The Bamboo Organ of Las Piñas

bamboo1Center of the yearly Festival is the Bamboo Organ, a retro-18th century instrument, designed and constructed by Fr.Diego Cera for the performance of the Spanish organ literature.

One of the most notable characteristics of Spanish organs (in Spain, Portugal, Latin America and Mexico) is the divided keyboard with a leap of an octave in the middle. This peculiarity reflects the rejection of polyphonic music in favor of accompanied melodies.  Nevertheless, it is still possible to create a plenum (use the keyboard with 5 regular octaves) which makes it possible to use the organ for basso continuo playing or even as a solo instrument for baroque concertos.

Other characteristics are: the trumpets, which are placed horizontally (en chamade) ; the position of the organ, placed at the side wall of the nave; and the simple pedal board of one octave limited to play long notes in the bass.

pipe1Extra-ordinary for this instrument is the fact that all the pipes (except the horizontal trumpets) are made of bamboo. While organ pipes are made of wood or metal, and manufactured in the workshop according to mathematical series, Diego Cera had to find the material for his pipes in nature. Bamboos do not grow side by side according a mathematical serie: in this case, Cera had to create families of types which belonged “more or less” together (like brothers and sisters, who belong to one family) . He was able to create some unique sounds of flutes, of the cornet, of a singing “travizera”. He also tried to imitate the sound of a trumpet using bamboo. He prepared the pipes (a work of details) but the result did not satisfy him: these pipes were then  placed at the rear of the organ, as decoration.

It is the Bamboo Organ, a Baroque instrument, which is determining the particular niche of the Festival. Without excluding modern compositions, the Festival program concentrates on the music of the 17th to the first half of the 18th century, rarely performed in the Philippines.  Accidentally, this is the period of our own Philippine music history which we have forgotten. Recently, the Festival is undertaking attempts to bring back to live the music (or the style of music)  which must have sound in 17th-18th century Intramuros, borrowing villancicos from Spain or Central America, since no manuscripts of Philippine Baroque music have as of yet been recovered.

In the course of its 40 years, the Festival acquired some more keyboard instruments.

In 1981, it purchased a harpsichord built by Williard Martin of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

In 1987, some organ friends in Europe donated a box organ built by Klais Orgelbau (op.1659).

organIn 1994, the Festival acquired the Auditorium organ. It was designed and built by Cealwyn Tagle and Edgar Montiano at the end of their 5 years apprenticeship of organbuilding under Helmut Allgäuer (Grünbach, Austria). The project was sponsored by the Archdiocese of Cologne, under the condition that the instrument would be built by Filipinos, and will be used for the training organists. (www.univie.ac.at/ksa/apsis/aufi/aurel/organ.htm )

This instrument has two manuals and a full pedal board, on which it is possible to perform the classical organ literature which cannot be performed at the Bamboo Organ (e.g. works by J.S.Bach). The organ-recital by the visiting Festival organist takes place in two venues: the church and the school auditorium.

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