martes, 21 de diciembre de 2010

Celebration of Alicia Alonso's 90th Birthday

A homage concert to mark the 90 birthday on Cuban prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso was given in Havana last night by several renown artists like Maestro Frank Fernandez, the soprano Johanna Simon and pianist Hernán López-Nussa.

The audience enjoyed a beautiful gala in the García Lorca Hall of the Havana’s Grand Theater, with the presence along with the honoree of Cuban Culture Minister Abel Prieto.

Other artists that paid homage to the dancer were Polito Ibáñez and Ivette Cepeda and the Reflection Group, while Viengsay Valdés and Yadil Súarez

premiered the work “For Alicia”, choreographed by Tania Vergara and music by pianist Frank Fernández.

The program combined music and dance for the sake of life and work of the director general of the National Ballet of Cuba, who once Cuban leader Fidel Castro said: “Alicia is a glory, an inspiration to the Cuban culture”.

The concert was organized by the Ministry of Culture and was the preamble of another activity to wait for midnight at the Military Historical Park Morro-Cabaña, attended as well by other personalities of Cuban culture.

Alicia will be honored on Tuesday by several generations of dancers and students and mass organizations in the headquarters of the National Ballet of Cuba, while the TV program “Roundtable” will be dedicated to the iconic performer of Giselle, among many others roles.

Alicia Alonso, the pride of the nation and symbol of Cuban identity, is Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO, holds, among hundreds of awards and national and international awards, the Order of Jose Marti, the highest award that the State Council of the Republic of Cuba gives.

She is also Doctor Honoris Causa from the Cuban Higher Institute of Arts (ISA) and received the Galina Ulanova Distinction.

jueves, 16 de diciembre de 2010

A worship full of national identity: San Lazaro

Throughout time the church of El Rincón was turned from the small chapel of a leprosy hospital into Cuba’s most important pilgrimage center. The first reconstruction works on the Catholic church began in 1936 (...) In Cuba the two images kept from the old leprosy hospital are those of San Lázaro, Bishop and Martyr, and that of the Lazarus appearing in Jesus Christ’s parable -the most cherished and worshiped by Cubans (...)

In this parable there are two characters: Lazarus, a beggar, and a rich person who doesn’t have a name (...) This beggar is characterized by simplicity, by suffering and symbolizes the poor and people suffering. (...) Drawings and paintings represent this San Lázaro usually dressed with bandage, according to the Jewish habit of dressing the dead with short cloths, which contributed to its resemblance to the African deity Babalú-Ayé, who is sick and dressed with rags. (...) That’s how devotion came to Cuba, very close to hospitals and leprosy hospitals the same as in Europe.

There is an important reason why thousands of people from all over the country go to the Sanctuary of El Rincón: a promise. “Promises imply a secret personal commitment –according to priest Suárez Polcari-, even when this promise is fulfilled publicly and constitutes the main motivation for men and women to take part in pilgrimages and celebrations in churches and, essentially, to go to the sanctuary”.

Laciel Zamora (Cuban Journalist. He is the author of the book about the worship to San Lázaro in Cuba)

domingo, 12 de diciembre de 2010

2010 Jazz Plaza Festival in Havana

Havana will host the 26th edition of the Jazz Plaza 2010 International Festival, which will bring together an important number of top level musicians from December 16th through the 19th.

The Vice-president of the event’s Organizing Committee, Alexis Vazquez, highlighted that the success of this edition is already guaranteed, due to the quality of participants, coming from a dozen countries.

This year is marked by the attendance of 20 foreign groups and artists and almost 50 from the island, clarified the executive, who stressed that the event will be dedicated to percussion in jazz.

Representing Cuba will be Chucho Valdes and Los Mensajeros Afrocubanos, the Jazz Band directed by Joaquin Betancourt, Bobby Carcasses, Havana Ensemble, and Hernan Lopez-Nussa, among others.

The event’s venues will be the Mella Theater, the Covarrubias Hall of the National Theater, the Plaza Culture Center, and the Rumba Palace, as well as La Zorra y el Cuervo nightclub and Havana’s Hotel Nacional.

The 6th Theoretical Colloquium will be held as part of the event, in which keynote lectures and talks will be given. Documentaries will be screened and magazines specialized in music, as well as jazz CD’s, will be sold.

