Thursday, May 26, 2016

Eric Conway: Morgan State University Choir, Day 2 in Cienfuegos, Cuba

Dr. Eric Conway writes:

Day 2 in Cienfuegos, Cuba

After enjoying a good night’s sleep, we discovered that we had a world-class view around our hotel as we had scenes of beautiful bay water around us. When we arrived last night, it was too dark to see the beauty surrounding our hotel. Our hotel was situated next to the historic Palacio del Valle.  I understand that our hotel was originally owned my the Hilton family. After a very generous breakfast, with fruits that were much sweeter than we could enjoy in the States, we left for our cultural exchange with our Cienfuegos choir that shared our first concert this evening - Cantores de Cienfuegos.

All four of our concerts have the same format: an opening act sung by the local choir, the feature presentation of our Morgan choir, and then a finale where both choirs sing joint songs. During our cultural exchange we rehearsed music to be sung jointly this evening. The Morgan choir learned one suggested Cuban song entitled "Dulce Embeleso,”  about the first kiss one has while in love.  The Cuban choirs all suggested a Moses Hogan spiritual:  “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord” also as a piece in English.  Although he had not sung the Hogan spiritual in years, we quickly relearned this song for these concerts.  We also learned one piece to sing during our section of the concert, Esto Les Digo, in Spanish, based on Matthew 18: 19-20 - "where two or three are gathered in my name, I shall be also.”  We sang this song to the Cuban choir who confessed that our pronunciation was excellent.  After a very strong rehearsal led by both the Cuban choral director Honey Moreira and me, both groups spoke and intermingled discussing choral and overall education challenges all students shared, regardless of country.  

After our cultural exchange/rehearsal we toured beautiful Cienfuegos.  Our concert was in the historic Tomás Terry Theatre, which seats approximately seven hundred.  The theatre is across from the city center José Martí Park. After our tour we had a typical Cuban meal of a paella with various types of meat. We returned to our hotel to rest before our welcome meal at a very nice hotel minutes walk from our concert venue.

Our concert began much later than typical in the U.S. with a 9:00 p.m. start time.  As of this morning 575 of the 700 seats were sold.  I was quite concerned that a translation error may have occurred.  It was relayed to the Cuba presenter that the Morgan Choir had sung frequently with Aretha Franklin, however, we found out this morning, that some flyers may have said that Aretha Franklin may sing at the concert.  I was aghast at the error and immediately tried to make sure that this error was corrected, however, perhaps, some have have purchased tickets believing the Ms. Franklin may have been singing on this concert.  

Fortunately, the audience was pleased enough with our performance that any mention of Aretha Franklin may have been forgotten or at least not spoken!  Our first concert was a great entr'acte into American (Morgan) culture for the Cubans.  Conversely, we enjoyed the Cienfuegos ensemble immensely.  There was a huge level of excitement in the air throughout our concert this evening.  Once again, the Morgan choir left their mark on another section of the world.  See photos attached.


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