Nicanor Santa Ana Abelardo

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Nicanor Santa Ana Abelardo

Birthdate: (41)
Birthplace: San Miguel de Mayumo, Bulacan, Philippines
Death: March 21, 1934 (41)
Chicago, Philippines
Immediate Family:

Son of Valentin Abelardo; Placida Santa Ana and Placida Abelardo
Husband of Private and Sixta Naguiat
Father of Private; Private; Private; Private; Private and 7 others
Brother of Victoria Santa Ana Abelardo; Alegre Sta. Ana Abelardo; Private; Private; Private and 2 others

Occupation: Musician Composer
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Nicanor Santa Ana Abelardo

Nicanor S. Abelardo was born in San Miguel, Bulacan in February 7, 1893 to Valentin Abelardo and Placida Santa Ana; both were musically gifted.

When his uncle, a painter, brought the young Abelardo to Manila to study at Quiapo Primary School, the piano at his uncle's studio fascinated him so much that he started tinkering with its keys. Soon enough, he learned to play it by himself.

Eventually, the piano player at Cinematografo Filipino, Francisco Buencamino, heard about Abelardo's talents and asked him to substitute for him. There the young boy played piano accompaniments to silent films. Buencamino also hired him to play at other venues so at the tender age of 13, the young boy was already a regular attraction at some of Manila's saloons and cabarets.

Abelardo went back home to his hometown of San Miguel and finished sixth grade. Immediately afterwards, he accepted an appointment as a music teacher in barrio schools. In 1916, he finally took up courses under Guy F. Harrison and Robert Schofield at the UP Conservatory of Music.

But nonetheless, it was Abelardo's father who first introduced him to the rudiments of music at age five by teaching him the solfeggio and the banduria. He later on picked up the violin and learned to play it without much difficulty. And at only eight years of age, he wrote his first composition, Ang Unang Buko, a waltz, which he dedicated to his grandmother.

Abelardo went on to receive his teacher’s certificate in science and composition in 1921 from the University of the Philippines. Subsequently, three years hence, he was appointed head of the composition department at the university's Conservatory of Music.

His creative genius elevated the kundiman to a veritable art form, bringing it to art-song status. Among his works were Nasaan Ka Irog, Magbalik Ka Hirang, and Himutok. He also composed the melody for the university's official anthem, U.P. Naming Mahal.

With a small grant from UP, Abelardo went to America to pursue graduate studies at the Chicago Musical College. It was there he composed Cinderella which won for him the Las Violetta Scholarship in Chicago.

Years later, back in the Philippines, he and his family ran a boarding house where students lived and took music lessons from him. Among his students were National Artist Antonino Buenaventura, Alfredo Lozano and Lucino Sacramento.

He died on March 21, 1934 at the age of 41, leaving a prolific collection of more than 140 works. The building housing the College of Music in UP Diliman, Abelardo Hall, is named in his honor. . This is my website and labor of love. :)

Abelardo, Nicanor

(b San Miguel, Bulacan, 7 Feb 1893; dManila, 21 March 1934). Filipino composer, conductor and teacher. As a child he had violin lessons from his father, and in 1901 he wrote his first composition, Ang unang buko (‘The First Fruit’), a waltz. He was sent to study at the Liceo de Manila and he learnt to play the piano, but at the same time he had to take various jobs to support himself and his family. In 1916 he entered the Conservatory of the University of the Philippines, and in the next year he composed a march, U. P. Beloved, which won first prize in an open competition. He studied with Victoriano Carreon (singing), José Silos (bandurria), Bonifacio Abdon (violin) and José Estella (piano); he received a teacher’s certificate at the conservatory in 1921, and in 1923 he pursued postgraduate studies there.

The piano concerto, which he wrote for these later courses, was the first concerto written by a Filipino. From the same period are Nasaan ka irog (‘Where are you, Beloved?’) and Mutya ng Pasig (‘Muse of Pasig River’), examples of his work in developing the kundiman (love-song) into an art song form. Even before graduating he had begun to teach at the University of the Philippines, encouraged by his teachers Guy Harrison and Robert Schofield. But in 1925 he came into controversy with the conservatory director, Alexander Lippay, when he took charge of the Santa Ana cabaret orchestra. Among the awards he received in the following years were two first prizes at the Philippine Carnival Contest of 1931. In that year he went to the USA under a fellowship from the University of the Philippines, and in 1932 he took the MM at the Chicago Musical College. These were his most productive years, which saw the composition of several important works, among them the polytonal suite Panoramas and the concert overture Cinderella, with which he won the La Violette Scholarship. He returned to the Philippines in 1932 and rejoined the university staff. At his sudden death he left incomplete a symphony and an opera, Florante at Laura. His contribution to Philippine music lies not only in his abundant and profound output (he wrote over 150 works), but also in his work as a brilliant teacher of theory and composition. He published a number of treatises and scholarly essays.


(selective list)

Orch: Academic Ov., 1921; Mountain Suite, 1921; Pf Conc., b, 1923; Valse élégante, sym. band, 1931; Cinderella, ov., 1931; Sinfonietta, 1931; Sym., unfinished

Chbr and solo inst: Ang unang buko [The First Fruit], waltz, 1901; U.P. Beloved, march, 1917; Cavatina, vn, 1921; Nocturne no.1, pf, 1921; Romanza, vc, 1921; Pf Sonata, C, 1921; Str Qt no.1, F, 1921; Capriccio español, vn, 1923; Fantasie-impromptu, pf, 1923; Fifes and Castagnets, fl, pf, 1931; Naughty Nymph, fl, pf, 1931; Panoramas, fl, cel, pf, vn, va, 1931; Sonata, str qt, 1931; Sonata, vn, pf, 1931; A Visayan Caprice, pf trio, 1932

Kundiman: Nasaan ka irog [Where are you, Beloved?], 1923; Kundiman ng Luha, 1924; Magbalik ka Hirang, 1925; Pahimakas, 1925; Bituing marikit, 1926; Mutya ng Pasig [Muse of Pasig River], 1926; Himutok, 1929; Sa iyong kandungan, 1932

Other vocal works: Ave Maria, S, vn, 1921; Ang aking bayan, 1v, pf, 1923; Kung hindi man, 1v, pf trio, 1923; Health Service Hymn, 1924; Canto del viajero (J. Rizal), 1v, pf, 1925; National Heroes Day Hymn, 1928; Salve regina mater, S, Bar, vc, pf, 1932, Misa de Requiem, 1934; Florante at Laura, op, unfinished

Principal publisher: Sixta Naguiat Abelardo [songs]


R.C. Bañas: The Music and Theater of the Filipino People (Manila, 1924)

E.A. Manuel: Dictionary of Philippine Biography, i (Manila, 1955)

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Nicanor Santa Ana Abelardo's Timeline

February 7, 1893
San Miguel de Mayumo, Bulacan, Philippines
May 27, 1918
Age 25
Age 26
December 5, 1921
Age 28
April 19, 1928
Age 35
Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines
March 21, 1934
Age 41
Chicago, Philippines