The Philippines was a Spanish colony for hundreds of years until the end of the 19th century, and among the many things that the Western world had left behind, I think it’s worthwhile to take a look at how the classical guitar is doing here.
It was always alive in the 20th century, and especially now. It became quite popular when Juan Silos Jr. and Pedro Conception were performing their transcriptions of famous Filipino tunes (check them out on Spotify). Compositions were written for the guitar by local composers, and performances from solos to ensembles were taking place. Famous guitarists also made visits, doing concerts and sometimes, master classes. Some of them were Andres Segovia, Julian Bream, Jose Tomas, David Russell, and the LAGQ. Tedesco and Rodrigo concertos were being performed in venues around Metro Manila.
Speaking of Metro Manila, it’s where you could find most of the conservatories or schools that teach classical guitar, and the venues where most of their concerts are held. I’m going to be giving you a brief update on the events (related to classical guitar) that have happened in Metro Manila in the past few months. I say brief because I think every event deserves to have its own article and this is just to give you an idea on how everything is going around there.
Manila Guitar Festival 2017 was held this August at the University of Makati and was mainly presented by the Rotary Club of Makati Poblacion, the Pedro Sarmiento family, and the University of Makati. The Guitar Friends also helped in organizing the event. An ensemble work, King Zhou, written by Jeffrey Ching was premiered there, and another composer, Agustin Castilla-Avila, on his nth visit to the country, did his lecture, “New Sounds on the Guitar”. Filipinos and Agustin seem to like each other since he’s made multiple visits already since 2010. Angelito Agcaoili also did a lecture and a concert on the music of Pedro Sarmiento. Here’s a complete list of the performers featured in the festival:
Margarita Escarpa (Spain)
Reinbert Evers (Germany)
Bin Hu (China/ USA)
Agustin Castilla-Avila (Spain/Austria)
Yvonne Zehner (Germany)
Jeffrey Ching (Philippines/Germany)
Angelito Agcaoili (Philippines/ USA)
Adolfo Timuat (Philippines / Spain)
Manila Guitar Quartet
Centro Fundacion Flamenco
Sparrow Music Guitar Ensemble
UST Guitar Ensemble
St.Scholastica’s College Guitar Ensemble
PWU Guitar Ensemble
GuiGuil (Guitar Guild)
Metropolitan Guitar Ensemble
Every year since 2010, there have been guitar festivals happening around Manila, and there was even a time when two festivals happened in one year (2 fests, 1 year). Besides these big events, smaller scale festivals also take place in different conservatories of music.
The 1st Cebu International Guitar Music Festival by the Guitar Foundation of the Philippines was held last September. This one’s an exception because this happened in Cebu, which is quite far from Manila. Concerts and lectures were given by local artists, Señor Avila was present as well, giving his lecture again, this time to the participants of Cebu. Well-known guitarists from Manila, together with Cebu’s artists, make up this festival’s roster list.
St. Scholasticas Guitar Ensemble
Davao Cityo National High School Guitar Ensemble
Cebu Guitar Quartet
Guitar Foundation of the Philippines
Two days after, September 5th, an evening of classical and flamenco music was held at the Conspiracy Garden Café, a well-known venue for local artists, may it be classical or rock. It featured Carlo Juan, Alex Alcaraz Fernandez, Jean Paul Zialcita, and myself, Rafael Ronquillo. I played some South American music and a few selections from Los Caprichos de Goya by Tedesco. Carlo presented some tunes by Andrew York and played flamenco music with Alex. Paul later joined as a percussionist.
This was sponsored by IPAV, or the Independent Philipine Art Ventures Inc. for short, and these events happen on the first Tuesday of every month. The next classical guitar guests they had were the UST Guitar Octet and Arbon Guieb last November 7.
The University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music Guitar Department has, apart from its guitar ensemble, smaller groups that perform in and out of the university, one being this octet, another is Duo Dinamica (David Reyes and Marcel Ortega), who did a Christmas themed concert in Paco Park, Manila last December 1.
