The Minnesota Orchestra closed out their whirlwind tour of Havana Saturday night with an awe-inspiring performance of both the Cuban and American national anthems. Classical MPR’s Brian Newhouse writes, “‘Burst into song’ is cliché, but that is exactly what happened, a mix of shock and joy on those faces. An American orchestra playing the Cuban National Anthem? While the roar of applause afterward was still going, the Orchestra went right into the Star-Spangled Banner. That’s when the tears began. The Cubans didn’t know the words, of course, but they instantly knew the music, and the symbolism of playing the two anthems back-to-back.”
While the trip was so intently focused on music both in terms of outreach and education as well as performance, it’s important to get a final tour of the surrounding area. Photographer Nate Ryan captured the scenes, the performances, and the after-hours fun before the members of the Orchestra boarded their charter back home.
Saturday morning around Havana
Live performance at Teatro Nacional de Cuba
Featuring performances of the Cuban national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, and pieces by Caturla, Bernstein and Prokofiev.
Post-concert at Café Habana
The trip home
The Minnesota Orchestra played to a packed house in Havana last night for the first concert of its historic tour. The all-Beethoven program received repeated standing ovations.
After the concert, French horn student Arletto Juarez explained that a U.S. orchestra is unlike anything she’s heard.
“Ah, [it] was amazing. Here the sound was different, here in Cuba we don’t have that sound.”
Tonight, the orchestra will perform a final concert that will be broadcast live across Cuba and can be heard starting at 7 p.m. on Classical Minnesota Public Radio.
After Saturday’s concert, some orchestra members will sit in on a jam session at a Cuban jazz club.
Part of the Minnesota Orchestra’s goal in coming to Cuba was to participate in a couple of musical cultural exchanges. On Thursday, the orchestra went to “Music City” to work with high school and college-age musicians. On Friday, the musicians returned to Teatro Nacional de Cuba the scene of last night’s rehearsal and the venue for this weekend’s broadcasts. This time, they were rehearsing side-by-side with Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil del Conservatorio Amadeo Roldán, a Cuban youth symphony.
Kate Nettleman is a string bass player with the orchestra. She says her Spanish isn’t strong, but there are times in Havana when that doesn’t matter.
“When we sit together and play music sharing a stand with these students, there’s tremendous communcation. And there’s so much that’s shared in common that we undertsand without having to say a word and that’s what music is – is a language that everyone can connect through.”
The Minnesota Orchestra will return to the same stage tonight for the first of two concerts from the Teatro Nacional in Havana. Listen live at 7 p.m. CDT both nights.
On May 15th, photographer Nate Ryan embarked on a short tour of the city with patrons of the Minnesota Orchestra. The tour bus navigated through the streets of Havana, brought the tour to a seafood restaurant for lunch, and to the famed cigar manufacturer Cuesta-Rey. More photos can be found at classicalmpr.org/cuba.
The Minnesota Orchestra topped a day visiting “Music city,” a concentrated school for high school and college-age musicians, by getting comfortable in the Teatro Nacional de Cuba, the venue for tonight and tomorrow’s concerts.
After a rigorous rehearsal, Osmo Vänskä released the musicians, who enjoyed a meal in Plaza de la Catedral in old Havana, Cuba and then went out to enjoy a bit of Havana nightlife.
Photos by Nate Ryan
The members of the Minnesota Orchestra — and our friends in the media — got an early start for the Minnesota Orchestra’s landmark trip to Cuba today. After months of preparation, the musicians enjoyed a champagne toast aboard the plane before touching down and getting their first glimpse of Havana.
Classical Minnesota Public Radio will broadcast two distinct, live historic performances by Music Director Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra from Havana, Cuba, on May 15 and 16 at 7 p.m. CDT both nights. (Details)