After a full day of travel and exploring the villa of Trinidad, we arrived at our Santa Clara hotel, exhausted and ready for a good night’s sleep. As stated earlier, this hotel was on a preserve-type property that everyone in the group did not immediately embrace, but once in bed, with doors closed, most enjoyed a good night’s sleep. One concern that many expressed was the fact that there were many more mosquitoes in the air, probably because of all the animals. As great as my slumber was last evening, I was awakened by the ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’ of a rooster, not at sunrise but an hour or so before sunrise at 4 a.m. At breakfast, most were surprised that the accommodations were better than originally believed, as most still had smiles on their faces. After breakfast, I discovered even more animals that I did not see yesterday, like huge rabbits and monkeys in cages.
We travelled to the city-center of Santa Maria, (our hotel was about 3 miles out) for our cultural activity with the Santa Clara choir. The cultural exchange was held on the 2nd floor of Teatro La Caridad, the site of our concert. Our cultural exchange events, although desirable when touring a foreign country, are mandatory, supporting the type of visa given to the choir. This exchange was much freer than the previous stop. The local choir performed many local songs for us and, of course, the Morgan Choir reciprocated by singing some songs from our repertoire. We closed out the rehearsal by singing the Cuban song ‘Dulce Embelso’ together, and with me teaching the other choir ‘Oh Happy Day’ as a finale. After ‘Oh Happy Day’ the local choir began playing some stirring rhythms with their percussion instruments, which started everyone dancing. The Morgan choir knows how to dance! So, beyond just exchanging music, we also exchanged dance; yet another way to experience each other’s culture.
The theaters where we performed during our first night in Cienfuegos, tonight in Santa Clara, and on Sunday evening in Mantanzas, are among the top concert venues in Cuba. One might not immediately think that this was the case upon viewing the buildings compared to our American standard, but despite the lack of consistent resources to maintain these buildings, one could still feel the history in the walls and on the stages.
Tonight’s concert again was a great success. The concert was well attended. As the opening Cuban group began to sing Gospel music in their set, it only seemed appropriate that on the fly, we change our program somewhat to balance the Cuban’s vision for the program through their programming. And, after being drenched with perspiration at the end of Wednesday’s concert with no air-conditioning or ventilation in the hall, we decided to wear our cooler uniforms, white tee shirts and khaki pants. It made a huge difference in energy expended and recovery after the concert. At the end of the concert, the Santa Clara choir gave each MSU choir member some of the photos from our afternoon exchange. Earlier in the evening, I gave some Morgan mementos including a tee shirt to the director, MSU pens, wristbands, choir CDs and DVDs to members of the Santa Clara choir.
This concert was another small step for Cuban-American relations!