Members of the Young Men’s Ensemble of the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus with members of the Cantorias Coralillo and Solfa of the Schola Cantorum Coralina in Havana, Cuba
ACFEA has been sending groups to Cuba since 1998, starting with the Oakland Youth Orchestra. Due to the vagaries and vicissitudes of US government policy, these projects have ranged from the relatively straightforward to the almost impossible, with today’s situation being decidedly at the straightforward end of the scale.
With our long experience in the country, and having Sylvia Garcia Marin, our Latin America manager, based in nearby Guadalajara, Mexico, we are very excited about the unique opportunities that we can offer to our groups, as we did for the Young Men’s Ensemble of the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus in June, 2015.
We have arranged six tours for LACC’s Concert Choir since 1992, but this, the seventh, was our first with the Young Men’s Ensemble, which is directed by Steven Kronauer. The planning process took place right over the time when the US government was relaxing the rules regarding travel to Cuba, so unfortunately a good deal of paperwork was prepared to comply with rules that disappeared overnight. There remain, however, some special hurdles to negotiate, and we are happy to lend groups our expertise in this area.
The Young Men’s Ensemble flew on AeroMexico via Mexico City to Havana, one of easiest and most reliable ways of getting there until such time as regular scheduled flights are allowed from the USA. They were met by Sylvia herself, whose passion for Cuba makes her want to be the courier for all our groups there.
Three full days in Havana allowed the group plenty of time for sightseeing, visiting a handicraft market and exploring Ernest Hemingway’s haunts, as well as giving a formal evening concert with two local choirs and achieving one of its primary objectives: a workshop with the renowned men’s ensemble, Sine Nomine.
From there they moved to Trinidad for two nights, stopping en route in Cienfuegos for some sightseeing. Their time in Trinidad was fairly relaxed, allowing the young men to be tourists in this UNESCO World Heritage Site, described by Lonely Planet as “one-of-a-kind, a perfectly preserved Spanish colonial settlement where the clocks stopped ticking in 1850 and – apart from the tourists – have yet to restart.”
Members of the Young Men’s Ensemble of the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus are driven in style to their farewell dinner in Havana
The next day they gave a concert in Santa Clara with another esteemed Cuban men’s choir, the Coro AudiNos de Santa Clara, in the Teatro La Caridad. Then, it was back to Havana, with a long-awaited stop at a beach on the way. The final concert was in a beautiful church with their new friends from Sine Nomine, after which they set off for the farewell dinner in a fleet of vintage American cars. What a wonderfully Cuban way to end this great adventure, of which Steven Kronauer said, “We had a wonderful trip, Hugh [Davies, President, ACFEA North America]. Thank you very much for bringing us Sylvia, the best tour organizer I have ever met. The driver and tour guide were great as well.”