Juan Morel Campos
Born in Ponce on May 16, 1857, he is without any doubt, the maximum exponent of the Puerto Rican danza. He was the most prolific danza composer and the one who took that form to its highest level. "Felices Días", "Vano Empeño", "No me toques", "Mis penas", "Tormento", "Alma Sublime" and many others are only a small sample of his vast repertoire, which is calculated in more than 550 compositions of which more than 300 are danzas.
He began his musical studies at the tender age of eight under Prof. Antonio Egipciaco. During his youth he learned how to play almost all brass instruments and for some time he conducted the Municipal Band of Ponce and was the church's organist.
He later became the most advanced student of Manuel G. Tavarez, considered The Father of the Danza, whose influence can be perceived in some of his first compositions. But Morel was a genius on his own and he continued composing and creating new danzas in which he incorporated all the rythms and styles of his time, plus many of his own, developing the form to what it is today.
Many of Morel's danzas were not originally written for the piano. In its origins danzas were for dancing, as its name implies. Morel had his own dance orchestra, "La Lira Ponceña" for which he wrote most of his compositions. Later he transcribed them for the piano, so they could be played by everyone at home and not be forgotten. Remember that on that time (end of the 19th century) there were no record, compact disk or cassette players and the only means of listening to music was by going to the concerts or dances, or playing it by yourself in your home's piano, if available.
Morel's inspiration came from many sources, but most of his danzas are inspired on women and love. It is said that he was in love with a lady, Mercedes Arias, but her family didn't approve of her relationship with the musician. That frustration gave birth to many of his most beautiful danzas of which "Alma Sublime" is said to be one.
On April 26, 1896, during a concert in Ponce, he suffered a stroke which led to his death on May 12, just four days before his 39th. birthday.
Monument to Don Juan Morel Campos
Plaza Las Delicias - Ponce
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