Artists celebrate Nicanor Abelardo’s legacy in new album

The artists at a recording session (from left)  Benjamin Dia, Katrina Saporsantos, Joseph Legaspi and recording engineer Jeremy Gerard.

The artists at a recording session (from left) Benjamin Dia, Katrina Saporsantos, Joseph Legaspi and recording engineer Jeremy Gerard.

In celebration of Filipino composer Nicanor Abelardo’s 120th birth year, a group of classically trained musical artists are set to release an album immortalizing fresh renditions from some of his popular and rarely performed works.

“The Songs of Nicanor Abelardo” will feature his compositions as interpreted by baritone Joseph Legaspi, tenor William Lim, soprano Katrina Saporsantos and pianist Benjamin Dia.

A pioneer in modern Filipino composition, Abelardo was instrumental in elevating some indigenous Philippine musical idioms into sophisticated compositional structures. His prolific output of more than 140 works included compositions that helped define musical forms such as the ‘kundiman’ and ‘kumintang.’

The album includes some of his better known compositions, such as “Mutya ng Pasig” (Pearl of Pasig), “Nasaan ka Irog?” (Where are you, Love?), and “Bituing Marikit” (Beautiful Star). Also included are rare pieces evoking the composer’s profound grasp of the hallmarks of Filipino romanticism.

The artists are young classical musicians who have established themselves in the theater arts.

Soprano Katrina Saporsantos has earned early recognition and acclaim for her performances of roles on both the operatic and concert stages. She has performed Wagner’s “Wesendonck Lieder” with the Manhattan Philharmonia; Mahler’s “Symphony No 2” (‘Resurrection’) with the Manhattan School of Music Symphony Orchestra and Chorus; Orff’s “Carmina Burana” with the San Miguel Master Philharmonic Orchestra and the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra. She received both her Professional Studies Certificate and Master of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music, and her Bachelor of Music degree and Diploma in Creative and Performing Musical Arts from the University of the Philippines College of Music.

Pianist Benjamin Dia Jr. graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music, major in piano, at the University of the Philippines College of Music. As soloist and collaborative artist, he has performed in the United States and Europe, performing in concert halls and festivals such as the Oslo Concert Hall, and the United Nation’s Day concerts at the Palau de la Generalitat in Barcelona. He is currently taking his master’s degree in Sacred Music at the Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, New Jersey.

William Lim

William Lim

Tenor William Lim began his classical singing career as a chorister for the Ateneo de Manila College Glee Club, with whom he toured Europe and the U.S. while pursuing his Psychology degree. He was a founding member of the Ateneo Chamber Singers and was featured as the soloist for “Awit sa Panginoon” (Song to the Lord), the title single for the group’s debut album. He moved to the U.S. to pursue his bachelor and master of music degrees at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music under the instruction of Dr. Robert Harrison. He has performed in numerous productions for companies, including the Center City Opera Theater in Philadelphia, Opera New Jersey, Opera in the Ozarks in Arkansas, and the Indiana University Opera Theater. He is based in Philadelphia.

Baritone Joseph Legaspi has given solo recitals in venues across the U.S. and the Philippines. His role credits include Maximilian in “Candide,” Friedrich Bhaer in “Little Women,” Gregorio in “Roméo et Julliette,” and Yamadori in “Madama Butterfly.” He won several prizes in vocal competitions, including the 2002 Y’s Men International Classical Singer of the Year and a semifinalist in the Joy in Singing Competition held at Lincoln Center. Legaspi has been a featured soloist for the Indiana University Motet Choir, the Indiana University Chorale, and the Indiana University Contemporary Vocal Ensemble. In October, he released his debut album, “Songs from Home: Art Songs and Folk Songs from the Philippines” under Mariqueño Music.

The artists said the album is their tribute Abelardo’s “significant contribution” to Philippine music.

“The efforts of pioneers such as Maestro Abelardo, are instrumental to empowering upcoming musicians to carry on the heritage of Filipino artistry,” said Lim.

For further information about the album, visit

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