Noting the key role that child musicians will play in the 42nd International Bamboo Organ Festival set this week, stakeholders have stressed the importance that music education plays in the development of the youth in the country.
“They say the youth is only interested in computers, this is not true. We can motivate them. If you want to fight drugs, don’t do it with a gun. Do it with music,” said Leo Renier, executive director of the Las Piñas-based Bamboo Organ Foundation, Inc.
Renier, a Belgian musician and long-time Philippine resident, lamented that the national education system seriously lacks a musical component, thus wasting the innate talent of many Filipinos.
“It’s up to us to discover them, start them at a young age… Why not (have a music school in) every municipality if we are so naturally inclined to music? Why not (develop) music that is more professional? I don’t see what would be the objection,” he added.
This year’s festival runs Feb. 16-22 and opens at the St. Joseph Parish that houses the world-famous bamboo organ created by Fr. Diego Cera, a Recollect priest, in the 19th century.
The gala night on Feb. 16 will feature Filipino child musicians belonging to the Villancico Vocal Ensemble, Musika Sophia and Las Piñas Boys Choir as well as Belgian organist Luc Ponet, Austrian flutist Raphael Leone, France cornetto player Lambert Colson, German guitarist Carsten Linck, cellist Renato Lucas and titular organist of the parish Armando Salarza, in a program called “Ensalada de Natividad.”
Musika Sophia’s harpsichordist Jocelyn Guadalupe noted that scientific studies show that music education that focuses on keyboard or guitar for example, “expands the brain… because constant practice enriches the brain just like gymnastics instills discipline.”
Guadalupe, chair of the University of the Philippines Music Education Department, also observed that young people who play in a musical ensemble grow up to be “more sensitive to other people. That’s why music is part of the Humanities. It makes us more human, to feel for each other.”
She added that constant practice in a social environment such as when an organist plays in church allows the musician and the audience to develop an emotional connection with each other.
Beverly Shangkuan-Cheng will conduct the “Ensalada de Natividad” in St. Joseph Parish.
She noted that playing 17th-century music such as motets and villancicos, or rustic songs played in church before Holy Masses was a challenge for the young musicians because they had never heard these played before.
“It was more difficult for us to know the context behind its performance— how to perform it, who performed it, as well as the availability of instruments that are (relatively) not accessible anymore. So the preparation for this festival, especially for the music students, has been really enriching,” Cheng said.
Although the music and the instruments were discussed in class, Cheng recalled the young musicians “had no idea how to perform” the pieces.
“But through rehearsing and collaborations with foreign artists who are specialists in the instruments, learning the genre of early music became special for the students and other performers. It was not a luxury we could experience anytime,” she added.
Cheng said that one night when the young musicians rehearsed, “when we heard everything come together—the choir, the soloists and how they interacted—the instruments were not even there yet, they would cheer after every song! They would sing and dance to the music.”
Renier noted that Salarza is celebrating his silver anniversary as titular organist of the Bamboo Organ this year.
This year also marks the unveiling of a new pipe organ designed by Cealwyn Tagle and constructed by the Diego Cera Organ Builders, Inc. The new organ is a donation of the Villar Foundation and is constructed using metal and wooden pipes.
The new organ will serve the liturgical services at the Shrine of Ezequiel Moreno (Semo) in Pulanglupa at the Villar Sipag Center along the C-5 Extension in Las Piñas City.
The new organ will be integrated into the festival program during the closing concert featuring the Ateneo de Manila Glee Club to be held at Semo on Feb. 22.