Canadian quartet, Repercussion, alongside Aldo Mazza (first on the right), in a special concert performed with the National Symphony Orchestra in Covarrubias Hall. Photo: Mireya Castañeda

The National Symphony Orchestra offered a sui generis concert on inaugurating the 18th edition of the Drum Festival “Guillermo Barreto in Memoriam.”

Under the baton of its conductor, Enrique Pérez Mesa, the orchestra hosted the Canadian percussion quartet, Repercussion, at the National Theater, where the impressive instrumentalists offered a show featuring interaction among themselves and with the audience, alongside U.S. pianist Joaquim Horsley.

At the end of a highly acclaimed show in the theater’s Covarrubias Hall, filled with a mostly young audience, maestro Pérez Mesa commented to our publication:

“It was a unique experience. This is the first time that we have performed a complete concert with these excellent Canadian musicians, who are preceded by a great reputation and very respected in the entire world. They also play classical music, but in this performance they played Un Noel para cinco continentes, Obertura, Australia and Africa,” and the piece Hong Kong, by Quebecois composer Yves Lapierre.”

As for pianist Horsley, maestro Pérez considered him “A talent. Very young and he is already capable of composing, of touching the rumba, popular music audience, with works like Amadeus Guaguancó, over Mozart’s Symphony No. 40; Beethoven en La Habana, over his Symphony No. 5; Lacrimoson, from Lacrimosa of Mozart’s Requiem; and Rumbacabre, from the Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns.”

It was a very innovative concert for Cuban music lovers. And for the Orchestra?

I think it’s a way to seek new sounds and new shows that the public needs, for whom we really work, and we have to keep up with the times, we are in the 21st century. When the music is so well written, we will gladly participate in these events.

We thank maestro Giraldo Piloto, who is also an academic musician although he is devoted to popular music, for having extended us this invitation. I think the response from the audience was fabulous, a lot of young people. They say that percussion is one of the instruments most followed by Cubans, not only the batá (drum), tumbadora (conga drum), timba, but also orchestral percussion, and this has been an opportunity to see so many percussion instruments on stage and appreciate how they achieve such interesting sounds, almost like choral symphonies.”

I noticed you felt comfortable conducting the guest musicians...

I felt very comfortable because it’s not really that it is less difficult, but there are fewer complexities, and one gets carried away by the percussion. No one can resist the percussion, you have to follow it. We did a single rehearsal and from the first day we gelled very well. The quartet and Horsley performing the concert with the National Symphony was well worthwhile.

Maestro Pérez added that the members of Repercussion made a donation to the Orchestra of five very expensive cymbals and a triangle. “A very nice gesture, they are people who are used to helping, they are Goodwill Ambassadors and they love Cuba very much.”

Meanwhile, Aldo Mazza, leader of Repercussion, told Granma International that for them “Cuba is very special and likewise, playing the opening concert of the Festival with the Symphony Orchestra is very impressive.”

Regarding Un Noel para cinco continentes, he explained that it was composed for them and is a musical voyage, while Hong Kong was written “after our tour of Asia, which we really enjoyed.”

In another brief dialogue, pianist Joaquim Horsley recalled his participation in 2015 in the workshops conducted by Aldo Mazza in Havana, and “from them was born the project of combining great works of classical music with Cuban and Afro-Caribbean rhythms. For example, the piece Beethoven en La Habana is a style of Cuban rumba. I understood that music so apparently different can be united in something wonderful.”

Horsley commented that he is immersed in the Rumba del nuevo mundo project, “which travels from Los Angeles to the Caribbean through Havana, and in the summer we hope to shoot a video here.”

“La percusión en la música clásica” (Percussion in classical music) was a sui generis concert by the National Symphony Orchestra, as spectacular as always under the baton of maestro Enrique Pérez Mesa.