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Morgan State choir, Cuban ensemble find common ground

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On Wednesday afternoon, Ariana Rodriguez, a soprano from Cuba, became so overwhelmed with emotion during a solo that she took off her eyeglasses and threw them to Morgan State University’s choir room floor.

Less than 30 minutes later, the vocalist — visiting Baltimore for the day with the award-winning Havana-based choir Coro Entrevoces — barely remembered the moment.

“When I sing, I can’t think,” Rodriguez said after the performance. “I just feel.”

The universal power of music she spoke of acted as the unifying thread between the renowned Cuban choir and the Morgan State University Choir, who met for the first time Wednesday.

Arranged by the Alexandria, Va.,-based tour management company Classical Movements, the two groups took turns performing three pieces each, all while recording the other’s performances on their smartphones, offering standing ovations and eating pizza together afterward.

Such a meeting would have been difficult before President Barack Obama’s pledge in December to improve relations between the United States and Cuba. Since then, he has met with Cuban President Raul Castro and removed the country from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

“Unfortunately, because of political positions, Americans have been deprived of Cuban culture and Cubans have been deprived of American culture,” said Morgan State choir director Eric Conway.

Wednesday’s exchange — in English and Spanish —centered on music.

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