Pedro Concepcion (guitarist)
Pedro Concepcíon, Pioneer Filipino guitar soloist. In the mid-seventies, a group of classical guitar students and teachers in Manila attempted to organize and gather information on the history of the guitar in the Philippines. At that time, two of the most loved proponents of the guitar, Pedro Concepcíon and Juan Silos Jr. were still living and this group was prescient enough to have taken advantage of the opportunity to solicit the two eminent guitarists’ personal testimony for transmission and preservation for posterity. At the time of the actual interview, Pedro Concepcíon was already suffering from arthritis which made playing the guitar painful if not impossible although he continued to give lessons to private students who came to his residence right beside Plaza Hugo in the Santa Ana district of Manila. The following personal account is a rough summary of that interview.
He was already an accomplished ukelele player when a grand-uncle noticed his special ability for music and persuaded him to take up the classical guitar using the 1912 edition of Aguado’s method. His questioning mind led him to challenge some of the positions advocated by the book. One day, in order to observe a segment of a guitarist featured in a film, he stayed inside a movie house so he could watch the movie over and over again. After performing the tremolo adequately on just two fingers, he finally obtained the score of Francisco Tarrega’s tremolo study, Recuerdos de la Alhambra and likened the a m i right hand fingering it required to the way we naturally scratch itchy skin. He claimed he did not take the guitar really seriously and did not see its full potential until he heard Juan Silos Jr.’s performance over the radio. His ears could scarcely believe that Juan Silos Jr. was coaxing the beautiful music he was hearing out of a simple guitar. He had only the highest praise for him repeatedly saying that it was Juan Silos Jr. who inspired him to take up the guitar earnestly. He then honed his performing skill by joining radio amateur contests and by the outbreak of the Second World War, his reputation had spread far and wide that he was in constant demand to provide background music for the burgeoning movie industry. By this time, he was also often being invited to play in the homes of privileged guitar enthusiasts. He initially limited his teaching to diplomats of foreign embassies and their families but gradually extended it to children of guitar enthusiasts he personally knew and then to other fortunate aspiring guitarists.
His idiomatic and poignant interpretation of popular Filipino songs on the guitar as featured in the Villar Records series, Philippine Memories, evokes the more peaceful and gentler graciousness of traditional Filipino life of past generations and perhaps brings us back musically closest to the ambience of the rural idylls that Fernando Amorsolo depicted in his native scenery. It sets a high interpretative standard for Filipino music for all time.
Recordings: Philippine Memories, Vol. 1 and 3, Villar Records
Clips with much better sound of transcriptions of solo guitar parts of Pedro Concepcíon’s recorded performances augmented with arrangement for solo guitar of its orchestral accompaniment by Joel Malit on YouTube.