Thursday, February 23, 2017

The hits and misses in Aegis and PPO's #HugotPaMore! concert

A more balanced structure and an uneven program is how I describe Aegis in Symphony Symphonic Aegis #HugotPaMore!, the follow up to Aegis and the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra's successful joint concert that rocked the Cultural Center of the Philippines back in November 2016.

Affixed with #HugotPaMore, this pre-Valentine’s Day treat directed by Ariel S. R. Yonzon dug into deep seated emotions via a mix of Aegis hits crossed over with light classical fare. A marked improvement this concert had over the previous one was that both the PPO under the baton of Herminigildo Ranera and Aegis composed of vocalists Juliet, Mercy, and Ken Sunot, guitarist Rey Abenoja, keyboardist Stella Pabico, bassist Rowena Pinpin, and drummer Vilma Goloviogo figured prominently on both halves of the concert. The first concert felt more like a back-to-back concert with the PPO performing during the first half and then Aegis at the second with their collaborations serving as bookends. Now, it felt like it was really a collaboration with both acts headlining and having their fair share of the spotlight throughout the evening.

Aegis from L. to R: Stella Pabico, Rowena Pinpin, Ken Sunot, Mercy Sunot,
Juliet Sunot, and Vilma Goloviogo

With the pre-Valentine theme ongoing, the classical portion focused on the romantic side with the PPO performing selections from the opera La bohème by Giacomo Puccini. A pleasant surprise was returning guest artist, Arman Ferrer going for the traditional route with O del mio amato ben by Stefano Donaudy accompanied on the piano by CCP President Raul Sunico. It was my first time to see and hear him sing from the standard repertoire and without amplification. Sunico later gave a solo piano rendition of Somewhere in Time by John Barry that amped up the romance that night. The music segued to the 18th Variation of Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini by Sergei Rachmaninoff but it wasn't smooth sailing when the orchestra came in. This probably wasn't noticed by the audience who were there primarily for Aegis, but for me who knows the RachPag like the back of my hand, it was rough.

When Aegis took over, they were at their element performing their various songs, with Juliet, Mercy and Ken showcasing their unearthly vocal range and unparalleled lung power. And once again, I became grateful for the musical Rak of Aegis for it made me more familiar with the other songs like Munting Pangarap, Ikaw, Mahal na Mahal Kita, Bakit (Ako Ngayo’y Hate Mo?), Palad, Maniwala Ka, Yun Na! and Hahanapin Ko which do not get heavy radio airplay unlike their massive hits Sayang na Sayang, Sinta, Luha, Basang-Basa sa Ulan, and Halik. It was a treat seeing Aegis themselves performing those rarely heard songs and hearing the actual arrangements which were sometimes drastically different from the musical. Aegis is primarily known for the high vocal range of Mercy and Juliet, but Ken’s solid alto register gave more depth, and richer texture which was very evident every time they sang in three part harmonies.


While the Aegis singing their own songs was a high point, going out of their comfort zone with songs not associated with them like Could It Be Magic and You Raise Me Up with Arman Ferrer was a lukewarm moment of the concert for me. The various dancers (pole dancers, ballroom dancers, and ballet dancers) who joined the band onstage during various parts of the concert were also a hit and miss. At times, they served as a distraction diverting attention from the band. Probably the only exception was the Philippine Ballet Theatre duo of Regina Magbitang and Ian Ocampo with their explosive Just Give Me a Reason. But this Ronilo Jaynario choreographed number has always been a hit with audiences whenever the PBT duo perform it.

Compared to the previous concert, the crowd’s reaction this time was more subdued and reserved. This was probably due to a more refined looking audience with a great number in suits and cocktail dresses as if they were at the symphony rather than a rock concert. I was initially dumbfounded upon seeing them roaming around the CCP before the concert started. But afterwards, I found it amazing that it took no less than Aegis and the PPO joining forces to gather such a diverse crowd. It only goes to show that "hugot" applies to everyone.

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