The Festival is organized with the sponsorship of the Cuban Music Institute and the National Center of Popular Music, and is presided over by maestro Chucho Valdes.

viernes, 10 de diciembre de 2010

The Schola Cantorum Coralina

Choral music is highly appreciated in Cuba and the prestigious International Choir Festival in Santiago de Cuba is attended by many groups from all over the world.

Among the most outstanding groups on the island we must mention the Schola Cantorum Coralina, which has won great recognition within the sphere of choral music due to its high profile.

Under the direction of the excellent professor, Alina de los Milagros Orraca Llama, this choral group was formed in September 1993 at her home in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana. Three months later, on December 4, the Schola Cantorum Coralina became a fact in the artistic life of the country at its debut in the Sala Covarrubias of Cuba’s National Theater. Today, this well known choir belongs to the National Center of Concert Music of the Institute of the Cuban Music, being one of the most outstanding groups of its kind.

Its membership is basically made up of lecturers and students of choral music and amateurs. Its repertoire is very rich because they perform a wide variety of works of all kinds of styles which go from Renaissance to the most recent music, either national or international.

The Schola Cantorum Coralina’s performances, recordings and programs in general enable the group to provide a wide presentation of Cuban and Latin American choral music, both popular and folkloric, of original works by composers of the region and of sacred music.

The Choir and its director, someone who has been in the music world since she was seven years old, have given countless concerts and recitals. They have participated in numerous festivals, congresses, fairs and expositions within Cuba. The Schola’s quality is also recognized internationally, shown by its performances on important stages in Venezuela, Brazil, Spain amongst others. In the D’ Canto 2005 International Festival , the group was awarded first place in the category of Venezuelan popular music.

Great landmarks of its national performances are its participation in the Sung Mass led by His Holiness John Paul II at the “Jose Marti” Revolution Square in Havana 1988 and in the Songs during the Celebration of the Liturgy of the Word, led by His Holiness in Havana Cathedral.

They have also performed twice in the Vatican, where the group participated as the main choir during the Pope’s public address in Saint Peter’s Square and were later received by him. They were also guests at the Corpus Christi Mass led by the Supreme Pontiff in the Saint John of Leteran Basilica

Other important performances have been given in several celebrations of the Cubadisco festival, where they performed with many important popular musicians and in May 2000, they sang the Carmina Burana Cantata by Carl Orff with the National Symphonic Orchestra directed by Professor Leo Broker.

The group also won an award for the “Venga la Esperanza” clip video, which achieved great popularity for its freshness and the exquisite artistic production of the film.

One of the most important tasks of this famous group is its choral work with children, also started in 1993, with the project of Cantorias Coralinas, also directed by Professor Alina Orraca, which has created a National Movement of Junior Cantorias.

In November 2003, the Children and Teenagers Choir was organized. Its members were chosen from among the participants in the Cantorias, for their musical abilities, with ages ranging from 6 to 14 years old.

Albums recorded by Schola Cantorum Coralina are remarkable, it is worth mentioning the CD’s “De que Cantada Manera” and “Cánteme” with themes by Silvio Rodriguez. The group has also participated in the recording of the sound tracks of several Cuban films, such as; Derecho de Asilo made by Octavio Cortazar with music by Joseph Haydn, the sound track of the Cuban Argentine film: “Hasta la Victoria Siempre”, directed by Juan Carlos Desanzo with Frank Fernandez music and on the sound track of the film Kleines Tropicana by Rolando Diaz with Edesio Alejandro’s music.

Coralina, as most people call it nowadays, gives true moments of aesthetic joy to anyone who is privileged to listen to its performances, whether recordings or at live concerts.

Beyond its artistic work, Coralna’s members also do important work widening cultural awareness in Havana’s communities, as they pay special attention to the children’s Cantorias made up of youngsters not acquainted with music, under a UNESCO project.

The Schola Cantorum Coralina, is already a part of the heritage of Cuban Choral Music as an important influence and example of good art and careful dedication.

Valley of the Sugar Mills, a Living Cuban Museum

Trinidad is an old Cuban city, declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 1988 and situated between the mountains and the sea. It is an unforgettable and grand site for those looking for very well preserved architecture from the past, as well as its natural surroundings.

