As the first Dutch symphony orchestra we went on tour to Cuba. What a special adventure, full of wonderful musical encounters and cultural exchanges. We really enjoyed playing the beautiful Cuban repertoire of all times and styles. We played for the Cubans, but also with the Cubans. Cuba, thank you for your hospitality! Check the photo's and video's and enjoy!
Ricciottiando en Cuba- The tour
The Ricciotti is preparing for a special adventure. As the first Dutch orchestra we go on tour to Cuba! This country with its rich cultural history is full of music and dance. The Ricciotti focuses on cultural exchange and musical collaborations during this tour.
In Cuba, repertoire of all times and styles is covered. We play works by contemporary composers, classical Cuban music, pop and jazz repertoire, salsa, raggaeton and music 'from the street' such as son, conga, rumba and charanga.
Floortje de la Fosse
Adrián Vilaboa Martinez
Jochem van Hoogdalem
Leonoor van de Merwe
Maxje de Wit
Sofie van der Pol
Orrin van Leeuwen(av)
Benjamin de Boer
A week before the Ricciotti ensemble departs for Cuba, four members and conductor LEonard Evers alreay leave to Cuba, to give workshops on various locations where the Ricciotti will perform a week later. Read their first blog
Written by: Douwe Nauta, Jochem van Hoogdalem, Stijn Brinkman and Adrian Vilaboa Martinez
Day 0 (travel day)
We are ready! We meet at Schiphol, where we get some flyers, posters and “good luck’s!” from Alex, just before boarding the plane at noon. After this the adventure is really on. In the airplane (standing in the isle) we work on the workshop material one last time and prepare the first workshop we will give in detail. We’re all a little nervous: the first workshop will be at 10 in the morning for a group of high school students, the day after arriving in Cuba.
When we land, a very enthusiastic Mariana is waiting for us at the airport, greeting us with hugs and kisses as we stumble out the arrivals hall on legs that have had a 10 hour flight. We greet some friends of Mariana that she has asked to drive us ‘home’. When we walk out the airport you can already feel the huge difference between Cuba and the Netherlands: it’s six in the evening there, however it is already dark. Also, it is raining, but still the temperature is a nice 24 degrees - and then it hits you: everywhere you look, you see them, hear them and smell them: gigantic extravagant American oldtimers cruising around. It makes for a very chaotic atmosphere, but strangely, the people are very calm and relaxed, far more so than at Schiphol. We get in 2 cars driven by Mariana’s friends Amado and Guillermo (slightly sad that they are ‘just’ old Lada’s) and as we drive, staring out of the windows we arrive at our ‘Casa’. It’s at the rue de la Presidentes, part of the richer neighbourhood of Havana, with a beautiful view over the street below.
Although it is far past bedtime for us, in Cuba it is time to eat so we get persuaded by Mariana to have some Cuban drinks and dinner. Amado, who turns out to be an old neighbour of Mariana’s, joins as well. We end up at a very nice place that seems to serve everything we like so we start drinking cocktails and eat some of the local dishes (Cerdo Asada con Carbon - pig roasted on coal, with rice and beans), everyone is in a great mood, ready to start the week. At the end of the night, when Amado has just lovingly proclaimed that we are the sons he wishes he had always had, it is time to go home. After a long day, we happily fall down in our beds: a little nervous, a little overheated, but mostly really excited to be on this awesome adventure together.
After a good night's sleep in which we were unfortunately awakened in the middle of the night by the jetlag, we got up in a nice warm, clammy room. In the living room breakfast was ready for us with omelet, fruit and very strong coffee with sugar. That coffee was necessary because today we are going to start the first workshops. We drive in two cars to the location, through the crowded Havana. The roads are not of the best quality so that sometimes creates interesting antics on the road.
Once we have arrived at 'Pojecto Quisicuaba' (a charity organization that, among other things, set up schools) we are warmly welcomed by Enrique, the director. The first workshop we do with school children of around 14 years. Very exciting because now it really starts !!! The group comes in a bit giggling and cautiously. Adrian starts the workshop with a short word about who we are and what we come to do. After a number of games, we take a break. We discuss what we can do better and what went well. After the break, we continue with full energy.
The school is actually very special because it is part of an institute that also provides homeless people, HIV patients, children whose parents are in prison, etc. This is one of the 5 schools that work in this way in Cuba. It is a very cool concept in this poor part of Havana.
