October 12, 1492 - Christopher Columbus reportedly becomes the 1st European to set foot on the New World (in what is now the Dominican Republic), which he names Hispaniola, or "Little Spain".
1821 - Uprising against Spanish rule is followed by a brief period of independence.
1822 - Haitian occupation of Santo Domingo.
1844 - Santo Domingo declares its independence and becomes the Dominican Republic.
1861 – Second period of Spanish rule begins.
1865 - The second Dominican Republic is proclaimed.
1930-61 - General Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina takes control as dictator, until his assassination on 30 May 1961. He serves four times as president and as commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
The establishment of an independent Dominican republic led to a flourishing of musical arts, despite chronic political and economic instability. The musicians of this period, although lacking technical training, started composing in a national idiom. One of these musicians was Colonel Juan Bautista Alfonseca (1810-1875). He was called “the father of Dominican music” by his contemporaries. He was the first composer to make use of Dominican folklore. He incorporated the merengue and mangulina folkdance rhythms into the classical ballroom music.
He used the mangulina as the basis for a national anthem he wrote (1844) for the newly free republic (however it was not adopted). At the time he was also leading the first military band established after Santo Domingo’s independence from Haiti. His list of compositions includes 2 masses, a Miserere and numerous band-pieces such as merengues, mangulinas, waltzes, mazurkas and danzas. On November 11, 1846, Alfonseca was appointed music instructor and supervisor of the regimental band at the capital, with the rank of Captain and by December 5th he had been promoted to director of the band with the rank of Lieutenant colonel. By 1852, regular concerts of this band were held on the parade grounds, under Alfonseca’s direction. Some of the songs written by Juan Bautista Alfonseca include "The Jane Aquilina," "Oh Coco," "The Cakes", "The Tortoise", "El Carlito Fell Into the Pit" and others.
Jose Reyes (1835-1905) was primarily a self-taught musician, despite having taken lessons with the military band director, Juan Bautista Alfonseca. He learned to play several instruments, but excelled at the cello. He began composing at an early age, though most of what he wrote would never be premiered to the public at large. He preferred to compose secular and religious music, one of which, Requiem Mass in E flat, was arranged for organ by Master Juan Francisco Garcia.
There’s very little known about his activity as a composer. Some of his works were a round of waltzes which ran on March 18, 1884, and a two-step “hail to progress” (orchestrated by the teacher Ravelo) and composed for the inauguration of electrical lighting.
Despite having such a low profile, Jose Reyes will always be remembered as the composer of the Dominican Republic national anthem, Quisqueyanos Valientes, composed in 1883 using piano vocal and guitar.
Jose de Jesus Ravelo was born in Santo Domingo on 21 March 1876. From 1894 until 1900, Jose de Jesus was Director of the Peacemaker band, and furthermore he taught singing at the Normal School. He was also Professor of music at the College Salome Urena and Aquinas College. H e collaborated with the poet Ramon Emilio Jimenez in the musical portion of the work of school song “La Patria en la Cancion”.
In 1904, with his brothers and a group of friends who love music, Jose de Jesus Ravelo founded the Octet Casino de la Juventud, an institution that became the Orchestra of the Concert Society in 1932. Ravelo was the Director of these groups that contributed greatly to the development of Dominican Music culture, by making public concerts, at no cost to the public, of works of great masters of music.
In 1928, he was President of the First Dominican Congress of Music. In 1931, he was Artistic Director of the official radio station HIX. In 1934, he published an interesting historical work titled “ Historia de los Himnos Dominicanos”.
In his tireless musical works, Master Ravelo was Director of the Municipal Band and Director of high school of music since its foundation in 1908 until 1942, date on which the institution became the National Conservatory of Music and Declamation.
During his 34 years of work at the Academy of Music- the only one in the country witch granted diplomas recognized by the state, he produced a work whose fruits are scattered throughout the country. The high school of music figured prominently in the history of the development of Dominican music culture.
As a composer, he followed the tradition of the classics and was devoted mainly to write religious music, although his vast musical output includes works from all genres: sets of waltzes- works which he started his compositions, romances for vocal and piano, chamber music, music for band, orchestra, motets, masses and oratorios.
