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>  News Releases >   2008 >   April

Recovering the music and culture of an Asian nation's colonial past

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 04/03/08 • Rebecca Bailey • (603) 646-3661

An international and interdisciplinary symposium at Dartmouth College April 30 through May 2 will celebrate the unique music and culture that flowered in the Philippine Islands in the late stages of its colonial rule by Spain.

"Encuentro Filipino: Rediscovering a Hispanic Nation: The Fine and Performing Arts in the Philippine Islands Before The Invasion of 1898" will feature five leading scholars of 19th-century Filipino music and the Fine Arts, as well as performances by Hopkins Center for the Arts pianist-in-residence Sally Pinkas and one by one of the Philippines' leading youth ensembles, the Loboc Children's Choir. All events are free and open to the public.

Members of the Loboc Children's Choir perform in their home church in Loboc, Bohol Province, The Philippines.
Members of the Loboc Children's Choir perform in their home church in Loboc, Bohol Province, The Philippines. (Photo courtesy of the Loboc Children's Choir)

Dartmouth Associate Professor of Music William Summers, the symposium's organizer and one of the foremost American scholars of colonial-era Filipino sacred and art music, notes that 20th-century musicologists in the Philippines rejected Spanish-era music as "not truly Filipino." After the United States took control of the Philippines from Spain in 1898, he says, there was a systematic attempt to paint Spanish rule as uniformly regressive and stultifying. This view of colonial-era culture demeaned, among other things, the vibrant musical culture that developed in Philippine cities and cathedrals throughout the country in the 19th century.

More recent scholarship, however, seeks to "recover and re-illumine the deep cultural heritage of this archipelagic nation," Summers says. "This current research seeks to reunite contemporary Philippine culture with its long and accomplished Hispanic past, and restore the Philippines to its unique position in the body of Hispanic nations world wide."

The conference will be preceded Tuesday, April 29, by a showing of two films produced by conference participants Regalado Trota Jose and Elena River Mirano devoted to music and architecture of the 19th century Philippines, in Kreindler Auditorium (Room 041), Haldeman Hall. The conference will open Wednesday, April 30, at 12:30 with a recital by Pinkas of Filipino Romantic piano music, in Faulkner Recital Hall, Hopkins Center. Scholarly talks take place in Kreindler Auditorium from 1:30 to 6 p.m. on April 30 and from 1 to 5:30 p.m. on May 1 and feature scholars from the Philippines speaking on such topics as urban and rural musical traditions; indigenous and hispanified expressions in the arts; and the role played in Filipino culture by the Catholic Church, women religious, parish musicians, and music publishers. 

The symposium closes Friday, May 2, at 8:00 pm, with a free concert in Rollins Chapel by the Loboc Children's Choir, performing an ecclectic program of international and Filipino choral music. Formed in 1980 as an elementary school choir in the capital of the island province of Bohol, the group has gone on to tour internationally and win top awards, including taking first place in youth category of the 6th International Folksongs Festival in 2003 in Barcelona, Spain. In Bohol, the group's frequent performances are a highlight of the province's eco-tourism efforts, and the choir also often visits hospitals, prisons, orphanages, and homes for the aged.

The same symposium program will also be presented at the University of California, Riverside, April 25, 2008.

The Dartmouth symposium is sponsored by the Department of Music, with the cooperation the History Department, the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Program, the Dickey Center for International Understanding, the Leslie Center for the Humanities, College Provost Barry Scherr, and the Handel Society of Dartmouth.

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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