‘Unprecedented’ cultural exchange brings Cuban orchestra to Tempe - East Valley Tribune: Performance

‘Unprecedented’ cultural exchange brings Cuban orchestra to Tempe

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Posted: Saturday, October 13, 2012 6:15 am

Jazz requires passion, improvisation and teamwork: All qualities that came into play to pull off Monday’s Lakeshore Music concert “The Cubans are Coming” at Tempe Center for the Arts.

The Orquesta de Cámara Concierto Sur — a chamber orchestra from Cienfuegos, Cuba, on a two-week cultural exchange with the United States — along with the Northwest Sinfonietta of Tacoma, highlight the evening.

Woody Wilson, director of the Lakeshore Music series, discovered the orchestra earlier this summer on a Chamber Explorations Program to Cuba with his wife and various Tempe leaders.

“Every day we’d have a show somewhere, in the countryside or in the town — a kids show or dancers or theater,” said Wilson. “That’s how we stumbled on this orchestra. All of us were crowded into this 100 degree room with no ventilation. (The orchestra) came out and they didn’t speak English so our interpreters told us what the program was. They played for an hour. It was the most moving, emotional thing,” Wilson said.

By the end of the concert everyone was on their feet, including President of Tempe Sister Cities Dick Neuheisel, Mary Ann Miller, CEO of the Tempe Chamber of Commerce and Susan Klecka of the Mesa Arts Center Foundation, Wilson said. “Dick Neuheisel started talking about how to bring (the orchestra) to Tempe and I was trying to figure out how to make that happen (as well),” Wilson said. “Through the interpreters we found out they were coming to the U.S. for a two week exchange with the Northwest Sinfonietta of Tacoma, Washington.”

That’s when the real work began for Wilson and the other Tempe residents, who were so moved by the Cuban’s talent and musicianship that they raised $20,000 toward the endeavor while still on the bus in Cuba. Stateside again, they had to conquer all the diplomatic hurdles to extend the musicians’ residency in the U.S. for a few days to visit Tempe before returning to Cuba.

“It’s very tightly controlled by the Cuban government and U.S. government down to the hour,” Wilson said. “Turns out we have to take both the Cubans and the Northwest Orchestra because everything the Cubans do the Northwest Sinfonietta has to do.”

Despite all the supervision, one musician defected in Miami, forcing a re-write of the original composition. “We were afraid of this,” said Wilson, but it didn’t stop the concert.

The passion, improvisation and teamwork of Wilson and his associates prevailed and on Monday evening, 22 people, including seven Cuban musicians, perform a specially composed work at Tempe Center for the Arts. Wilson’s hopes are high for the event, a labor of love for him and so many others.

“This cultural exchange is unprecedented and hasn’t been done since the (Cuban) revolution,” Wilson said. “It will be an incredible concert.”

DETAILS >> 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 15. Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway. $25-$40; a special dinner package at Monti’s La Casa Vieja is available for $43 for dinner and a ticket to the show. (480) 350-2822 or www.lakeshoremusic.org.

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