Symphonies and salsa

first_imgOn a recent spring evening, a group of Harvard musicians gathered near a faraway hotel pool. Their violas and violins echoed in the warm night air, alive with the sounds of salsa.“We got our instruments out, and the Cubans ended up improvising some salsa music, and they taught us how to dance,” said Diana Tsen ’11, a violinist with the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra (HRO) who helped to organize a seven-day trip to Cuba that concluded earlier this month.The impromptu performance followed a formal concert earlier in the evening in Santa Clara, where members of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Santa Clara joined the HRO to perform composer George Gershwin’s “Cuban Overture,” a piece inspired by his trip to Havana in 1932, and filled with Caribbean themes.The HRO tours every four years. But this trip was more than just a relaxing getaway interspersed with musical interludes. It was an important cultural exchange, and statement.“One thing we all felt very strongly about was that this tour be musically and culturally significant,” said Tsen, adding that the group wanted to visit a challenging locale that was also “musically and intellectually stimulating.”Its director, Federico Cortese, agreed.“I thought that there are places in the world where … it is meaningful to go with an exceptional group of young people representing an exceptional institution. [In a place like Cuba] I really think you can be an excellent ambassador for the United States.”For decades, travel to Cuba from the United States has been strictly controlled. But in 2009 President Barack Obama eased travel restrictions on family members wishing to visit and send remittances to the country. Earlier this year, the Obama administration further relaxed travel rules, allowing religious, academic, and cultural groups to travel to the communist-ruled island nation.Music’s universality is helping to thaw icy relations between the two countries.Problems with timing and trouble finding a big enough plane forced the New York Philharmonic to cancel earlier plans to visit Cuba. But last year jazz legend Wynton Marsalis and his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra made the trip for a series of concerts and performances.The visit by the Harvard students, the first U.S. university orchestra to play in Cuba since the embargo began, continued in that vein. Crowds filled the theaters to capacity, eager to hear the students perform both on their own and alongside Cuban musicians. Cortese was mobbed with well-wishers after each show, and flooded with requests for interviews by local media outlets.In the streets, said Tsen, the Cubans were warm and welcoming, saying, ‘The American people and the Cuban people, we like each other and we get along. People aren’t politics, so we are friends even though our governments don’t get along.”Rehearsals were a multicultural mix of Cubans and Americans directed by an Italian (Cortese) who addressed them in English and Spanish, and occasionally in German. Proud of their musical roots, the Cuban musicians weren’t shy about putting their own spin on Gershwin. During one rehearsal, they politely insisted that the rhythm of the piece be changed to reflect their musical heritage more accurately.“They were saying that Gershwin got the rhythm wrong,” said Cortese, who happily obliged and altered the beat.Tsen said the orchestra was drawn to Cuba’s own rich musical traditions, its classical music roots, and its complicated history. For decades, the Soviet Union’s alliance with Cuba meant access to strong classical music resources. But the collapse of the USSR in 1991 severed many of those rich musical ties.“You are left with these people who are very excited and very spirited about this genre of music but they have no access to these resources. and so we thought it would be really interesting for both parties to engage in this cultural exchange.”In Cuba, where music supplies are limited, even basic instrument repairs can prove challenging. Fortunately, the HRO arrived with a luthier in tow, tasked with keeping the group’s 12 rented cellos and seven double basses in working order. In addition to attending to the HRO students, she spent much of her time fixing the Cubans’ instruments.“They lack even the simplest things,” said Tsen, adding, “It was really cool to see they could achieve such a high level despite not having those resources that we take for granted.”Led by Cortese, the HRO performed free, sold-out concerts in Cienfuegos, Santa Clara, and Havana. The repertoire included Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s “Piano Concerto No. 1,” featuring soloist Damon Meng ’13, and Antonin Dvorak’s “Symphony No. 9,” or  “From the New World.”The trip culminated with a concert in the Gran Teatro of Havana, where the group collaborated with the National Chorus of Cuba, the National Opera de la Calle, and soloists from Havana’s Superior Institute of the Arts on Ludwig van Beethoven’s iconic “Ninth Symphony.” Performing Beethoven’s masterwork, with its theme of universal brotherhood, conveyed a vital message, said Cortese.“It’s the perfect piece when you have some kind of statement about peace and friendship of peoples. … I think that an American orchestra that goes there and plays Beethoven’s ‘Ninth’ has particular meaning.”The HRO also held music workshops with young musicians in Cienfuegos and Havana. At the Escuela de Arte Benny Moré in Cienfuegos, HRO members gave master classes to elementary-level students. At the Conservatorio Amadeo Roldán in Havana, they rehearsed Beethoven’s “Ninth” with a secondary-level orchestra.Cortese said he hopes to schedule similar tours in the future.“We can break barriers through music.”last_img read more

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Better Collective Spotlight: Preparing for the biggest week in horse racing

first_img Related Articles StumbleUpon Submit Share Better Collective cautious on quick recovery as COVID drags growth momentum August 25, 2020 Having described the Cheltenham Festival as “the biggest week in horse racing”, leading igaming affiliate Better Collective will provide its tipster community on bettingexpert.com with the best advice on which horses to bet on, where to bet and how to enjoy the action live.On the eve of the Festival, Joe Ryan, Video Production Lead for Better Collective, breaks down the company’s creative strategies both leading up to and during the week. In this article, the latest in the Better Collective Spotlight series, Ryan highlights the importance of video – the “medium of choice” for users to gain knowledge about the Festival – as he explains why everyone watching needs a Daily Nap (not like that), as well as some pointers for best value bets and a few dark horses to watch out for.The Nap (our best bet of the Festival)The content that our audience craves the most is betting tips on each day of the Cheltenham Festival, so in the 48 hours or so leading up to it we create full daily preview videos.Our Racing Editor (and professional punter) Stephen Harris talks through the card and casts an expert eye over any late developments or market movements. In 2018, our daily video previews amassed over 15,000 views – numbers we expect to surpass in 2019.The Value BetOnce our community are armed with the information and insight provided from Stephen, it’s time for us to present where we see the best value for punters at the Festival.Almost every bookmaker you can think of provides customers with an incentive to bet with them during the Festival, all of which are clearly documented on the bettingexpert website in text format.To help condense the offers into a digestible format, we create a video of our top 5 offers for the week. This is published around 48 hours before the Festival begins, and allows our community time to make sense of the offers and go through the account registration process at the relevant bookmakers.We also create versions specific to each day of the Festival as bookmakers provide offers for specific races on specific days. The price boosts on the Gold Cup are usually the most popular, and with good reason.The Dark HorseAfter all the analysis and preparation, one question remains: How to watch the Cheltenham Festival? Of course, for UK audiences terrestrial television is an option, but the bettingexpert community is global, so we also create a guide on the best bookmakers that are providing Live Streaming of the event and how to access the streams.This year, we also plan to innovate by providing the bettingexpert community with a daily weather report from a location overlooking Cheltenham racecourse. The conditions are a key factor when considering which horse to bet on, so we want to be on the ground in Gloucestershire to bring our audience closer to the Festival and keep them up to date throughout the week. Better Collective Spotlight: How Betarades.gr is driving engagement through YouTube July 30, 2020 Bettingexpert crowns TheTrollmanSha World Tipster Champion  July 2, 2020 Sharelast_img read more

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