Monument to Juan Morel Campos

Monument to Juan Morel Campos

Outstanding and prolific Puerto Rican composer and musician of the 19th century. He raised the musical genre called danza to its highest level of development. He was a follower and successor of Manuel Gregorio Tavárez. He organized his own orchestra, La Lira Ponceña, and composed danzas that were mainly for dancing, which made them popular.

Juan Morel Campos was born in Ponce on May 16, 1857, the son of Manuel Morel Araujo, a Dominican, and Juana de Dios Campos, a Venezuelan. He began his musical studies when he was just eight years old with maestro Francisco Borja Gómez. Later, he studied music theory and the euphonium with Vicente Juan and musical harmony, the flute and the piano, among other instruments, with Antonio Egipciaco.

At fourteen years of age, he began to study harmony and composition, as well as piano, under the tutelage of the maestro Manuel Gregorio Tavárez, considered the father of Puerto Rican danza. At about that time, he became part of some of the popular music groups that played at local dances.

Morel Campos`s first composition, a danza titled El sopapo, was inspired by an incident that occurred at one of these parties when a young man punched another in an argument over a woman. These first efforts at composition were not as polished as those he would write later, but the public liked them and they earned him recognition.

In 1877, he became the euphonium soloist in the band of the Cazadores Battalion of the Madrid Regiment based in San Juan, where he refined his knowledge of instrumentation and direction under the tutelage of José Valero. Later, he founded La Progresista Orchestra, with which he presented concerts, and La Lira Ponceña Orchestra.

In the Ponce Fair and Exposition of 1882 Morel Campos was awarded first prize and a certificate of honor for his symphony for orchestra, La lira, and second prize in the competition for direction of concert orchestras. The following year, he organized and directed the Ponce Firefighters Band.

In 1893, he earned a certificate of honor at the commemoration of the Fourth Centennial of the Discovery of the Americas for his symphony titled Puerto Rico. Two years later, the Casino de Mayagüez also presented him a certificate of honor for the triumphant march Juegos florales, which he wrote in honor of that social club.

Morel Campos was musical director of the Spanish operetta company Bernard y Abella, with which he traveled to Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela. He was the author of operettas Un día de elecciones, Un viaje por América and Amor es triunfo, which were presented to a positive reception at La Perla Theater.

He was the most prolific composer of his era with more than two hundred compositions in various musical genres. His danzas were mostly inspired by love and women, as evidenced by Felices días, Vano empeño, Maldito amor, Idilio, De tu lado al paraíso, Mis penas, Laura y Georgina, Ten piedad, Bendita seas, Sin ti Jamás, Alma sublime, Dí que me amas, Tuya es mi vida, Te adoro, Una súplica and Vano empeño, among many others.

Morel Campos paid tribute to his home town and his country in compositions such as the round of waltzes Saludo a Ponce and the triumphal march Puerto Rico. In the religious realm, he was the organist at Nuestra Señora de la Guadalupe Cathedral and composed more than 60 religious pieces, among which were choruses, Hail Marys, litanies, prayers and funeral allegories.

On April 26, 1896, an attack of angina caused the composer to collapse while he was directing the orchestra during a presentation of the operetta El reloj de Lucerna by Marcos Zapata and Miguel Márquez at La Perla Theater in Ponce. Juan Morel Campos died on May 12, 1896, at just 39 years of age.

Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 03, 2014.

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