchestra will visit Cebu, Bohol, Palawan, and Manila in May 2017, bringing with them the beauty of music and a helping hand. Artist manager Justin Smith says, “As a university we are excited to go there again to renew friendships and build new relationships.”
Throughout the tour, Chamber Orchestra will take part in service projects, participate in educational visits, enjoy sightseeing, and perform with special guest performers for diverse crowds. “I’m so excited to be able to experience a new culture and get to know the people of the Philippines,” says violinist Hillary Dalton. “I’m also thrilled to be able to share music with them, which is special to me. I feel like [sharing music will] be a way to express myself to them when we aren’t able to communicate verbally.”
On tour, the orchestra hopes to make a lasting difference through their performances by working with local leaders and community members to raise funds for humanitarian efforts. “Every tour is an opportunity to use concerts to bring together local leaders in projects that benefit the community directly,” explains conductor Kory Katseanes. “What we are trying to do is bring people together in a like-minded effort for humanitarian causes.”
In addition to service concerts, Chamber Orchestra will also perform a variety of pieces in market squares, cultural centers, and theatres. “All of the music is so inspiring,” says Dalton. “Each [piece has] something special that really touches me.” Fellow violinist Adrienne Williams says, “I am looking forward to playing all of our music. . . . Professor Katseanes has an uncanny ability to always organize programs with great music that is also very enjoyable and engaging to both the audience and the orchestra.”
The crowning moment of Chamber Orchestra’s tour will be the final performance in Manila, where they will join with Broadway star Lea Salonga, a native of the Philippines. This will be the second time in 2017 that Salonga will perform with Chamber Orchestra; in April, Chamber Orchestra will host and accompany Salonga at BYU. In May they will take the stage together again at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex. Salonga is best known for voicing the Disney princesses Jasmine and Mulan; for her Broadway roles in Miss Saigon, Les Misérables, and Allegiance; and for being a celebrity coach on The Voice of the Philippines.
“I am thrilled that we have the opportunity to perform with Lea Salonga,” says Williams. “It’s always such a humbling and inspiring experience to perform with such great talent.”
As members of Chamber Orchestra prepare for their upcoming tour, they are focusing on the people they will meet, the places they will see, and the music they will share. “The goal of the School of Music is to seek truth in great music, and I would say that sums up why we do what we do pretty well,” says cellist Pono Santos. “We are going to serve and to help build connections between us and the people but also between the members [of the Church] and their communities. As a touring orchestra, we get to be a family and we get to go meet our brothers and sisters in the Philippines. And as always when serving, I’m sure that we will come home changed . . . because of what we learn from these people.”