9th Biennial Conference on Baroque Music


The Uses of Baroque Music and Drama in Historic Manila, 1610-1710

William John Summers

Manila has served as the capitol of the Philippine archipelago from 1571 until the present. For more than 250 years it was the port of embarkation for the pacific galleon trade, the longest and most successful period of sea commerce in human history. The archipelago, because of its geographic location, has occupied a unique place in the history of the south-western pacific. Because it was the focus for Spanish colonial pursuits in the Pacific for more than 330 years, Manila was not only the most prosperous colonial capitol in Asia, it was also the most culturally advanced.

I intend to speak about music as it was used in various social contexts to demonstrate the fact that public life in Manila was a rich tapestry where all segments of the population came together. Three specific areas will be explored: 1) the establishment and development of formal, professional musical ensembles in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception [1581-1800], the Jesuit Colegio de San José (1595-1768) and the Cappila Real (1640-1821); 2) the importance of public rite, ritual and spectacle as the primary locus for direct cultural exchange among the peoples of Manila, seen especially through the omni-present dramatic productions, extravagant processions and the composition of new music [1597-1704]; and 3) the importance of the confraternal movement in the promotion of corporate devotion and the cultivation of newly-created poetry and music in both Latinate and indigenous languages, especially in the Cofradia de los esclavos de Santo Cristo [1650-1690].

I will also describe the relationships that existed between music and the other performing arts, dance, drama and oratory, as they were cultivated by the Chapter of the Cathedral, the City Government and the administrators of the Jesuit College of San José. Special dramatic productions were commissioned by the Bishop and Chapter for the re-founding of the neighborhood Church of Our Lady of Good Journey in 1665, with special music composed for a newly-written play in Tagalog. The Jesuits presented a week of dramatic festivities in 1674 celebrating the canonization of Francis Borgia, and the City Government underwrote the festivities in 1710, marking the birth of El Principe y Señor Don Luis Fernand, where Loas with music for orchestra, soloists and up to four choirs were performed. In each of these cases the performing arts were utilized in a comprehensive way to celebrate, elevate and ratify these events of singular moment. Each presents a unique view of the role music played in rite, ritual and spectacle in this Asian capitol.

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Last updated on 22 March 2000 by Yo Tomita