I just got back from a trip to Cuba with 62 members of our local community music association. The ages ranged from 15 years old to 81. It was a mind-blowing experience and there is still a lot whirring in my brain as I process the things that we saw and experienced.
As part of the trip we had the privilege of working with the Coro Polifonico de la Havana – a professional 10 voice acapella ensemble. In preparation for our time together we worked on two Cuban pieces to sing with them, and we sent them two Canadian pieces for them to sing with us. When you think of “Canadian Songs”, what comes to mind?
The pieces we sent were choral arrangements of the Rankin Family’s “We Rise Again” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. Both are excellent arrangements and when we first sang together with the Coro Polifonico, the moment was tremendous – there were very few dry eyes in the room. Later in our week we got to perform these two pieces together as part of our joint concert in Havana.
Another highlight was the afternoon we visited a community centre in a poor area of the city. This area had been hugely impacted by natural events and many had seen their homes completely wiped out. The community centre serves all the families – we encountered small children up to teenagers, and many of their parents were there. After singing for us in Spanish, the group shared a couple of songs featuring the most advanced players from their guitar program. The youngest was 8 or 9 and the oldest about 15 in this group. They had prepared a Canadian Song for their Canadian guests, and for me my heart jumped right out of me when the rest of the children sang the chorus and we all joined in. “Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, halleluuuuuuuujah”.
I feel deeply honoured to have spent this week in Cuba with 62 people whom I love and who inspire me. To sing together with new friends, whose language is not our own and to connect through music at a deep level – I get shivers as I think of it even now.
I collected so many moments that will fuel me through whatever is coming in the next months and probably years. Profound gratitude to all who were my companions on this journey.
“And even (when) it all (goes) wrong, I’ll stand before the Lord of Song with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.”
Shine on, my friends.