Bamboo Organ Fest recovers lost Philippine colonial music

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The famous Bamboo Organ made in 1816, considered a Philippine national treasure

The famous Bamboo Organ made in 1816, considered a Philippine national treasure

When the Spanish friars were forced to leave after the Philippine Revolution in 1898, they took with them books, manuscripts and music scores, which eventually ended up in universities in the United States, United Kingdom, and Spain.

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This year, the 39th International Bamboo Organ Festival aims to contribute to the recovery of the country’s music history, especially during the Spanish colonization, and showcase the peak of the country’s cultural affluence at a time called El Siglo de Oro.

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Leo Renier, the German co-founder of Bamboo Organ Foundation Inc.

From February 20 to 26, the Bamboo Organ Foundation Inc. (BOFI) will again highlight the grand and glorious sound of the Bamboo Organ, made by Spanish missionary Fr. Diego Cera, at the St. Joseph Parish Church in Las Piñas City.

The unique musical instrument handcrafted by Cera, who was the first parish priest of Las Piñas, is composed of 1,031 pipes and 902-bamboo pieces.  It was built through eight long years beginning 1816.

“Every year, we are reminding everyone that the Bamboo Organ, which is a Philippine national treasure, is in its best condition, and to show what we can get out of this wonderful instrument: a high-level of music-making,” said BOFI co-founder, Leo Renier.

According to Reiner, the Bamboo Organ is a testament to the country’s rich culture, one that is “owned by every Filipino.” Likening it to foreign countries, which have as its treasures the Statue of Liberty in the US or the Eifel Tower in France, Renier said, “The Philippines has the Bamboo Organ as an artifact that defines Filipinos.”

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Eudenice Palaruan, the main conductor for the upcoming festival

The upcoming concert is expected to draw music enthusiasts nationwide to witness the annual occasion when the Bamboo Organ is featured in a festive concert. Although the instrument is played daily, this coming event will showcase its artistic power that is accompanied by two choir groups, highly-acclaimed vocalists, as well as different musical instruments in the six-day event.

“This is the first time that most of our performers are Filipinos. We’ve had foreign performers before—now, we have an American organist but everyone else is Filipino.”

The gala night on the February 20 will showcase works from El Siglo De Oro, music from the Spanish Golden Age that are composed of secular and sacred villancicos or Christmas carols from the late Renaissance to the Baroque era. This grand performance will have a repeat on February 21 and 26, which will serve as the conclusion of the festival.

With the accompaniment of the guitar, organ, drums, and the Bamboo Organ, songs by the Las Piñas Boys Choir and the Villancico Vocal Ensemble will fill the Baroque architecture of the church.

“The most popular concerts in the Philippines focus on the Romantic, but this time, we will be performing Latin-American baroque music that is very much creda or local sounding, much like the Bamboo Organ,” said Eudenice Palaruan, the main conductor of the festival.

There will also be a “Concert Under the Trees” on February 22, the most casual among the festival’s activities, and located at the inner courtyard of the St. Joseph Church.

This will feature Filipino balladeer Jed Madella who is the first Filipino to win the World Championships of the Performing Arts (WCOPA).

The “Night of Evening Music” on February 23 promises “a night of pure organ music,” where the Bamboo Organ and the Pipe Organ of St. Joseph Academy will be the main event.  The following day will feature the “Night of Two Boys Choirs” with the “two surviving all-boys choir in Manila” as headliners.

The 39th International Bamboo Organ Festival will run from February 20 to 26. For more information, call 825-7190 or log-on to www.bambooorgan.org.

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1 Comment

  1. To Sheila Manalac
    Thank you for your article covering the press conference of the Bamboo Organ Festival..
    Only a few corrections:
    The Night of Evening Music should be “And evening of Organ Music”
    and I happen to be a Belgian..
    But the article is well written. Thank you.