U.S.-Cuba collaboration around music continues to grow.
The Chicago Harp Quartet (CHQ) will be spending a weeklong residency from May 29-June 4 in Cuba. The island nation, a country of 11 million people, today has only one harp teacher and only four pedal harps, and those are in disrepair.
It’s not every day that the Cuban Ministry of Culture invites a small American classical music ensemble to serve as artistic ambassadors for a weeklong residency in Havana. Part of the CHQ’s mission is to bring and donate four harps to Cuba, virtually doubling the number of harps available to that country’s students. Two of those harps have already been shipped.
“We are honored and thrilled for this opportunity,” said the CHQ’s Marguerite (Lynn) Williams. “Our goal is to make a lasting impact on the Cuban students and jumpstart their harp community. It’s our biggest community engagement project yet.”
Facilitated by a serendipitous meeting between the ensemble and young Cuban harpist Anabel Gutierrez during her studies at Indiana University, “No one in Cuba has heard a harp quartet in more than 60 years,” notes Gutierrez. “For the first time, this generation of Cuban musicians and audiences will experience the world of the harp and understand all its possibilities as a solo and chamber instrument. Not only will the harp students be nurtured, but this tour will break many barriers and clear the path for international harpists to perform in Cuba.”
The CHQ’s Havana schedule is jam-packed. The group will present a master class, lead an educational workshop on creating a unique career path with an unusual ensemble, perform a four-harp concerto with the Cuban National Youth Orchestra, and present a full-length public concert to include works by Cuban harpist/composer Alfredo Rolando Ortiz. “As a composer, it is a great honor to have marvelous performers like the Chicago Harp Quartet performing my music,” said Ortiz. The composer’s new version, for four harps, of his solo harp work Pensamientos, will be premiered during the residency.
In March, the CHQ performed a fundraising concert in Chicago hosted by Lyon & Healy Harps, raising nearly $4000 to help enable the CHQ to bring and donate sorely needed supplies, music, and instruments to Cuba. The Quartet is three quarters of its way to meeting its ultimate fundraising goal of $17,000 and will continue to fundraise until the end of May.
Lyon & Healy will match, dollar-for-dollar, all support for the purchase of four harps the CHQ plans to bring and leave in Cuba. Direct donations can be made through the Quartet’s website, or through Crowdrise.
Since its formation in 2012, the Chicago Harp Quartet (Marguerite Lynn Williams, Julie Spring, Catherine Litaker, and Emily Ann Granger) has established itself as the leading harp ensemble in the U.S. Widely regarded as a Chicago treasure, the Quartet has dedicated itself to presenting innovative, charismatic and forward-thinking programs that include original transcriptions as well as new commissions from composers across the globe. The quartet has performed at major concert venues across the U.S. including Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and the Curtis Institute of Music.
As part of its mission, the CHQ collaborates with other cutting edge artists including Third Coast Percussion, Mozawa, and Ho Etsu Taiko, and continues its educational endeavors as instructors for the Chicago Harp Ensemble, as well as educational residencies including Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, New York University and Play On Philly.
The Cuba Journal is an exclusive media partner with CHQ for this amazing event.