Jose de Jesus Ravelo most successful and most commented by the national and foreign critics was the oratorio La muerte de Cristo(1939), whose score was printed in New York in 1941 by the Schrimmer House Press. Other works from Master Ravelo were published in 1951 by the Gilprint Company.
On December, 2nd 1951, Jose de Jesus Ravelo died in the city of Santo Domingo.
Juan Francisco Garcia was born in Santiago de los Caballeros on 16 June 1892. from an early age he demonstrated to possess great musical skills, and a great ability on executing various musical instruments. He studied music theory and cornet with Jose Oviedo Garcia, and later, he self-taught to play the cello and piano. The study of the method of Fetis was his guide in the art of composition, which he dominated, and from which he created an extensive and valuable catalog of works of various genres.
All his works are permeated by the Dominican folklore, which is produced to a very high degree in works like the quarteto de cordas No 1(String quartet No 1), which Juan Francisco Garcia composed in 1922 and released in Santiago de los Caballeros in 1929; and la Sinfonia Quisqueyana, which ended in 1935 and was released on 21 March 1941 by the Symphony Orchestra of Santo Domingo in the Olympia theater.
In 1925, he traveled to Cuba for a tour as a pianist of the Tenor Susano Polanco. On that occasion, Master Garcia met the poet Nicolas Guillen, whom he took the verses to compose the music of their song espejo (mirror). The piece was premiered during that tour and, few years later, in 1930, it was recorded in New York City by Eduardo Brito, making it known to the world.
Master Garcia also composed La Fantasia Simastral in 1947, La Fantasia Concertante for piano and orchestra in 1949, and a large number of nationalistic piano pieces. Among his best known popular genres works are also the song Mal de Amor, el Hymno a la bandera, and la Criolla Margarita del Campo.
Juan Francisco Garcia became a virtuoso of the cornet, which he interpreted from registering its lowest notes to the treble do, which made everyone in the audience burst into applause.
Juan Francisco Garcia died on 18 November 1974 in Santo Domingo.
Luis Emilio Mena was born in Santo Domingo on 12 November 1895. At the age of fourteen he was already playing the fife in the band at Santa Teresita Academy that was led by Don Jose de Jesus Ravelo. A year later, he joined the Casino Octet Youth, and on 29 October 1916, he graduated as a flute professor at the Music Lyceum. In addition to flute, he also played the cello, piano and bassoon.
His first musical piece is dated 1913 and titled La chaquetera Mignon Lucesita, a mazurka which then changed its name to Lucila. In 1926, he won the first prize in the contest for the Columbus Day with a two-step called Alfonso XIII. In 1932, he was one of the founders as an instrumentalist of the Symphony Orchestra of Santo Domingo. In this institution, he was invited several times to take the podium, as in the HIX radio orchestra in 1934, and the HIN in 1936.
In 1934, his works, Capricho Impromtu and Invocacion, were known in Philadelphia thanks to the author’s own management, who regularly took care of sending his works to other latitudes. On November 20, 1935, a radio station from New York City transmitted a concert that featured the work Gugu, written for flute and piano.
From the catalog of the works composed by Luis Emilio Mena, the highlights goes to Romanza,a work for violin and orchestra; the suite como un sueno(like a dream), for flute and piano; Fantasia Espanhola( Spanish Fantasy) for clarinet and orchestra; Sinfonia Giocosa & Ecos de Libertad(Echoes of Freedom).
Luis Emilio Mena died on November 15, 1964 in Santo Domingo.
Enrique de Marchena Dujarric was born October 13, 1908 in Santo Domingo, capital of Dominican Republic. He took his first piano lessons at the age of ten with Professor Flerida Nolasco. At the Music Lyceum, directed by Master Jose de Jesus Ravelo, he studied music theory and singing practice.
While still a teenager and a student of music, Enrique worked as a cinema pianist in Columbus, where he enlivened up with the piano silent films that were cast there. At age of sixteen, he composed a waltz that he called Ella, first work out of his pen. However, with the outcome of his creative work, it began to appear other top quality parts, so that when composing the Vals in Sol for piano, Marchena himself considered that this was his starting point and cataloged this work with the Op.1.
