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Philippine Harpists Awarded at the 6th Singapore Harpfest

Hans Cerdenia

Showcasing harpists from Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, China, Thailand, and Australia; the 6th Singapore Harpfest was held on September 5 - 8, 2019 at the National University of Singapore's University Cultural Center and at the Esplanade Hall. The festival was founded and organized by Rave Harps, Singapore's premiere harp institution. Rave Harps' artistic director, Katryna Tan, spearheaded the series of events that included several competitions, harp concerts, and a harp musical. The festival was graced with the presence of Jakez Francois, CEO of Camac Harps France, the finest harp makers in the world, and Sylvain Blassel, renowned harpist and professor of harp at the CNSMD Lyon in Lyon, France.

The harp trio from the south plays their winning piece.
Left to right: Mariella Bugtai from Cebu City, Micah Luy from Cagayan de Oro, & Angela Abellana from Cebu City

It was the first time that harpists from the Philippines were able to join such an event, given the small harp community in the Philippines and the handful of harpists in the country. The past two years have seen a significant growth in the number of harp players and enthusiasts due to the founding of HarpRoom, the first harp school in the Philippines based in Diliman, Quezon City. Established by Joann & Hans Cerdenia, this small institution aims to make the harp more accessible to the public and to increase the awareness and appreciation for the instrument. HarpRoom provides harp lessons to young and old, and is the exclusive partner and distributor of Camac Harps France in the Philippines. Despite their humble beginnings, they have nurtured the growth of the next generation of Philippine harpists in a very short span of time.

The Philippine delegation together with Camac Harps France's CEO, Jakez Francois.
Left to right: Hans Cerdenia(General Manager, HarpRoom), Bianca Cruz,Micah Luy, Mariella Bugtai, Angela Abellana, JoAnn Cerdenia(Founder & harp teacher, HarpRoom), Jakez Francois(CEO, Camac Harps France)

Three harpists from the south, Angella Abellana and Mariella Bugtai from Cebu City, together with Micah Luy from Cagayan de Oro city, won the third place award at the Prestige Harp Chamber Competition and received their awards during the festival, playing the piece Glenlivet. What is amazing about their win is that all three of them have been playing the harp for only one and a half years. Even more amazing is that they do not own harps of their own, and that they have to fly to Manila just to have lessons. A remarkable feat of patience and hard work that would be a great foundation for further triumphs in their harp journey.

Harp triowith their awards.
Left to right: Micah Luy from Cagayan de Oro, Angela Abellana from CebuCity, & Mariella Bugtai from Cebu City
Bianca Cruz performs her original composition for the harp, After the Storm.

Joining them in bringing honor to the Philippines is Bianca Cruz who won the Audience Choice Award for the harp composition competition with her original piece, After the Storm. Bianca exhibited a wonderful knowledge of the capabilities of the harp and was able to incorporate its varied nuances into her piece. Another remarkable win as Bianca is also a first-time composer. She plans to continue composing for the instrument and already has three new works in progress. Her talents will definitely add more life and vibrance to the harp community in the Philippines and the rest of the world.

Composition Competition Audience's Choice Award winner Bianca Cruz receives her award from renowned Britishcomposer, David Watson.

HarpRoom's very own JoAnn Cerdenia was privileged to be part of a panel of judges for the Jury's Choice Awards. Together with Indonesian harpist Heidi Awuy and French harpist Sylvain Blassel, they listened to and judged the performances of many remarkable and highly talented young harpists from Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and China.

The festival was capped off by the performance of the musical, Legends of the Harp. A one-of-a-kind production, it involved more than thirty harps being played and moved according to the different scenes of the story. Another young harpist from the Philippines, Cheska Babao Uy, joined numerous harpists from all over South East Asia in making the musical incredibly memorable and enjoyable to all who were there to see it. Cheska was also joined by Mariella Bugtai and Angela Abellana in the musical.

The'Sleeping Angels' perform at the musical, Legends of the Harp.
Left to right: Angela Abellana, Mariella Bugtai, Sapphie Ho of Singapore, and Cheska Babao Uy
Left to right: Teacher JoAnn Cerdenia, Cheska Babao Uy, Mariella Bugtai, Micah Luy, and Angela Abellana

The Philippine harp community will never be the same after the events of the 6th Singapore Harpfest. Truly, these young harpists have brought honor to God and to our country by delivering their music with passion, patience, humility, and perseverance. Literally, harpists in the Philippines are rarer than diamonds. It is exciting to see more of these musical gems as the years go by. And though they increase in number, their value would never diminish: Diamonds are only good for good for external viewing pleasure, but the music of the harp touches the soul.

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