Composer Nilo Alcala II wins The American Prize
posted 12-Jul-2019  ·  
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PRIZE WINNER. Filipino composer Nilo B. Alcala II dedicates his triumph last week as the 2018-2019 The American Prize winner in Composition to his late father, a Viracnon.

A Filipino composer who traces his roots to Virac, Nilo Alcala II, has won the 2018-2019 The American Prize in Composition for his “Mangá Pakalagián/Ceremonies” work that premiered in 2015 at the Los Angeles Master Chorale concert at Disney Concert Hall in the United States.

“I am very honored,” Alcala said in reaction to the announcement of the Prize results for the Professional Choral Division, Major Works Category, last week. “Truly grateful for this! Thank you, God!”

He thanked the Chorale, Artistic Director Grant Gershon and then LAMC President & CEO Terry Knowles for commissioning the piece that year. The work will be heard on May 17, 2020 as the LA Master Chorale presents a reprise performance.

Commissioned and premiered by the Los Angeles Master Chorale for its "Made in LA" concert in 2015, MANGÁ PAKALAGIÁN (Ceremonies) is a multi movement suite for choir and kulintang ensemble that takes inspiration from the Maguindanao people of Southern Philippines and how they use traditional music to punctuate or celebrate events in the community, thus elevating these events into a ceremony.

The kulintang is the foremost traditional percussion ensemble in Maguindanao and is a set of graduated metallic gongs which plays the melody. Kulintang also refers to the traditional repertoire as well as the whole percussion ensemble itself. The Maguindanaons play a specific traditional kulintang piece for every occasion, ritual, or ceremony. Featured in Manga Pakalagian are three of these ceremonies, with actual traditional kulintang music as preludes.

The world premiere on November 15, 2015 at the Disney Concert Hall featured the LA Master Chorale (Grant Gershon, Artistic Director) together with the late master kulintang artist Danongan Danny Kalanduyan with his group SUBLA on the kulintang ensemble.

It may be recalled that the grandson of the Alcala clan based in Virac was as semifinalist of The American Prize, a prestigious competition for the arts in the Unites States, just weeks after his father succumbed to a lingering illness last Jan. 2, 2019.

The composer, arranger and vocalist is the second of three US-based sons of the late Nilo Mendez Alcala, a certified public accountant who was raised in Virac, and retired teacher Regina Belarmino Alcala of San Pablo City. The family’s children were raised in Lucena City.

He is also one of the many grandsons of the late musician and retired Virac South District Supervisor Fredeswindo Alcala Sr. and teacher Soledad Mendez-Alcala, who died just this year, both of San Roque, Virac.

“This is for you Papa,” the award-winning composer based in North Hollywood, California, said in his facebook post when the semifinalists were announced.

The American Prize is a series of new, non-profit national competitions in the performing arts providing cash awards, professional adjudication and regional, national and international recognition for the best recorded performances by ensembles and individuals each year in the United States at the professional, college/university, church, community and secondary school levels.

Administered by Hat City Music Theater, Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Danbury, Connecticut, The American Prize was founded in 2009 and is awarded annually. The competitions of The American Prize are open to all U.S. citizens, whether living in this country or abroad, and to others currently living, working and/or studying in the United States of America, its protectorates and territories

Nonprofit and unique in scope and structure, it is designed to evaluate, recognize and reward the best performers, ensembles and composers in the United States based on submitted recordings. There is no live competition.

The American Prize has attracted hundreds of qualified contestants from all fifty states since its founding, has awarded more than $60,000 in prizes in all categories since 2010, and is presented annually in many areas of the performing arts.

On the other hand, Nilo Alcala’s works have been performed in Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas. He is the first Philippine-born composer to receive the COPLAND HOUSE Residency Award, as well to be commissioned and premiered by the Grammy-nominated Los Angeles Master Chorale.

​Alcala’s awards include the POLYPHONOS Young Composer Award from The Esoterics (Seattle, WA), IGNITE Commissioning Competition of  C4: The Choral Composer/Conductor Collective (New York, NY),  Asian Composers League Young Composer Award (Israel), the very first Ani ng Dangal (Harvest of Honor) from the Philippine President, and Musical America Worldwide's Artist of the Month . Music His commissions include the National Music Competition for Young Artists; Andrea O. Veneracion International Choral Festival; Korean Ministry of Culture; Asia-Europe Foundation; Metro Manila Concert Orchestra, Manila Symphony Orchestra, San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra, and other ensembles.

Alcala was composer-in-residence of the Philippine Madrigal Singers which premiered his works in international competitions such as the 2004 Florilege Vocal de Tours (France); the 2007 and 2017 European Grand Prix for Choral Singing (Italy); and events including the American Choral Directors Association National Conference (Dallas, TX); the 9th World Symposium on Choral Music (Argentina); and America Cantat 7 (Colombia). In 2017, This group also released a CD and digital album of Alcala’s choral works entitled ONOMATOPOEIA: The Choral Works of Nilo Alcala.

An Asian Cultural Council grantee, Alcala is also a Billy Joel Fellow at Syracuse University where he earned an MMus in Composition and received the Irene L. Crooker Music Award. He holds a BM in Composition at the University of the Philippines, graduating Magna cum laude and recipient of Gawad Chancelor Natatanging Mag-aaral (Chancellor’s Outstanding Student Award).

Committed to educating the next generation, Alcala has been composer-mentor since 2016 for Pasadena Master Chorale’s “Listening to the Future” program for promising high school composers.

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