Austrian-Philippine Cooperations

Apprenticeship in Organbuilding in Austria (1988-92)

Cealwyn S. Tagle (24 yrs old) and Edgar M. Montiano (26 yrs old), studied as apprentices with master-organbuilder Helmut Allgäuer in Grünbach, 40km south of Vienna, Austria. They learned every aspect of the craft (design, woodwork, pipe making, tuning, voicing, etc.) for a period of about five years, under the supervision of the master himself.

They also trained under the company of Johannes Klais Orgelbau inBonn, Germany from May-December 1991. They underwent special training in making metal pipes, making windchests, and assembly of organs.

They also participated in several workshops handled by the International Society of Organbuilders (ISO) and the European Center for Conservation, Restoration, and Renovation (ECCRR).

During their 5-year apprenticeship (1988-92), they were exposed to a variety of restoration work, and construction of new pipe organs. They assisted Mr. Allgäuer in tuning, maintaining, and repairing the principal organs in Vienna:

  • Vienna Concert House
  • Musikverein Wien
  • Musikhochschule Wien
  • Church of St. Stephan
  • Church of St. Augistin
  • St. Michael
  • St. Ursula
  • Concert organ of ORF (Austrian Radio and Television)
They also worked with Johannes Klais Orgelbau in maintaining the following organs around Bonn and Cologne:

  • Cologne Cathedral
  • Cologne Philharmonie
  • Kreuzberg Kirch, Bonn
  • Bonn Munster
  • Collegium Albertinum
  • Wesseling
  • Cathedral of Fulda
  • St. Oswald, Regensburg
  • St. Paulin, Trier

In the Philippines, they have maintained the pipe organs of the following:

  • St. Joseph's Church
  • Las Pinas (l9th century Bamboo Organ, national treasure)
  • San Agustin Church, Manila
  • Baguio Cathedral, Baguio City
  • United Evangelical Church, Manila
  • University of Santo Tomas, Manila
  • San Beda University, Manila
  • St. Scholastica, Manila
  • La Concordia College, Manila
  • San Carlos Seminary, Makati
They have built pipe organs in the following locations in the Philippines:

  • Our Lady of Peace, EDSA Shrine (with the Johannes Klais Co.)
  • Diego Cera Auditorium (first Filipino-made pipe organ)
  • Our Lady of Lourdes, Novaliches
  • Cebu Cathedral (design stage)

The two Filipino organbuilders have been featured in various television programs in the Philippines like the PROBE TEAM, and INSIDE STORY. They were also given profiles in local magazines and leading newspapers like the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Manila Bulletin. The following is an article from 1994:

BUSINESS WORLD, March 2, 1994
Title: World-class craftmanship is alive and well in the Philippines
Author: Exequiel S. Molina

Las Pinas, the little town south of Manila, has long been famous for its bamboo organ, the one and only organ of its kind in the world.

Following its restoration after years of neglect, the unique organ has become the centerpiece of the annual Bamboo Organ Festival, now on its l9th year, that has been drawing the world's leading organists, singers, and instrumentalists to participate in a musical event that has no counterpart in the Far East.
Last Monday (February 21, 1994), Las Pinas made history again when two young organbuilders, Cealwyn Tagle and Edgar Montiano, presented the first Filipino-made pipe organ. It was blessed and inaugurated in the Diego Cera Auditorium adjoining the parish church.
It is a worthy successor to the bamboo organ and a most fitting testament to world-class Filipino craftmanship. It comes as a reassurance to us at a time when it is not unusual to bewail the lackadaisical attitude of our countrymen towards quality control--a fault that has prevented our country from succeeding as an exporter of quality products.
But there in Las Pinas, listening to the majestic sounds of the firstFilipino-made organ that memorable night, we had reason to rejoice andrenew our hope in the youth.
It was, as Fr. Leo Renier (parish priest of Las Pinas), said in telling the story of how the brand-new pipe organ came about, a continuing story, from the bamboo organ of the l9th century to the this new gleaming instrumentthat is comparable to the great organs in Europe and America.
The continuing story, according to Fr. Renier, involved not only restoring the bamboo organ but presenting an annual musical event - the Las Pinas Bamboo Organ Festival - which reminded us of the need to look for Filipinos to play the instrument and for Filipinos to maintain the instrument.
On the second year of the Festival, organist Wolfgang Oehms, one of theparticipating artists, organized a workshop for the local organists. This workshop was repeated in 1979.
He suggested that if Las Pinas needed a good organist, there would be aneed in the future for a second pipe organ to play the music that was not su..ed to the Bamboo Organ.
In 1981 when Dr. Johann Trummer, head of the Institute of Church Music in Graz came for the Festival, he noticed the potential of the parish organist, Armando Salarza and recommended him for organ and music studies in Austria. He is today a top-rate organist.
When Armando returned to Manila after finishing his studies in Austria, the problem of having a pipe organ that could be used to perform music, particularly by Bach, which is the cornerstone of the world literature fororgan, came up again.
Dr. Trummer, as usual, had the solution. He suggested that Helmut Allgauer, an organbuilder based in Grunbach, Austria, be commissioned to make asuitable instrument by training two young Filipinos and supervising them while theybuilt the organ themselves, from scratch.
Two young men, former members of the Las Pinas Boys Choir who had the commitment and perseverance were chosen for the exciting job. They were Cealwyn Tagle and Edgar Montiano.
The unusual future possibilities of Las Pinas and the community's commitmentto church music was noticed by the Archbishop of Cologne, who included itamong their many projects aimed at promoting the future of the Church and thefaithful.
In 1986, it became necessary to renovate an old building in the church compound to provide for a new library, ten classrooms, and an auditorium.Today, it is the only venue for small cultural presentations in Las Pinas, with a population of 400,000 and nearby Paranaque, with 600,000 inhabitants.

The auditorium, named after Fr. Diego Cera, the Spanish missionary to Las Pinas who built the bamboo organ in the last century, can seat 250 and is the permanent home of the first Filipino made pipe organ.
Of course, the auditorium will be the venue for organ concerts to be presented periodically as part of Las Pinas cultural fare.
"I believe that Fr. Cera should be very pleased over this new organ - afittingsuccessor to the unique bamboo organ he built and an eloquent proof that Filipinos, given the proper motivation and education, can rise above themselves and show the rest of the world that we have our share of craftsmen andartisans," Fr. Renier said.
Acknowledging the support of many people who made the pipe organ and the new auditorium a reality, Fr. Renier expressed his thanks to:

  • DR. HUBERT SOLZBACHER, who represented the Archbishop of Cologne, which financed this project on condition that the pipe organ should be built by Filipinos.
  • DR. JOHANN TRUMMER, head of the Institute of Church Music in Graz,Austria, who was responsible for the scholarship programs for Filipino organists and organ builders.
  • ORGELBAU HELMUT ALLGÄUER, master organ builder in Austria and teacher of Cealwyn Tagle and Edgar Montiano, the two young men who built the magnificent instrument, valued at around six million pesos.
  • The teachers and personnel of St. Joseph Academy for their cooperation in the eight-year project to build the Diego Cera Auditorium.
"The sound of this beautiful organ can lift up men's minds to God and higherthings. As the different pipes of the organ form a unity, so do many people and nations come together, to accept and love one another and to praise God forever," Fr. Renier said.

Text provided by Alvin Tagle, photos provided by Helmut Allgäuer.

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created: May 2, 1997
updated: Decmber 10, 1999
APSIS Editor Johann Stockinger