VIOLINS with electric guitars, cellos with distortion effects, French horns with bass guitars, classical musicians with rock stars.

The unlikely mesh of rock and classical music has once more been redefined in Rockestra, a concert combining six local rock bands and the Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO) last Aug. 19 at the Tanghalang Francisco Balagtas, formerly the Folk Arts Theater.

The concept sound fresh, but it had already been attempted before by bands like The Who and the London Symphony Orchestra, and Metallica with the San Francisco Symphony. Locally, Wolfgang had teamed up with the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra. This, however, should not discredit bands such as Cambio, Silent Sanctuary, Imago, Twisted Halo, Sugarfree and Sandwich, who were endowed new light in Rockestra’s musical ensemble.

The show kicked off with Cambio’s orchestrated catchy single, “DV,” which drew loud cheers from the crowd. The quirky, fast-paced song, combined with the orchestra, brought out a peculiar but equally amusing version of the piece. Cambio also played its two other rock ballads, “Lihim” and “Patlang,” which the MSO greatly complemented with its own harmony of classical instruments.

A new band on the music scene, Silent Sanctuary, playing violin, viola, and cello, was backed-up by the MSO. Its progressive rock songs, although heavy, were given soft undertones.

Meanwhile, Imago vocalist Aia de Leon’s powerful and resounding voice, accompanied by the brilliant orchestra, echoed through the theater as the band performed a beautifully orchestrated “Akap,” which was one of the better performances of the night. On-note adlibs on their songs, normally done on guitars, but replaced by soft tunes from the violins, brought new dimensions to the songs from the band’s latest album, Take 2.

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On the other hand, indie rock group Twisted Halo’s aggressive songs, featuring the most participation from the orchestra, somehow resembled Metallica’s previous effort of contrasting hard guitar riffs with light violins. The heavy and distorted power chords were lightened up by the MSO, giving a balanced yet energetic performance.

Meanwhile, crowd favorite Sugarfree, known for its songs about romance and heartbreak, delivered a tear-dropping performance as the MSO added bitter melancholy to “Prom” and the reprise of “Burn Out.”

One of the more anticipated bands in the lineup, Sandwich rocked the stage as it performed “Masilungan,” which featured numerous chord progressions that made the orchestra stand out. An excellent rendition of their single “Two Trick Pony,” although overpowering, brought the people to their feet as the band closed the set; with the audience singing the last few lines.

The show ended with a surprise collaboration of the six bands and the orchestra as they performed the classic “Tayong mga Pinoy” with a rock flavor, ending with a classic instrumental piece.

Silent Sanctuary and MSO member Chino David arranged all the songs each band performed. The orchestra was led by Professor Antonio Molina, chair of the University of the Philippines strings department, who orchestrated the performers with his baton the entire night.

At first glance, classical and rock music may seem miles apart. Rock bands have often been branded as aggressive and violent while classic musicians are supposedly well-refined. Although the heavy drum beats and loud guitar riffs drowned MSO’s instruments in some parts, still, the effort of combining the two “opposing” genres proved that music, indeed, has endless possibilities.

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