In 1929, he earned a Bachelor of Law and Political Science degree at the University of Santo Domingo. In 1932, with the creation of the Symphony Orchestra of Santo Domingo, Enrique de Marchena held one of their stands and served as a horn, an instrument he learned to play on a self-taught manner. In 1937, he was one of the main founders of the society Pro-Arte and with his personal work in international holdings, he made possible to have figures like Jose Iturbi, Andres Segovia and other luminaries of the concert music of his time, go through the halls of the Dominican Republic.
Enrique de Marchena left a catalog of over ninety works, including his very prominent Debussyenne, Claro de Luna, and Reverie for piano; the symphonic poem Arco iris, a work that premiered at the Centennial Music Competition of the Republic in 1944; the Divertimento para cordas y harpas and El Concertino for flute and orchestra.
In his creations for voice of enormous relevance are his twenty-seven Canciones de Amor, twelve of which were laid by him for consideration to the Premio Nacional de Musica Jose Reyes in 1979, earning the top prize. He obtained this prize again in 1982 with his suite concertante Hebraicum.
All his work, particularly since 1929, is structured around the aesthetic of music impressionism. Veiled or explicit, his identification with the works of Claude Debussy is unmistakable.
Marchena served also as a Diplomat representing Dominican Republic in different missions; wrote critical texts, such as Del areito de Anacaona al poema folklorico(1942). He taught and practiced Law.
Enrique de Marchena died on February 25th, 1988 in Santo Domingo. He was an outstanding musician, writer and diplomat.
Jose Dolores Ceron was born on 29 June 1897. He was a man of great instruction. In addition to musical studies, he also graduated as a Doctor. Although his real name was Pedro Pablo, by the decision of his grandparents, he was named Jose Dolores, in honor of his father, who died when he was very young.
Jose Dolores, as a child, studied under Professor Arturo Senior, who was an outstanding teacher, and he gained the knowledge of an instrument that would help him a lot as a musician and composer. He was also taught composition and harmony by the eminent Jose de Jesus Ravelo and Esteban Pena Morell. Candido Castellanos, a Spanish musician living in Santo Domingo for many years, taught Jose Dolores Ceron to play cello and bass.
At 22 years old, Jose Dolores founded his first orchestra, which he was the Director, composer and cellist. This group became well known due to their frequent appearances at the Club de Artesanos. The appointment to the post of deputy director of the band from the National Army in 1925 and Director in 1930 started his race in terms of musical achievements. He raised the quality of the musical institution, who he led for several years, to levels previously unknown to the country.
He added to the band bells and bass which gave the possibility of putting in the stands of the Band from the National Army, works never heard before in an orchestra of its kind, in the country. Thus, it began to be interpreted in military land some of the most universal representative of the symphonic repertoire, and this made the band a real military concert band.
As a composer, Master Ceron has given us valuable musical works, including symphonic poems such as A la Caida de la Tarde (In the late afternoon), Iguanona, Enriquillo and Las Virgens de Galindo (Galindo’s Virgins). To describe his work, the Dominican singer and musicologist Inchaustegui Aristides said:” José Dolores Ceron has been one of the finest melodists the country had.”
Jose Dolores Ceron, like most of Dominicans composers who have dedicated themselves to create the so-called classical music, composed a number of works in the most popular language. Among those works, the romance Prodigio is still remembered in two of its most outstanding versions: one done by the baritone Guarionex Aquino, and the other by the tenor Rafael Sanchez Cestero. In the country discography, it is included many of his songs; among them, one of the best known: Como tu Besabas (As you kiss), which was recorded by Edward Brown and his wife Rosa Elena Bodilla.
Jose Ceron died in Santo Domingo on 22 March 1969.
Luis Alberti was born on April 19, 1906 in La Vega, Dominican Republic. He descended from a family where the musician office was not strange. He was the great-grandson of Juan Bautista Alfonseca. At the age of seven, he played the cymbals in the municipal band of his hometown before moving with his family to Santa Cruz de Mao, where he received formal violin training and started a professional career. After that, the musician went to Santiago de los Caballeros and attended several courses of violin perfection. He later accompanied silent films in theaters and played with the orchestra Symphonic de Santo Domingo in 1932, year of its foundation.
