The next morning we awoke to discover that we had a world-class view surrounding our hotel including a beautiful view of the bay. As it would turn out, our hotel, which I understand was once owned by the Hilton family, was located next to the historic Palacio del Valle. Following a very hearty breakfast, we left to attend our cultural exchange with the Cienfuegos choir that would be joining us for the first concert this evening – Cantores de Cienfuegos.
All four of our concert performances would have the same format: an opening act sung by the local choir, the feature presentation of our Morgan choir, and then a finale where both choirs would do a joint performance. During our cultural exchange, we rehearsed the music to be performed this evening. The Morgan choir learned one suggested Cuban song, entitled “Dulce Embeleso,” which is about that first kiss after falling in love. Our Cuban counterparts also suggested a Moses Hogan spiritual, “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord,” as a piece to perform in English. Despite not having sung the Hogan spiritual in years, we quickly relearned this song for these concerts. We also learned another Spanish language piece to sing during our section of the concert, “Esto Les Digo,” which is based on Bible verse Matthew 18: 19-20. We sang the Spanish song to the Cuban choir and they glowingly approved of our pronunciations. After a very strong rehearsal led by both the Cuban choral director Honey Moreira and I, both groups got to know one another better as we chatted about choir singing and overall education challenges all students shared, regardless of country.
After our cultural exchange/rehearsal, we toured beautiful Cienfuegos. Our concert was in the historic Tomás Terry Theatre, which seats approximately seven hundred. The theatre is across from the city center, José Martí Park. Following our tour, we ate and then returned to the hotel to rest before our concert performance in the evening.
Our concert began much later than it typically would for our performances in the U.S. The venue was pretty packed; hopefully, it was not due to the promotional flyer error that mistakenly indicated that Aretha Franklin would be performing with us as opposed to what it should have said, which is that the MSU Choir had frequently sung with Aretha Franklin. Despite the faux pas, our first concert was a great entre’ into American (Morgan) culture for the Cubans, as everyone seemed to really enjoy it. Conversely, we enjoyed the Cienfuegos ensemble’s performance immensely. There was a huge level of excitement in the air throughout our concert this evening. Once again, the Morgan Choir left its mark on another section of the world.