Nilo Alcala (b Manila, 23 February 1978) is a Filipino composer and chorister. Alcala graduated BS Development Communication from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (BSDC 1999) prior to his admission in 2001 to the University of the Philippines Diliman College of Music (BM 2007) where he graduated magna cum laude. His major composition teachers were Josefino ‘Chino’ Toledo and Ramόn P. Santos. He also had lessons with Jonas Baes and Christine Muyco.
In October 2004, Alcala won second prize at the Asian Composers League Young Composers Competition held in Jerusalem, Israel for his chamber piece Serye Humoreska 1: chuck d’ cheeky chat (2004). He was also recipient of the 2007 Gawad Tsanselor Natatanging Mag-aaral (Chancellor’s Outstanding Student Award), an award conferred by University of the Philippines to students with outstanding academic and non-academic achievements.
From January 2003 to March 2007, He was member and resident composer/arranger of the internationally-acclaimed and multi-awarded Philippine Madrigal Singers, a resident company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the country’s foremost cultural ambassadors of goodwill. Alcala joined this premiere performing group in concert tours and festivals in North America and Asia, as well as competitions and concert tours in Europe.
Alcala’s approach to composition is conceptual, not necessarily depictive or programmatic, yet inspired by actual situations or even visual stimuli. As he was a communication graduate, Alcala’s early prize winning chamber work Serye Humoreska 1: chuck d’ cheeky chat (2004) for the Asian Composers League Young Composers Competition held in Israel in 2004 was inspired by a communication model. In the model, participants in a comical tête-à-tête randomly skip from one subject of interest to another with these subjects seemingly unrelated but are essentially triggered by related stimuli through personal mental association of any participant of the conversation. The technical aspect of the piece features musical phrases as gestures and events that are seemingly unrelated to one another. These individual events are made cohesive with the use of organically related motivic units. The piece also requires occasional physical gestures and sounds produced by the performers themselves, including laughter, which add to the comic character of the piece.
Serye Humoreska 2: Dancing Delusions (2005) for chamber ensemble was premiered at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in February 2005 as part of the Asia-Europe Foundation-organized 1st I’mPulse International Music Camp held at the National Arts Center in Laguna, Philippines. Alcala was official Philippine delegate to this cultural exchange for composers and performers from different parts of Asia and Europe. As sequel to chuck d’ cheeky chat, Dancing Delusions applies the same concept to a mental process that is seemingly random and mere succession of unrelated thoughts and memories but are essentially triggered by related stimuli. The piece draws from the technique used in its prequel and has allusions to music of Bach and Stravinsky in brief segments.
Inspired by a neurological condition known as synaesthesia, Diary of a Synaesthete 1: Gold and Silver (2006) for orchestra estimates the aural transcription of how a synaesthete “hears” the colors gold and silver. The piece was premiered in the 1st Music UnderKonstruction concert of the Metro Manila Community Orchestra in February 2006 as conducted by Alcala’s teacher in composition, Josefino Toledo. In the piece, Alcala explores intricate and dense yet delicate layering as well as various textural manipulations, giving special attention to color or timbre.
Speak to me my love/You are the evening cloud (2007) for soprano, tenor, and orchestra feature’s Alcala’s predilection to chamber-like orchestration style and special attention to color. The text was taken from Rabindranath Tagore’s collection of love poems entitled The Gardener. The composition was premiered at the 2nd Music UnderKonstruction concert of the Metro Manila Community Orchestra in February 2007.
For choral works, Alcala draws from indigenous Filipino music, drawing motif and text especially from children’s chants from the southern part of the Philippines. His choral works Dayo Dayo Kupita (2005) and Kaisa-isa Niyan (2006) explores interlocking rhythms as well as dense rhythmic layering characteristic of Filipino music in the Mindanao region. Both pieces were premiered by the Philippine Madrigal Singers as part of its competition repertoire at the Florilege Vocal de Tours 2006 in Tours, France and the 2007 European Grand Prix for Choral Singing in Arezzo, Italy, respectively.
For his choral work Song of Dawn (2006), Alcala draws from his textural approach to orchestral writing to eloquently depict the beauty of dawn, giving the piece an atmospheric feel. The text was written by a Thai poet and journalist Anuraj Manibhandu. The piece was premiered at the 2006 World Choir Games in Xiamen, China.