Mavis Alvarez

Members of Cuba's National Symphonic Orchestra

More than thirty years have passed since my encounter in Varadero with the gentleman who was a musician and the director of the symphonic orchestra.  Those who read the previous entry in my diary already know what happened.

As I had mentioned in this entry, I live near the home of Cuba’s National Symphonic Orchestra, the Amadeo Roldan Auditorium – a name that reminds us and honors the memory of an eminent Cuban musician.

I should mention another detail; as I am retired, I’m provided with a number of senior discounts.  For a nominal price, I can attend all the concerts where the Symphonic performs, and I also have a seat reserved for me in the main hall of the theater.

Every Sunday of each season, a group of us who have attended for years gets together.  This means that because our orchestra seats are adjoining, we can all share in enjoying the performances and commentaries among ourselves.  Perhaps on another occasion I’ll write about this fraternity between golden agers.

But for now I’ll only say that this past summer season has been something “moving.”  Our beloved theater has problems with its air conditioning system.  To tell the truth, as far as I know that equipment must have already fulfilled and over fulfilled its optimal and expected life span by delivering years of useful life.  In the current circumstances though, the cost to replace it —as well as to repair and maintain it— must be some unimaginable figure.

Also, I say this has been a “moving” season because there hasn’t been any canceling of concerts or signs reading “closed for the time being.”  Instead, every Sunday we’ve been moving around from one hall to another in search of places with cool air, yet without losing our enthusiasm.  Yes sir, together we have roamed around town through several halls, with this crew including those of us with our senior discounts, the general public and our battle-hardened musicians with their instruments on their backs.

But returning to the recycling of life and its surprises…

The next to the last Sunday concert of the summer season was designated to be held at the Universal Theater of the main building of the Ministry of the Armed Forces – an excellent centrally located facility, on one side of Revolution Square, with good acoustics, beautiful, comfortable and…with wonderful acclimatized air.

See for yourselves what life does for us the process of recycling.  For all us with discounts, free transportation was provided to take us from the Roldan Auditorium to the Universal Theater a few miles away.

What a pleasure – us traveling like kings and queens through the Vedado district to Revolution Square itself.  Thoroughly content and persisting with my habit of speaking to everybody around me, I commented to the man in the seat beside me about all the vicissitudes we’ve experienced this summer in completing the orchestra season.  I added how it was a pleasure to go to the Universal Theater because it is was a fine facility with excellent conditions, as he would soon see.

As we drove along, I told this man about the life and work of Amadeo Roldan and why the theater was named after him.  I went on to explain to him how several years ago an attempt was made to destroy it, and that they almost succeeded.  Saboteurs burned literally everything; little more than the façade was left… I talked about the cost to reconstruct it, as well as the time and resources.  As the man listened attentively, I could see that he was impressed.

Well, I continued like this and even went into discussing the music that we would hear that day.  The chef d’oeuvre would be nothing less than Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.  I also informed him that the Symphonic would be directed by a guest director, an Ecuadorian whose name didn’t quite ring a bell with me, but that if they invited him he must be good (though sometimes those invitations are made out of solidary, commitment, etc., etc., I explained).

We arrived at the Square and got off the bus.  Before separating, I told my new friend about the musical voyage he would soon experience, that our orchestra was very good, that he would surely delight in everything, but “that I can’t guarantee the guest director, because I’m not familiar with him.”  He only smiled, picked up a small bag from his seat, and descended from the vehicle.

Indeed, the concert was stunning.  The overture “Poets and Villagers” sounded enchanting, simply enchanting.  The violinist, a Cuban soloist named Fonseca from the city of Bayamo, was amazing.  In short, the orchestra sounded marvelous under the direction of the guest Ecuadorian.  But as now you might imagine…he was my new friend from the seat next to me on the bus!

So that no one thinks I’ve made anything up, I have real and verifiable data: his name is Alvaro Manzano, and in the program handed out at the function it said that for 17 years he was the director of the National Symphonic Orchestra of Ecuador.  He is also frequently invited by symphonic groups in several countries, and he has directed all the symphonic orchestras in Ecuador!  A whole page in that program was devoted to listing his vast professional accomplishments!

Why didn’t they give me that program the day before?  Why do I speak with everybody who sits beside me?  What happens with me and symphonic directors?

Of course I didn’t go home on that same bus.  Does life recycle itself or doesn’t it?


Mavis Alvarez

Mavis Alvarez: Palma Soriano is my home town, in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba, part of what was known as Oriente, up until 1976. In the period when I was born, the people of my town were half urban and half rural; neither town’s folk nor farmers, but a little of both. And there seems to be some kind of genetic predetermination in that situation, because when I was deciding what to do with my life, I studied agronomy. When I finished my studies, I wanted nothing else but to work with farmers. And that’s what I did for the rest of my life, until I retired. Sometimes I write stories about things I remember; I study what interests me and I live peacefully in a large house in the Vedado district of Havana with my dog Tuka, who is just about as old as I am. I have one son who in turn had four children, and I now have two granddaughters, two grandsons and a great granddaughter. I don’t think the end result has come out too badly; I have planted trees, written books and given birth to a son.

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