Ruimonte Triumphs in CUBADISCO at Havana1

Ana María Ruimonte and Alan Lewine traveled to Havana from Philadelphia at the invitation of the Ministry of Culture to take part of the 20th annual International Festival Cubadisco. The Spanish Association of Artists and Interpreters (AIE), and Owlsong Productions, Inc. of the United States supported their travel and concerts.

Ana María Ruimonte, the “Spanish Mezzo & Soprano”, performed the concert “Roses for Ernesto Lecuona” with the prestigious Cuban pianist Huberal Herrera at the Theater of the National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana. The recital, which included songs by the composer as Noche Azul (“Blue Night”), Rosa la China (“Rosa the Chinese”), Dame de tus Rosas (“Give Me Your Roses”), Siempre en mi Corazón (“Always in My Heart”), and others, and Herrera also presented solo piano dances and waltzes as Preludio en la Noche (“Prelude in the Night”), Poético (“Poetic”), Aragón and Lecuona´s most famous Malagueña. The concert closed with Spanish repertoire by Granados and the zarzuela romanza Canción Andaluza (“Andalusian Song”) from the zarzuela Dúo de la Africana by Fernández Caballero, that brought a standing ovation. As a final encore they performed the Lecuona´s popular María la O to great acclaim and loud “bravos” to Spain and Cuba – an emotional and warm end.

This collaboration opens the frontiers between United States and Cuba, on the hand of our Spanish music, this universal language that we all share across Latino America, and which music has so much in common because of the continuous influence of styles.

The concert of the Ensemble RUIMONTE, anchored by Ana María´s voice and Alan on string bass, and titled “9 Centuries of Music in about 1 hour”, was performed at the magnificent “Lecuona Hall” of the Gran Teatro de la Habana “Alicia Alonso”, in collaboration with some of the best guest musicians of Cuba, including Reynier Mariño, Cuba’s star of the flamenco guitar; Alejandro Calzadilla, jazz clarinet; Roberto Ross, bongo and percussion; and Leandro Cobas providing additional percussion on the cajón flamenco. The result was a great fusion of jazz, classical and flamenco, full of energy.

The repertorie included Sephardic music, popular Spanish Songs such as La Tarara by Garcia Lorca and Bito Manué by García Caturla, the popular Brazilian Samba d’Orfeu, Lewine´s samba adaptation of the theme from the TV show Star Trek, the bolero Bésame Mucho, the composition of Alan Lewine titled Soñando Contigo Sueño with lyrics adapted from Spanish poet Juan Ramón Jiménez and reference to the Adagio of Joaquín Rodrigo´s Concierto de Aranjuez, Sin Ti, María la O and others, all with the original arrangements by Alan Lewine.

The mixed Cuban-American-Spanish ensemble made a great team with instrumental solos in jazz style, over traditional Spanish melodies sung in classical style over jazz arrangements punctuated by flamenco chords and rhythms. The public recognized most of the material, because the Spanish musical tradition remains alive among the people of the beautiful island of Cuba.

Ensemble RUIMONTE also performed at the cultural center Casa de Alba in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood in a concert dedicated to Iberoamerican Music. Other artists at this concert included classical guitarist Alexander Alvarez Estupiñan, the classical guitar duo Dúo Contrastes  featuring our friend Silvia Frade-Machado, and the “Polyphonic Chorus of Havana.”  The auditorium was full and the concert an enormous success.

That evening at Casa de Alba, we attended a recital of singer-songwriters from Spain, Paraguay and Cuba with Juan Trova, Vicente Feliú and Ricardo Flecha, with gorgeous poems many with protest themes and allusion to justice and solidarity, with informative introductions by the cantautores presenting stories as the setting of the songs.

The Festival Cubadisco 2016 started with an Inaugural Gala at the Sala Covarrubias of the Teatro Nacional de Cuba with a performance by the National Symphonic Orchestra in a concert of classic bossa-nova with arrangements for Brazilian band (with vocalist Rose Max) and Orchestra. With a full and appreciative house, the success the endeavor was impressive. To close Cubadisco some two weeks later, the same orchestra presented the Great Closure Gala, a beautifully realized concert of Cuban popular music arranged for symphonic orchestra. With the title “Popularly Symphonic”, the music included Danzonete, Los Tamalitos de Olga, Veinte Años, Bilongo, Son de la Loma and of course the ever-popular Guantanamera with arrangements by Carlos García, Adolfo Costales, Orlando Vistel and Joaquín Betancourt, directed by Maestro Orestes Saavedra in a beautiful musical delight.

The second part of the concert featured symphonic pieces by Formal y Alvarez, with the Orchestra directed by maestro Joaquín Betancourt and other guests (Falcon, González, Coayo, Aldama and Medina).

Alan Lewine, a member of the board of directors and Legal Officer of the International Society of Bassists (ISB), conceived the trip and we arrived in Havana with a big suitcase full of second-hand strings for double-bass donated by the members of the ISB to share with the bass section of the National Symphonic Orchestra, students of the National Music Conservatory, other bassists working on the streets and with the Ministry of Culture. The Cuban musicians appreciated this generous gesture offered in the spirit of solidarity, for, as a consequence of the years of continuing economic and trade embargo they have suffered, they can obtain few materials for maintenance of their instruments.

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