Viva Europa 2019!
The sight and sounds of Czech guitarist Lukas Sommer enthralls Manila
By Nate C. Barretto
At 35, Lukas Sommer is an accomplished world-class musician based in the Czech Republic where he teaches and composes his concert masterpieces for the strings. To the musical world of Prague, he’s a “rock star.”
So, his coming to our shores to strum Filipino heartstrings by way of the “Viva Europa 2019” cultural festival this week was really a big treat from the Czech Embassy in the Philippines.
No less than Czech Ambassador to the Philippines Jana Sediva gave the opening remarks at Sommer’s performance night at the Palm Grove Rockwell Center in Makati City on May 8. She described the very humble and crowd-pleasing guitarist as “the pride of our country.”
Interestingly, Sommer’s performance night was also a tribute to the Czechs’ 74th Liberation Day celebration. “Historically, the actual celebration (of the exit of the last Nazi forces in Prague – the “mother of cities” and “heart of Europe”) is May 9, but we moved the concert a day ahead because we are celebrating Europe Day on the 9th,” Amb. Sediva said.
Sommer captivated the crowd from the get-go, playing a variation of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” then he played a collection of his compositions dedicated to places and people in his life. “I like traveling, I love meeting different people and learning (about) their culture. That’s my inspiration (in writing music),” Sommer told thephilbiznews.com.
Prague itself is an inspiration for the musical soul, what with its romantic scene of narrow streets in the glow of old street lamps – the same place that cradled Czech music legends like Antonin Dvorak and Bedrich Smetana.
Sommer may well be seen as the young guitar legend of Prague, having collaborated and written music for concerts with his contemporaries like Jana Bouskova on the harp, Vilem Veverka on oboe, and Roman Novotny on flute.
His plucking prowess bears much of his stylish excellence that is centered on rhythm and emotion. “One of my pieces is my Lullaby for Matyas,” Sommer said of his son who was under three years old when the piece was written. The rhythm in that song that goes one-two-three-four, one-two-three, was what Sommer used to put Matyas to sleep.
Someone in the crowd commented that she loved Sommer’s animated performances, pointing out how he gestures with his hands, snaps and flicks his fingers, clicks his tongue, and makes facial expressions in the middle of his performance. These are all well-incorporated in some of his guitar pieces with refined delicacy. Note the titles of his compositions, and one could imagine how he played them out – “Windsurfing,” “One-Minute Fandango.” It’s not the street corner-type showmanship for pennies and quarters, but nonetheless, charming.
Asked to explain how he added all of these ingredients in his performance with classical precision, Sommer told the philbiznews.com: “I started in many styles. I love mixing other ingredients and make them my own. In my country, I write music for films from time to time. But this (what I played tonight) are some of my compositions from my life documentary; these are pieces of my life. This my life story. This is me.”
Perhaps, there’s also a Peter Pan in him, too, that he has also published a book for children learning the guitar, titled “Chci byt kytaristou” or “I Want to Be a Guitarist.” He composed or arranged the 25 or more tunes for the guitar in the book and played five of the pieces at the Palm Grove much to the delight of the young and old.
Later, he revealed his excitement when playing before students and children, particularly his earlier engagement at the International School of Manila where there were 500 kids in the audience. He told thephilbiznews that since he arrived in Manila on Saturday (May 4), he has performed at the National Museum of Natural History in Manila, the “Euro Pinoy Concert” at The Ruins in Makati, and the Guitar Department of UP Diliman where he also conducted a master class.
Deputy Head of Mission Jana Peterkova said the Czech Embassy is thrilled to have Sommer touring the country this week. She told thephilbiznews that Sommer will join Filipino artists like Anna Lumpas, Chressa Yee, Elisa Certeza, Janet Balecer, Japs Avelino, Pritz Samillano, Rodel Perez, Wilfredo Rufon and Zheann Caganan in opening the exhibit dubbed “Merge” which will feature glass sculptures of Czech artist Jirí Pacinek in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro. “Lukas (Sommer) will perform at the Room Gallery,” she said.
One of his pieces for the night was titled “Second Letter to Father.” It was a three-minute guitar exhibition he played with his eyes closed half of the time and he said it was an abbreviated version of a 20-minute orchestral piece. Later, during the cocktails flooded superb Czech draft beer called Pilsner Urquell, Sommer told thephilbiznews how personal that piece was for him.
“It comes from a very long letter,” he began saying. “My father is a very complicated person in my life. And when I wrote the piece, it was a sketch of my life with him. But now we’ve found a way to communicate better. I phoned him last year for a dialogue. So, this is a very important piece for me,” confessed Sommer.
Also a passionate teacher of his craft, Sommer said he shares his inspirations for composing music for the strings with students. A presser from the Czech Embassy said he displays “an innovative style of classical guitar combined with the philosophy of yoga and meditation.” Asked to expound on this philosophy in his music, Sommer told thephilbiznews.com: “I love percussions and, as you see, I use them and lots of rhythm in my compositions.”
In his first visit to the Philippines, Sommer said he is impressed by the local musicians he has met and he appreciates most of all the warmth of Filipinos. “People here are very friendly. I like your nature, your humanity. I want to come back and I will for sure,” he said, adding that he has already started collaborating with musicians from the academe.
“I connected with a UP Diliman professor who will be coming to Prague next week to sign a memorandum of agreement for a student exchange program. I’m very excited for that,” he said.