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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.


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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

entry arrow8:36 PM | A World of Strings Coming Together



Music may what finally and truly unite a perpetually divided world. And the world indeed will come together in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental this year to celebrate the tradition of string music in the second edition of the International Rondalla Festival, slated from February 19-22.

One festival highlight presents four world-class ensembles in a concert billed as One: Cuerdas sa Panaghiusa, on February 22 at the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium in Silliman University. The concert will gather acclaimed rondalla groups from Negros Island, including the Kabataang Silay Ensemble from Negros Occidental and Kwerdas from Oriental Negros, together with Quartette Phoenix of Ekaterinburg, Russia and Three Plucked Strings of Israel.

It may prove to be an interesting musical combination, spanning generations of musical performers playing a wide variety of string traditions, each of which has a specific cultural expression.

The Kabataang Silay Ensemble, which started in 1993 as a group of musically-gifted primary school students in Silay City, has distinguished itself not only for the active promotion of traditional Filipino folk music and dance, but also for serving as an effective component for tourism promotion and youth development. They have extensively traveled within the country as Young Cultural Ambassadors, and have represented the Philippines in the Second Asian Children's Folklore Festival in Guandong, China in 2000, where they received the Performance Memento distinction. In 2001, they were given the Award of Excellence for their performance in the 2001 Aberdeen International Youth Festival held in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Russia's Quartette Phoenix was created in 2001 by a group of Ural State Academy of Music graduates that included Inessa Gareeva, Anatoly Kazakov, Radi Gareev, and Alexander Ivanov, all of them acclaimed laureates of various international competitions. They have been critically acclaimed for their originality as well as in their diversity of style and repertoire that has made them popular fare among Russian audiences.

Three Plucked Strings, playing a repertoire to display the colorful and diverse character of the Jewish and Israeli culture, is a contemporary ensemble dedicated to the performance of pieces by foremost Israeli composers, commissioned especially for this trio. It was founded in 2000 after the posthumous discovery of a rare work for mandolin, guitar and harpsichord -- never performed -- written by the acclaimed Israeli composer, the late Paul Ben-Haim. Since then, more than ten original works, by such composers as Tzvi Avni, Yehezkel Braun, Haim Alexander, Abel Ehrlich, Michael Wolfe and Slava Ganelin, have been written for the ensemble.

Silliman University's Kwerdas is a six-member rondalla group composed of students, faculty, and alumni of the College of Performing Arts, founded in 1999 as an ad-hoc musical group for the classes of acclaimed ethnomusicologist Prof. Priscilla Magdamo-Abraham. Since that inauspicious beginning, the group has gone on to national acclaim, and has performed in international exhibitions and competitions. Kwerdas was among the pioneer participants of the 1st International Rondalla Festival in Bicol, and chosen to perform at the Cultural Center of the Philippines with four other groups for the festival's final concert.

The second edition of the International Rondalla Festival, which is presented by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Province of Oriental Negros in cooperation with the University of the Philippines College of Music and the Musicological Society of the Philippines, aims to explore the uniqueness of the Filipino rondalla as national heritage with a long tradition evolving from the Spanish and Latin American comparsa and estudiantina, which the rondalla has adapted to express a nationally specific consciousness. A late 18th century tradition, the rondalla in the Philippines has come to encompass a variety of folk songs, dances, and short pieces from full-blown classical to modern compositions and adaptations.

The festival also aims to showcase the international expression of the Filipino rondalla, and how the national musical culture has proliferated in the current Filipino diaspora, serving not only as a symbol of national identity but also as a link to the expressions of the mother culture. It also takes into account its musical connection with string music covering the Arab region and cultures around the Mediterranean, as well as Western and Eastern Europe and various parts of the Asian continent

Aside from the four ensembles mentioned, Cuerdas sa Panaghiusa -- the Cebuano equivalent of the Strings of Unity or Cuerdas de Unidad -- is a week-long event (slated from February 19-25) featuring other local and international rondallas and plucked string ensembles, totaling some 400 artists and practitioners. They will engage in daily concerts, multiple outreach performances to outlying localities such as Cebu, Bohol, and Siquijor island, a conference on aspects of the rondalla tradition, historical and national styles, workshops in performance techniques and instrument-making, exhibition, and an international rondalla congress. Other special events are also being lined up by the organizers.

The event is intended to promote the UNESCO-International Music Council action program on cultural and musical diversity, a standing commitment of the Filipinos to advance the cause of world peace and understanding through the celebration of shared cultural heritage.


One: Cuerdas sa Panaghiusa is part of the ongoing National Arts Month, as well as of the cultural season of the Silliman University Cultural Affairs Committee. Tickets are available at the College of Performing Arts, the Luce Auditorium, and at the theater lobby before the show. Season passes are honored. For inquiries and ticket reservations, please see posters and banners for more details, or contact (035)422-6002 loc. 520.

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