Cuban Orchestra Tours U.S. Amidst Changing International Relations

Jun 23, 2017

An orchestra from Cuba is making its South Florida debut amidst changing relations between it and the U.S.

The Havana Lyceum Orchestra is on its first tour throughout the U.S. and will be performing Friday at the New World Center in Miami Beach.

The orchestra is one of the country’s most prominent classical music groups composed of conservatory students, graduates and music teachers.

With about half of the members of the orchestra, violinist Maiin Hau has been touring the east coast: New York, Philadelphia, Boston, now Miami Beach.

Malin Hau, a violinist with the Havana Lyceum Orchestra.
Credit Wilson Sayre / WLRN

“When we play Cuban music in Havana, it’s normal,” said Hau, “but when we play Cuban music here, it’s amazing! People be crazy! We didn’t know this before.”

While she feels more at home here in Miami — the food, the language, the weather — than anywhere else the tour has taken the orchestra, Hau says what she loves about music is that you don’t have to speak English, Spanish or any particular language to enjoy it.

“You only have to play or listen or dance!” Hau said.

The tour was organized in part by Simone Dinnerstein, a world-renowned pianist, who in April released an album of Mozart music she recorded with the Havana Lyceum Orchestra. The album is aptly titled "Mozart in Havana."

It’s this classical music that she was interested in sharing with U.S. audiences.

“It’s really their way of listening to each other. They are a real community and that really shows,” said Dinnerstein.

She’s says a big part of that is because the orchestra's members grew up together playing music. She says it’s a quality that she finds less in American orchestras.

Together, they will performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, one of the works they recorded in Cuba. Also on the program is Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major.

Simone Dinnerstein
Credit Wilson Sayre / WLRN

Opening the program is a special performance of preludes by composer Jorge Mejia, who in his day job is president of Sony/ATV Music Publishing Latin America and U.S. Latin.

Each prelude is a piece of the story of Mejia’s life of coming from Colombia to the U.S.  The story of his family and his sensitivity will be narrated in Spanish as the orchestra and piano play.

“To have a pianist of [Simone Dinnerstein’s] caliber and to have an orchestra like this performing the pieces is absolutely exhilarating, it’s absolutely incredible,” said Mejia.

During the two weeks the orchestra has been touring in the United States, President Donald Trump announced  his plans to roll back the opening of relations with the island nation. But Hau says this has not really been on their minds.

“Trump say something, I don’t know, but we are not preoccupied about this,” said Hau. “We only think about music, about the tour … meet people.”

Hau’s brother lives in Miami, though he may now have a harder time visiting her in Cuba.

But for one night in Miami at least, it’s about the music, not the politics.

The performance is scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday, June 23, at the New World Center in Miami Beach.