Marcelo Adonay

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Marcelo Adonay
6 February 1848 – 8 February 1928
Place of birth: Pakil, Laguna
Place of death:
Parents: Mariano Adonay and Prudencia Quinteria
Spouse: Maria Vasquez

Marcelo Adonay (6 February 1848 – 8 February 1928) was a Filipino composer, organist, conductor, and music teacher. Known as the “Prince of Philippine Church Music,” he was one of the most well-known Philippine musicians of the late 19th century because of his Gregorian Chant-inspired church music.

Early life and education

Adonay was born on 6 February 1848 in Pakil, Laguna to Mariano Adonay and Prudencia Quinteria, who were both farmers. He was the eldest in a brood of eleven children. Their family was musically inclined as his father played wind instruments and all his brothers played a musical instrument or two.

He was a self-taught musician, having taught himself to play the organ, piano, and violin through self-study. He was able to learn all of these while serving as a church boy at the San Agustin Church, where an uncle brought him when he turned eight years old. He practiced playing the church organ while all the friars were asleep. The church is also probably the place where he learned how to read and write.

Musical Career

In 1870, he was maestro di capella and led the twenty-five man church orchestra after a few years of being a member of it. He directed the church orchestra until 1914 except during the time of the Philippine Revolution.

He taught music in girls’ schools such as Colegio de San Sebastian, Colegio de Santa Rosa, Colegio de Santa Catalina, and La Compañia de Jesus. He also taught in the houses of rich families and held private music lessons in the Centro de Bellas Artes in 1902.

He was able to successfully conduct Beethoven’s “Solemn Mass in D Major (Op. 123)” in August 1887 even with limited preparation. It was the first time that the said masterpiece was sung in San Agustin Church.

Meanwhile, on 28 August 1891, he also successfully conducted the orchestra that played the solemn mass of Reparaz in the same church. In March 1893, his own compositions shared the spotlight with Eslava’s “Miserere”.

He was record-keeper of the Union Artistico Musical in 1885 and an active member of the Associacion Musical de Filipinas in 1912.

Religious Musical Works

  • Liberame (1869)
  • Lectio (1885)
  • Gazos a Nuestra Señora de la Consolacion (1890)
  • O Vita Jesu (1891)
  • A San Pascual Bailon en Obando (1894)
  • Responsarium (1894)
  • Benedictus (1895)
  • Hosana (1899)
  • Pequeña Misa Solemne (1903)
  • A Nuestra Señora de Antipolo (1909)
  • A San Juan Bautista (1916)

Non-religious Musical Works

  • A march dedicated to Antonio Luna, the revolutionary leader.
  • Rizal Glorified – performed for the first time at the Manila Grand Opera House on 30 December 1911.
  • La Procesion de Turumba en Pakil
  • Ang Querot ng Reuma (1912)
  • Tocata en Do Mayor (1921)

Personal Life

He was married to Maria Vasquez of Malolos in 17 January 1874 at the Manila Cathedral. They had thirteen children. He formed a family trio with his wife and a daughter and they alternately played the piano, harmonium, and cello.

His devotion to the Catholic faith was so powerful that he had an altar built in his own home. He is said to have spent his time praying at that altar when he was not composing a masterpiece or playing an instrument. His motto in life was “Let it alone to God.”

Recognition in Recent Times

In 1983, the National Historical Institute recognized Adonay’s great contribution to Philippine music and culture by installing a marker in Pakil, Laguna, his hometown. The monument can be found at the center west end of the town plaza. Later on, the town plaza was named after him.

In July 2009, the first of a two-part series of books about his life and works was launched at the Vargas Museum. “The Life and Works of Marcelo Adonay” was edited by Elena Mirano, and was published by the University of the Philippines Press. It was a collection of five essays on his life, his existing and missing works, and formal analyses of his masterpiece Pequeña Misa Solemne somber Motivos dela Missa Regia de Canto Gregoriano. A concert showcasing the musician’s works followed and was held in September 2009 at the University of the Philippines.




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