The classical guitar was the centerpiece of several cultural events in Metro Manila in the last two months.
It started with special tribute to guitar maestro Jose Valdez who has long championed the cause for the classical guitar.
Prof. Valdez has taught and lectured on the rudiments of classical guitar for 45 years, enriching guitar studies by introducing subjects such as “Applied Music with an 8 Level Course,” “Progressive Studies in Philippine Guitar Music,” “The Art of Transcribing and Arranging for the Guitar” and “Guitar History and Literature,” among others.
These pioneering efforts resulted in the recognition of classical guitar studies by the Commission of Higher Education (CHED) as a major and degree instrument.
Ramoncito Carpio, organizer of the Manila Guitar Festival noted, “His guitar arrangements of traditional and popular Philippine music as well as his own compositions, contributed greatly in expanding the Philippine guitar repertoire. In his long teaching career, Sir Joe has trained many students who have become competent teachers and performers. He is also instrumental in the formation of the Guitar Friends, a group of guitar aficionados consisting of business people and professionals that support guitar activities and festivals. He also made me realize the importance of including Philippine music in our repertoire. I know how important it is to study the works of Bach, Tarrega and Rodrigo but it is also important that we pay attention to our own music. He has been championing Philippine guitar music in his whole career and his dedication has inspired me to do the same.”
Valdez has also done extensive research from the Philippine music archives and has published 31 books on classical guitar.
Meanwhile, the Manila Guitar Festival saw the gathering of classical guitar practitioners in Metro Manila.
Among them were the masterclass and recitals of Margarita Escarpa (Spain), Agustin Avila (Spain), Yvonne Zehner (Germany), Bin Hu (China/ USA), and special performances of the Manila Guitar Quartet and Sparrow Music Guitar Ensemble.
The Filipino participants were classical guitarists Aaron Aguila, Adrik Cristobal, Iqui Vinculado and the Metropolitan Guitar Ensemble with special participation of flamenco guitarist Adolfo Timuat.
Guitar fest director Carpio said the festival organizers were lucky to get support from the Rotary Club of Makati Poblacion and the University of Makati.
Added Carpio, “For years, we were always looking for ways to bring guitar music to new audiences and these groups were very instrumental in helping us achieve that goal. One of the highlights of the fest is the premiere of Jeffrey Ching’s work Canon for the King of Zhou for guitar ensemble specially written for this festival. Aside from the outstanding performance of international guests, we were able to highlight up-and-coming soloists and guitar ensembles from different music colleges and conservatories.”
He pointed out it was a difficult job commuting between performing and organizing. “It’s really tough since we are understaffed and working on a very limited budget. As a performer and organizer, the key really is time management. I knew that once the festival starts, I won’t be able to touch my guitar, so I tried my best to squeeze in at least an hour of practice time every day weeks before the festival. It’s not a question of how long you practice but how you practice.”
Moreover, Carpio noted that the festival highlighted the notable increase for the appreciation of classical guitar. “The situation now is way better than what we have years ago. Today, it’s easier to disseminate information and invite people with the help of social media. The guitar community is more united now. Everyone is helping whenever there is a guitar event. The guitar community is growing through the years, and hopefully, it will continue to grow so that more people will be able to experience the beauty of the sound of classical guitar.”