Unity through Rondalla festival

To usher in the 10th year anniversary of the Strings of Unity International Rondalla/Plucked String Festival, the best rondalla groups in the Philippines and plucked string ensemble of selected countries will gather through Kuwerdas ng Pagkakaisa: Philippine Rondalla Festival on Feb. 12 to 16 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). The event also serves as a tribute to composers, conductors and dedicated rondalla teachers who have contributed greatly in the development of rondalla music in the Philippines and abroad.

Lucban Pahiyas Community Rondalla,
composed of San Isidro students from Lucban,
The rondalla concert is scheduled three times a day featuring the top 6 rondalla groups in the country today that passed the audition. Said groups are as follows: Lucban Pahiyas Community Rondalla from Luzon, Kabataang Silay Rondalla Ensemble of Silay City, Negros Occidental, Maco Heights Central Elementary School from Rondalla Compostela Valley, U.P. Rondalla from NCR, Harmonya: The String Ensemble of UPLB, Dipolog Community Rondalla, and Celso Espejo Rondalla. The participants will render formidable repertoire aimed at providing an exceptional musical experience to Filipino audiences.

The performance will also showcase a repertoire by Filipino composers: Antonio Vivaldi; Johann Sebastian Bach; Arcangel Corelli; and George Frideric Handel. Likewise, in line with goals of the festival, plucked string groups from Taiwan, South Korea, Indonesia, and among others will also be featured in the concert.

Harmonya: The String Ensemble of University
of Philippines Los Baños, with bowed instruments,
plays classical and contemporary pieces
As it has been in the past, the Strings of Unity Festival upholds the significance of art and cultural education of the public. Thus, an exhibition on the history and development Philippine rondalla will be mounted during the festival and will be opened to the public until the end of February. The exhibition will feature significant data, objects, plucked string instruments, photographs and other materials that will promote an understanding and appreciation of the Philippine rondalla.

To be held for the first time in the Philippines, a forum between the rondalla artists and instrument makers, designers and manufacturers will be convened to discuss ways of enhancing the rondalla instrument making in the country.

Scene from past Rondalla festival
To pay tribute to artists, teachers, composers who have tremendously contributed in the development of rondalla music in the country and their unwavering commitment carrying the wonderful tradition of rondalla music that remains dynamic until today, an awarding ceremony is set on the closing night of the festival.

The Strings of Unity International Rondalla/Plucked String Festival began as a notion coming from the global concern for sustaining and enhancing musical diversity by means of renewing and celebrating a shared heritage in the musical traditions of the world’s cultures. The Filipino rondalla acquired the tradition from Spain, and was cultivated through the years to become an emblem of the country’s cultural identity.

Kabataang Silay Rondalla Ensemble,
a.k.a. ‘Young Cultural Ambassadors of
Negros Occidental
Now, the Filipino rondalla is continuously developing in other parts of the world – the United States, Europe, Australia, as well as in some countries in Asia. The motivation to hold an international rondalla/plucked string festival was brought about by the Many Musics Action Programme of the UNESCO’s International Music Council on the promotion of musical diversity. The festival is initiated by the National Music Committee of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) in 2004 as an international undertaking aimed to promote peace and unity through the globally shared heritage of plucked string music.

University of the Philippines Rondalla: 
The official performing group of Music
Education Dept., College of Music
During the first international rondalla/plucked string festival in 2004, plucked string ensembles from Russia, Israel, Mexico, Australia, and the United States participated. In the second festival in 2007, more international participants came from other parts of the world namely Iran, Thailand, Indonesia, Burma, and Okinawa. In 2011, the third festival was held, China and India were added to the number of foreign groups which have doubled in number from six in the first rondalla festival to 12 in the last festival.

Additionally, the event allows musicians to discover music and other musicians from other parts of the world, playing both similar and different plucked string instruments. Tracing historical roots is one major component of the festival where scholars and musicologists can exchange theories and notions of development and convergences. At the same time, it promotes friendship and understanding.

Dipolog Community Rondalla from
Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte
In this endeavor, the audience is made aware that music does not have boundaries or borders. It welcomes different musical vintages – from folk, to classical, to traditional, to indigenous – without prejudice to one’s heritage, as long as there is a prominent place reserved for the plucked string instrument.

The ultimate goal of the festival is to create a dynamic unity of cultures and nations with the music of the plucked string ensemble leading the way. The festivals remain steadfast in this mission through music.

Kuwerdas ng Pagkakaisa: Philippine Rondalla Festival is presented by the NCCA through the Musicological Society of the Philippines in partnership with the Cultural Center of the Philippines and in cooperation with the University of the Philippines Center for Ethnomusicology. Charmaine Cunanan


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