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Ang bayan kong Pilipinas
Lupain ng ginto't bulaklak
Pag-ibig ang sa kanyang palad
Nag-alay ng ganda't dilag. -from the popular kundiman song Bayan Ko

My country the Philippines
Land of gold and flowers
With love in her palms
She offers beauty and virtue. - English translation

As part of Old Dominion University's ongoing 75th Anniversary festivities, the Filipino American Center will host an evening of classical Philippine music performed by renowned violinist and Kundiman artist Stephen Y.S. Shey at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5 in the Chandler Recital Hall.

A master class on the kundiman will also be offered by Shey from 2:30 to 3:45 p.m. Nov. 5. Reservations for the class will be accepted by phone and the violin pieces assigned will be mailed to those who are attending the class.

The kundiman is a lyrical song made popular in the Philippines in the early 19th century, a time when it was forbidden to speak the country's praises, so these "love songs" evolved as poignant protests of the day - songs of love for a country. The origin in pre-colonial, indigenous styles. Composed in the Western idiom, the song is characterized by a minor key at the beginning and shifts to a major key in the second half.

Almost all traditional Filipino love songs in this genre are heavy with poetic emotion. One such kundiman that tells about unrequited love is the Visayan song Matud Nila. In the 1920s Kundiman became a much more mainstream musical style, with many popular performers including Diomedes Naturan and Ruben Tagalog.

Shey has spent seven years perfecting the music beloved by Filipinos. He made his international debut in Manila in 2004. This past June, he was the featured artist at a concert in Stockholm at the invitation of Philippine Ambassador of the Nordic States, Madame Victoria C. Bataclan. The concert at Stockholm's famed Music Museum was sponsored by The Science & Technology Advisory Council-Sweden.

Shey was also one of the featured artists at the Philippine Embassy's Heritage Series and at the Library of Congress for Asian American Pacific Islander Month. "But most memorable," Shey claims, "was during the inauguration of the World War II Memorial in the nation's capital in 2004, when I serenaded the Philippine veterans of World War II and their families."

Shey is with the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts under the tutelage of Professor Dana Mazurkevich. The Philippine kundiman evolved from European strains, reminiscent of the Spanish and Portuguese fado, but tinged with the chivalric reticence of Philippine courtship. It extols devotion and service to the beloved in the face of rejection and loss. Its lyrics depict a romantic love, usually portraying the forlorn pleadings of a lover willing to sacrifice everything on behalf of his beloved. In many others, it is a plaintive call of the rejected lover or the brokenhearted. In others, it is a story of unrequited love.

The concert and master class are free and open to the public. For information, call (757) 683-5099 or email filamcenter@odu.edu.

This article was posted on: October 20, 2005

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