Apart from duos, solos were played by Nico Panopio, David Reyes, and Arbon Guieb. The UST Guitar Quartet, also did a performance in Paco Park last October 27, a debut for its come-back with a few new members, James Namit, Angelica “Iqui” Vinculado, Miguel Namoc, and Rafael Ronquillo. It first started with Ruben Reyes, Leo Nebrija, Alvin Salenga, and Casey Santos. The present coordinator of the UST Guitar Department, Alberto Mesa, also recently performed, last November 23, with the flutist, Raymond Sarreal and cellist, Anjo Inacay. They featured chamber works that were written and arranged for guitar, flute, and cello.
Speaking of chamber music, a concert presented by the Intramuros Administration was also held last October 12, featuring classical and modern music performed by Rafael Ronquillo and the well-known flutist, Dr. Santiago Yangco. Due to bad weather, the concert was held indoors in the Bukod Tanging Bulwagan of the Pamanatasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila.
On the same month, the U.P Guitar Orchestra gave their concert at the U.P (University of the Philippines), Abelardo Hall Auditorium. The U.P guitar orchestra is made of the university’s guitar students and is led by their professor, Lester Demitillo. The concert series that happens in the University of the Philippines throughout the year gives more opportunity to audience members—who cannot come all the way to the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Ayala Museum, or to the conservatories in Manila—a chance to catch classical music performances in Quezon City.
Another guitar ensemble from the University of the Philippines gave their first solo concert called “Time and Space” last November 22, the Guitar Guild or GuiGuil. It consists of non-guitar majors, who are from different departments, colleges, and universities. The Guitar Guild is led by Solaiman Jamisolamin from the faculty of the U.P College of Music.
Solo performances were held at the Philippine Women’s University School of Music last October 10. Aaron Aguila performed some music by Agustin Barrios Mangore and some of his own compositions. Angelica “Iqui” Vinculado performed some music by the Filipino composer, Bayani Mendoza de Leon, and Rafael Ronquillo presented some music from the Renaissance and a couple of transcriptions by Roland Dyens. On October 12th, Aaron, Iqui and the GuiGuil Ensemble were together at a concert in the Ayala Museum as a presentation of Aaron Aguila’s compositions. Aaron and Iqui are playing again or may have just finished playing as I write this. Tonight was the launch for his album called “Crossroads”, which contains music written and performed by Aaron Aguila, not the Bone Thugz N Harmony.
The Silangan Chamber Guitar Ensemble recently gave a concert at the Zobel de Ayala Recital Hall at the BGC Arts Center in Taguig, as part of the BGC Arts Festival. Their concert featured music from the Renaissance to Contemporary, from Europe to Asia. It also featured the Philippine premiere of Roland Dyens’ “Soleils Levants”, and Jeffrey Solares’ “Cordillera Rhapsody”, arranged for guitar ensemble by Ruben Reyes, who is also the musical director of the Silangan Chamber Guitar Ensemble. The ensemble members consists of students and professionals from different schools and fields.
Last but definitely not the least, due to the increasing population of female guitarists in the country (praise the Lord!), Guitar Girls PH was founded. They are a community of female guitarists who perform every first Saturday of the month at the Brother’s Mustache Bar in Queozn City. Founded by Jenny de Vera, the events feature Charmaine Gallardo, Marlee Pabico, Rachel Sasing, Pauline Mendoza, Hazel Ann, and Iqui Vinculado.
Of course, the seven names I mentioned are not the only women in the country who play classical guitar. In the same way, the events I’ve mentioned here are not the only classical guitar events that happened since August. It would be too long to list them all down, and as I’ve said, they each deserve their own articles.
Just knowing the right place to go would lead you to an afternoon or evening of guitar music in Metro Manila, whether it would be a concert, a regular guitar gig, a students’ recital, or a graduation recital of senior conservatory students. Classical guitar is very much alive and flourishing in the Philippines and we’re striving to make it accessible to more people. Hopefully, in the near future, I, or someone better and more credible than me would write more detailed articles focused on music, composers, luthiers, and performers from the Philippines. We’d also love to hear ‘what up’ with classical guitar from our neighbors in Asia. Hope we all get together soon in a festival or something.
I guess this is where I end this post. Peace out. Tupac rest in peace. West side. One love. Wu tang. Tiger style. Adiós!
Article by Rafael Ronquillo
Classical Guitar Asia would like to thank Rafael for contributing to us this insightful article.