A CUBAN choir, described as “stunning,” arrive in Sheffield tomorrow (Friday) where they will be based for the best part of five weeks on its first-ever foreign tour.
Founded in 2002 by their music director Delvis Sánchez Suarez, Camerata Vocal Música Áurea (‘Golden Voices’), as its name implies, are a chamber choir and the members are young singers from Santiago de Cuba.
Their wide-ranging repertoire encompasses Monteverdi, through such as Bach, Mozart, Mendelssohn and Ravel to 20th century Cuban composers, folk songs and boleros performed, it is said, to the highest technical level and musicality.
The choir were formally invited last year by the then Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Coun Sylvia Dunkley, and the University of Sheffield and this trip takes the form of an exchange visit following trips to the biennial international choral festival in Santiago de Cuba by Sheffield Socialist Choir in 2003 and 2009.
“We met the Camerata in Cuba, who acted as lovely hosts to us,” says Carolyn Leary.
“They are a stunning 14-member, world-class choir and some us felt that they should be given the international audience they deserve in the UK, so we formed a Voces de Cuba project committee with the sole purpose of fund-raising to get them here.
“The visit’s only purpose is as a cultural exchange,” adds Carolyn, nominally chair of the 12-member committee, which has two people acting as joint treasurers.
It has needed them with the range of fund-raising that has gone on, and still is, while the estimated total budget of £33,000 for the choir’s trip across the Atlantic was boosted a couple of months ago when it was learned that a second attempt to secure Arts Council funding had been successful.
Highly thought of in Cuba, Camerata Vocal Música Áurea are regularly asked to sing at official national and regional events in the country, most recently the visit of Pope Benedict, and they have hosted visits with noted choral directors from abroad – Alan Curtis is the obvious name from this part of the world.
Academically and practically, their own director Delvis Sánchez Suarez has played a major role in the development of choral music in Santiago de Cuba since the mid-1980s and is the recipient of numerous awards. She has also been invited to Finland and Venezuela to run workshops in Cuban choral music.
Áurea’s activity in Sheffield includes concerts with Sheffield Oratorio Chorus ladies’ choir Cantaremos at St Matthew’s Church (June 30), Sheffield Socialist Choir at Firth Hall (July 8) and an evening of music by the late Baroque Cuban composer Esteban Salas at Sheffield Cathedral (July 14).
First they will be singing for their supper on Sunday at Cubana, when the Latin American tapas bar on Trippet Lane is sponsoring a fund-raising evening involving a short performance by the choir, a buffet meal and then dancing to DJ music.
They will also take part in a number of schools workshops, a concert with 300 school performers at the Crucible in the Children’s Festival (July 3), a ‘street performance’ in the Winter Garden at 3.30pm this coming Monday and will be joining in with the Olympic torch relay jollities in Tudor Square on July 25.
The choir will also spend a couple of days in York (including a lunchtime concert at the Minster), four in Edinburgh, two in Leeds (including headlining the opening concert of the Garforth Festival) and Nottingham, three in London plus a day trip across the Pennines to Bury to give the opening performance of the National Street Choirs Festival in the Lancashire town.
A special website, www.vocesdecuba.co.uk, has been set up for the visit and includes online ticket purchase for the choir’s Sheffield concerts. Those for the Esteban Salas concert (£14, £7 concessions) at the cathedral are also available in advance from the adjacent Blue Moon Café.