Saturday, May 16, 2009

Juan Morel Campos, Afro-Puerto Rican Composer of Danzas, Born May 16, 1857

Juan Morel Campos (1857-1896) was an Afro-Puerto Rican composer and musician known as the quintessential composer of Puerto Rican Danzas. He is profiled at A 4-minute YouTube video called Felices Días - Orquesta Sinfónica de Puerto Rico” was posted Feb. 19, 2008. Juan Morel Campos came into the world on May 16, 1857 in Ponce, Puerto Rico. He was of Afro-Puerto Rican descent. In the Spring 2005 issue of the journal Centro 7, Prof. Alan West-Duran of Northeastern University refers to him as "...the mulatto composer Juan Morel Campos."

In an article in Africana Encyclopedia, Carlos Dalmau describes the composer: “...Afro-Puerto Rican composer and musician, critical figure in the development of the danza, a musical style that incorporates Afro-Caribbean and European elements.” “His musical production was varied and rich, including zarzuelas (Spanish light opera), masses, symphonies, waltzes, marches, and danzas. In the latter, Morel Campos made his most important and lasting contribution to classical music in Latin America. Of the 550 works attributed to him, approximately half of them are danzas for piano, including No me toques, El torbellino, Felices dias, and Vano empeno.”

Another view of the career of Juan Morel Campos comes from the Web site of the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture (IPRAC): “Although Juan Morel Campos achieved great heights as a concert-pianist, his best scores are for the Concert Band, as he was also a flautist and an accomplished player of the Bass Trombone or Bombardino (an instrument which he richly featured in many of his Danzas). The obliggato part of the bass trombone in most of his scores has become inextricably identified with the Danza style as a genre.” The IPRAC Web site includes a photograph of the composer and his Orquesta Juan Morel Campos in 1875. is a website in Spanish and English which includes a brief biography of Juan Morel Campos: “
He began his musical studies at the tender age of eight under Prof. Antonio Egipciaco. During his youth he learned how to play almost all brass instruments and for some time he conducted the Municipal Band of Ponce and was the church's organist. He later became the most advanced student of Manuel G. Tavarez, considered The Father of the Danza, whose influence can be perceived in some of his first compositions. But Morel was a genius on his own and he continued composing and creating new danzas in which he incorporated all the rythms and styles of his time, plus many of his own, developing the form to what it is today.” “On April 26, 1896, during a concert in Ponce, he suffered a stroke which led to his death on May 12, just four days before his 39th birthday.”

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