The nearby Sugar Mill Valley, which with its bright vegetation surrounding the environment with almost magic traces from a past that forms part of Cuban history, is the true source of its heritage.

The valley had monumental industrial architecture for its size and variety of materials, together with unique examples of domestic buildings, known as sugar-mill houses, some of them very well kept today.

The sugar-mill houses still existing in Sugar Mill Valley, are an example of the type of construction linked with economic activities, basically sugar production, and the environment. The interrelation between the natural scenario, constructive expression and the ruins, represent past generations because Trinidad owes its origin to the sugar industry. Together with its cultural richness, exuberant natural scenery and numerous places linked with the past, Trinidad has in Sugar Mill Valley a unique treasure of the development of the sugar industry in the largest of the Antilles.

One can still admire the Manacas-Iznaga bell tower which is a witness of the ancient greatness of the area, which, together with the town, has been declared a National Monument.

There are also the ruins of the San Isidro de los Destiladeros sugar mill in the area, which was the property of a landowner of Catalan origin which was one of the largest properties in the region until it was abandoned during the second half of the Nineteenth Century.

There is also the mansion of the old Bella Vista sugar mill, built in the oldest Roman style, constructed in the fourth decade of the Nineteenth Century by a wealthy man from Iberia, Don Pedro Malibrán.

Another building which should be mentioned, because of its local Cuban style, is the house of one of the most productive sugar mills of the time, the Guaimaro Sugar Mill.

Among the remains of the Manacas-Iznaga native village there are some huts belonging to a slave town, considered among the largest on the island until 1857.

Sugar Mill or San Luis Valley, as it is also called, is a true archeological monument to the sugar industry, an activity which created and marked the economic development of one stage of our nation’s history.

The valley still has several ruins of former installations, such as sugar mills, living quarters, summer houses and others which are a living memorial of a history dating back more than four centuries.

As a sign of the zone’s peak, it is worth saying that in 1827 the region had 56 sugar mills, which used nearly eleven thousand slaves as hand labor, out of a population of 26,700 inhabitants in the whole territory.

The development of the sugar industry found very suitable condtions in Sugar Mill Valley with all necessary resources for the industry, natural forests, fertile land and available ports for the shipment of products.

Besides, there was the dynamic for the slave trade expansion since the end of the Eighteen Century, so the needed work force for the development of production was guaranteed.

Among the constructions can be seen elements of a hydraulic system, recalling the Europeans, basically built with thick walls and quarry stones, for carrying the water needed for the development of the sugar production process.

In several of the territory’s haciendas, there are mural paintings made by Daniel Dall'Aglio, an Italian architect and artist. Some of them are being restored with financial support received from different international bodies, such as Unesco. The Valley of the Sugar Mills is a unique complement of the countless other leisure attractions located in the Museum City of Cuba, as this World Heritage site is also called.

New Film by 7 Directors: Havana is the Star

Seven filmmakers, including Benicio del Toro in his directorial debut, Julio Medem, and Laurent Cantet, have joined together to make a film that pays tribute to modern-day Havana, with a script by award-winning Cuban novelist Leonardo Padura.

The announcement was made at the 32nd Havana Film Festival by three of the directors, who said shooting would begin in January for "Seven Days in Havana."

The other directors are Argentine Pablo Trapero (Carancho), Palestinian Elia Suleiman (The Time Left), Argentine/French Gaspar Noe (Irreversible), and Cuban Juan Carlos Tabio (Waiting List), and with Alvaro Longoria (Morena Films) as producer. Also contributing to the script are Arturo Infante and Eliseo Antunaga.

Seven stories of 15 minutes each take place over a week, day by day, and feature characters who live in Havana, "where everybody leads different lives and finds each other in the end."

According to Spanish director Julio Medem, he agreed to be part of the tribute to and for Havana from the very start. His story will be based on a love triangle between a Spanish man, a Cuban woman singer, and her baseball player boyfriend.

The film will feature a number of well-known Cuban actors, including Mirtha Ibarra, who will play a psychologist in the story directed by Tabío, and Vladimir Cruz, who will play one of the leading roles in the story directed by Del Toro.