After lunch we were allowed to eat there in the school and handing out lunch to the homeless, we got back in the car to go to the next location. On the way to the location, the last things were devised for the workshop. But once we arrived there we were not finished with the preparation. With half an hour to go before we were allowed to start were now really finishing the workshop. This workshop could be completely crazy. We gave a workshop for a children's choir consisting of about 60 children.
When we walked into the garden we were greeted with loud screams and yelling and clapping !! The children were very enthusiastic. After a lot of blow games, names games, concentration games and finally learning a Dutch song, the workshop ended with a performance by the children's choir especially for us! The energy and cuteness splashed away. Back in the car we talked a bit about the workshop but our eyes were slowly closing. Now have something to eat and have a drink and then go to bed. Tomorrow is another day with a lot of new experiences.
Today we have the breakfast at 7:30, one hour earlier than usually because we have to be at 10:00 in Taller Escuela de Música Eduardo Abuela, Artemisa. After one hour in the car, we arrive to this school, which it's much bigger than we thought. We can see a lot of children practicing outside in the garden, what it's so nice. Magarí, the activities coordinator, is waiting for us in the entrance to go to the direction and meet the director. While we are drinking coffee, the director and Magarí explain to us how the school works.
At the beginning just 30 children would join the workshop, but in the moment that we start the workshop playing La Vida es un Carnaval, a lot of children come to check what it's happening, so we decide to move to a bigger space and let all the children join us, what means that we end with more than 100. We start with a call/respond game, and immediately we can see the high level of the group, so we decide to go really deap in all the exercises and make them as difficult as possible. After 1,5 hours working with them, we decide to make a small break and immediately some of them take their instruments and start playing some songs together, and others just come to us to talk and to share experiences. After the break, we explain the last exercise, Sculptures in the Museum, in which they are in smaller groups and they have to make a human sculpture and compose a little piece which describes the sculpture, and at the end perform for the rest of the groups like if we were in a museum exposition. The performances are really creative and really impressive for us, so for us it was a pleasure to could work and share experiences with this enthusiastic and lovely children.
After the workshop Magarí shows us all the music school, the dance school, and also the residence, because the children who lives to far away, they stay there during the mid-week. During the lunch, we have the opportunity to talk and share experiences with Magarí about the musical system education in Cuba, which is very different to the European system, but at the same time very interesting.
In the afternoon we should have another workshop in Proyecto Clave de Sol, but there was a misunderstanding about the dates, and unfortunately we couldn't do it.
So although we just had one workshop today, which makes us a little bit sad, we are still really happy because this morning we had a really nice moments with that amazing children.
In the streets of Centro Habana
Centro Havana, Sunday 11 November. We walk through the dark streets around la Casa de la Cultura, to attract the public for our first performance. Dogs bark, people come out, hang out their windows, some people follow the orchestra immediately. With a colorful procession of pursuers we return to la Casa de la Cultura.
After the performance, an old lady with a walking frame tells us that she actually wanted to go to bed, but her neighbor convinced her to come along when she saw the parade. With a very big smile she tells how happy she is that she has come. With radiant eyes: "Es muy linda, es un regalo!" It is very beautiful, it is a gift!
On the second day of our tour in Cuba, in the afternoon we played at the William Soler hospital for children with a heart disease. When we arrived we heard that we were allowed to go to the rooms with four small groups, to play there for the children. When we came in playing, they were watching with big eyes. It was really beautiful to see that the music made the children so happy, they were enjoying it so much! A 10-year old boy really liked it, I let him play on my violin. At first he played very carefully with his fingers, then he wanted to try to play with the bow. He thought it was fantastic! A little later we played in the next room, and he climbed onto his bed and kept listening and waving. In the other room a little girl sat in a rocking chair next to the bed. Her mother was sitting next to it, with tears in her eyes.
It was really special to see what the music meant to the children and their parents. But also for us, the orchestra members, it was very special. I have not had such an experience with Ricciotti before. It was so intense, making real contact. After playing in the rooms we gave a performance in the central hall for patients, visitors, nurses and doctors. That was a big party, full of dancing doctors! If you only experience such a performancein a hospital, that's really cool, but because we played for the children, it really became a different experience.