In 1936, Alberti led a highly original merengue jazz band that often emphasized advanced harmonies and lyrics over the merengue tipico, known like perico ripiao, and played by the usual performing group of folk merengue (accordion, tambora and guira). Alberti gave the merengue a greater urban appearance, and he took it to the high society ballrooms. He composed songs such as Luna sobre el Jaragua, Tu no Podras olvidar, Estampas criollas and specially Compadre Pedro Juan, which became an international hit recorded by dozens of performers, including Billo’s Caracas Boys, Xavier Cugat, El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, Wilfrido Vargas, Angel Viloria y Su Conjunto Tipico Cibaeno, and Alberto Naranjo & El Trabuco Venezolano.
In addition, Alberti wrote a Metodo de tambora y guira, a collection of infantile songs, and a work on musica, musicos y orquestas bailables dominicanas that stood out during the first half of the XX century.
Luis Alberti died in Santiago de los Caballeros at the age of 69, on January 26, 1976.
Rafael Ignacio was born in San Francisco de Macoris, Dominican Republic. At the age of ten, he was already part of a children’s band that his hometown founded. His teachers were father Requena, who taught him his first lessons in music theory and cornet, and Luis Betances, who instilled in him the knowledge of the bass. With this knowledge, he joined the members of the Philharmonic Orchestra Beethoven, also in his hometown.
After moving to the capital, he joined the municipal band, which was then directed by the teacher Jose de Jesus Ravelo. In that institution, he played the tuba, an instrument he had learned on a self-taught. Years later, he joined the band of the National Army, first as an assistant-director, and then as the head of that important institution.
With the foundation of the symphony Orchestra of Santo Domingo Rafael Ignacio took a music stand on it. In 1941, when the National Symphony Orchestra was created, he was summoned to be a part of that group of pioneers.
His work as a musician and educator spread to other cities. In Azua, he directed a music Academy, the municipal band, and formed his dance orchestra. In Santiago de los Caballeros, he was director of the military band, with which he came to play a repertoire of high technical requirements, in works such as Sinfonia Militar by Haydn, and Los Preludios by Liszt, among others.
His taste in works closest to the popular music art was of great importance, since with their knowledge, he could compose and arrange pieces with folk dancing with more complex instruments, more advanced harmonies, giving new life to titles like Todas las Mujeres tienen mala mana and merengues as Vironay, with new air and other audio means.
La Suite Folklorica was his biggest work. Written first for band and then re-orchestrated for symphony orchestra, it is based on themes emerging from the roots of Dominican song.
Rafael Ignacio also wrote Fantasia Sinfonica; work in which he elaborate popular subjects of Dominican music. He composed a lot of dance music, among which includes waltzes, polkas and merengues.
Rafael Ignacio died in 1984 in Santo Domingo.
Enrique Salvador Mejia Arredondo was born December 24, 1901, in Santo Domingo, Capital of the Dominican Republic. He was grandson of the glorious and lavish Dominican composer Jose Maria Alfonseca. Mejia Arredondo began his academics musical studies at the age of eight. Even though he choose piano as his preferred instrument, he also played violin. He studied harmony and counterpoint with the great master, Jose de Jesus Ravelo. He came to own his own orchestra at the age of 16 to write music to silent films, and accompanied musically important zarzuela and opera companies visiting the country. He was a founding member of the Symphony Orchestra of Santo Domingo. He was also a chairman and founder of the Society of Authors and Composers Dominicans, an organization founded in order to promote new musical values, investigate and raise awareness of Dominican music, and protect the Dominican composers. In 1941, with the creation of the “National Symphony Orchestra”, Mejia Arredondo was appointed as Deputy Director, a position he held with brilliance and talent until months before his death.
During a concert by the National Symphonic Orchestra in the city of La Vega, he suffers the first collapse of the heart, which will later be the cause of his death. Enrique Mejia Arredondo died on February 5th, 1951.
His Discography includes:
· Overture for Orchestra July 12
· Spring (waltz)
· Mountain Flower(premiered in NYC by CBS, touched by NYC symphony orchestra)
· Two invocations: Landscape and Ritual in the Temple of Yocari (performed and broadcasted by the Americans stations CBS and NBC)
· Rebirth (Symphonic poem)
· Story Night
· Little Suite for Orchestra (consists in three parts: Prelude, Andante and Finale)
· Quisqueyana Dance
· Reverie for Violin and Orchestra
· Andante Cantabile
· Fugue y capriccio para piano
· Symphony No1 in A major
· Symphony No2 in C major