Remembering Juan Morel Campos

Semana de la DanzaToday marks the birth of Juan Morel Campos (May 16, 1857 – May 12, 1896), the most important figure in Puerto Rican music of the 19th century. A composer and conductor, he was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico. The most prolific danza composer in Puerto Rico, Morel Campos produced about 550 pieces, and about 300 of them were danzas. Among his best known compositions are “Felices días” [Happy Days], “No Me Toques” [Do Not Touch Me], “Idilio” [Idyll], and “Maldito amor” [Damned Love]. He conducted concerts, operas, and operettas throughout Puerto Rico and South America, and died conducting one of his own zarzuelas, “El reloj de Lucerna,” [The Lucerne Clock] at his beloved La Perla Theater in Ponce. Since 1984, Puerto Rico honors Morel Campos on May 16, “Juan Morel Campos Day,” and remembers him as a virtuoso danza composer.

Today, in his honor, El Nuevo Día published an interview with Olimpia and Altagracia Morel, his daughter and granddaughter, who share family stories about Morel Campos. Altagracia explains that her grandfather had never imagined that he would someday be a famous musician, that he simply loved composing, and that he often gave away is compositions.

Although his family remembers his joyful and kindhearted character (and how he taught all his children how to play the piano), his biographers point out Morel Campos’ deep, underlying sadness, speculating that it may have been due to his amorous disappointments or to having suffered a certain degree of racial discrimination—he was a light-skinned mulatto.  His granddaughter attributes his sadness to not being able to afford studies abroad, away from the island. “But, although he was from a very poor family,” Altagracia emphasizes, he ended up being more renowned than those who studied abroad. His talent was too great.”

For more information on Juan Morel Campos, see http://www.ladanza.com/morel2.htm

For full article (in Spanish) and image, see http://www.elnuevodia.com/sutalentofuedemasiadogrande-569526.html

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