Juan Morel Campos (May 16, 1857 – May 12, 1896), sometimes erroneously spelled Juan Morell Campos, was a Puerto Rican composer, considered by many to be responsible for taking the genre of danza to its highest level. He composed over 550 musical works before he died unexpectedly at age 38.
Morel Campos (birth name: Juan Nepomuceno Morel Campos) was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, to Manuel Morel Araujo, from the Dominican Republic, and Juana de Dios Campos Collazo, from Venezuela. He began to study music at the young age of eight in his hometown under the guidance of Antonio Egipciaco. Morel Campos was a student of Puerto Rican composer and pianist Gonzalo de J. Núñez (1850 - 1915), whose students also included the internationally-known musicians and composers Manuel Gregorio Tavárez and Arístides Chavier Arévalo. Morel Campos learned to play practically every brass instrument and eventually became one of the founders and directors of the "Ponce Firemen's Band" (La Banda de Bomberos del Parque de Bombas de Ponce). The legendary Band was later renamed the Ponce Municipal Band.
Later, Morel Campos became a student of the composer Manuel Gregorio Tavárez, "The Father of the Danza". Campos' first danza composition was called "Sopapos". The influence of Tavárez, plus the particular style developed by Morel Campos can be listened to in his music today.
Morel Campos had his own dance orchestra, "La Lira Ponceña." Most of his danzas were written for dancing. He modified his compositions so that they may also be played on piano. Morel Campos is best known for his danza compositions, but he also composed waltzes, operas, symphonies, marches and overtures.
Women and the theme of love inspired most of his musical compositions. His great love was a lady named Mercedes Arias, but her family did not approve of their relationship. It was from that frustrated "love" that many of Morel Campos' beautiful danzas were born, "Maldito Amor" (Damned Love) is an example. Among his best-known compositions are "Felices Dias' (Happy Days), "No Me Toques" (Do Not Touch Me), "Idilio," and "Maldito Amor" (Damned Love).
Selection of Danzas by Morel Campos
The following is a list of some of Morel Campos' Danza's:
- Conversación (Conversation)
- Felices Días (Happy Days)
- Idilio (Idyll)
- Maldito Amor (Damned Love)
- No me toques (Do Not Touch Me)
- Sin ti jamás (Never without you)
- Sí, te toco (Yes, I will touch you)
- Sueño de Amor (Dream of love)
- Ten Piedad (Have pity)
- Tormento (Torment)
- Un conflicto (A conflict)
- Vano empeño (Trying in vain)
Domingo Cruz "Cocolía" became director of the Firefighters' Band upon the untimely death of Morel Campos.
Juan Morel Campos suffered a stroke on April 26, 1896 during a concert in Ponce. He died of the stroke soon thereafter on May 16, in Ponce. In December 1926, his remains were buried at the foot of his statue in Plaza Las Delicias. His wife was Secundina Beltrán Collazo. Their children were Olimpia, Eugenia, Belén, Plácido and Manuel.
- The Free School of Music Juan Morel Campos in San Juan was named for him, as was Juan Morel Campos Secondary School in Brooklyn, New York and a Jr. High School in Ponce.
- The Juan Morel Campos statue was erected in the Plaza Las Delicias in Ponce.
- A housing development in Ponce is named for him.
- In 1984, the Government of Puerto Rico declared May 16 to be celebrated annually as "Juan Morel Campos Day" and November 23 be known as "The Day of the Composer".
- In 2001, Morel Campos was posthumously inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame.
- His nephew Pedro Albizu Campos became a noted leader of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party.
- Morel Campos is commemorated at the Ponce Park of the Illustrious Ponce Citizens.