Music Notes – November 2010

Outlaw Honduran regime targets musicians

September 15th, the anniversary of the independence of Central America from Spain, has become a focal point of resistance to the June 2009 coup that overthrew the democratic regime of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya. At this year’s celebration in the city of San Pedro Sula musicians at a peaceful mid-day concert were attacked with tear gas and water cannons by the armed forces. The immediate target was the outspoken band Café Guancasco. The soldiers smashed their rented sound system and stole their gear. While current president Porfirio Lobo Sosa seeks (with U.S. support) to sanitize the regime’s international image, hundreds of peaceful activists have been murdered. Café Guancasco is calling for artists throughout the world to take sides with the Honduran people. For more info visit http://quotha.net/node/1207.

Detroit Symphony Orchestra on strike

Detroit Symphony musicians (AFM Local 5) went on strike Oct. 4th against management demands to downsize the orchestra, impose 33% salary cuts, eliminate pension contributions & slash health insurance. The musicians had already accepted a draconian salary cut of 22% in reponse to management’s claims that a $9 million deficit means that Detroit can no longer afford a “world-class orchestra.” On October 11th violin virtuoso Sarah Chang cancelled a recital at a “replacement concert” after receiving a flood of messages from musicians, including AFM President Ray Hair. Solidarity is growing as musicians from the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra and New York’s Metropolitan Opera Orchestra plan to perform at a benefit concert in Detroit on October 24th.

Mayworks 2011 submssion deadline

November 8th is the official deadline for musicians and other cultural workers to submit a project proposal for Toronto’s 2011 Mayworks Festival. Founded in 1986 by the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, Mayworks is Canada’s largest and oldest labour arts festival. It was built on the premise that workers and artists share a common struggle for decent wages, healthy working conditions and a living culture. Mayworks’ goal is to promote the interests of cultural workers and trade unionists, and to bring working-class culture from the margins of cultural activity onto centre stage. For an application form and info about this and other Mayworks festivals visit http://www.mayworks.ca/.

The Creole Choir of Cuba

Readers who have thrilled to the music of choral groups like Sweet Honey in the Rock and Ladysmith Black Mambazo will want to hear The Creole Choir of Cuba. This 10-piece ensemble sings in creole, Cuba’s second language. Known at home as Grupo Vocal Desandann (“Descendants”) the choir’s members are descendants of Haitians who were brought to Cuba in the 19th century to labour in the sugar and coffee plantations, or more recently, those who fled the horrors of the Duvalier dictatorship. Although the choir was founded in 1994, it only began to take its songs of resistance outside of Cuba in 2009, after signing with Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records. Dates for a North American tour have yet to be announced, but readers can check out their new album “Tande-La” at http://www.realworldrecords.com/.

Plácido Domingo sings Pablo Neruda

Celebrated tenor Plácido Domingo sings the role of exiled Chilean poet Pablo Neruda in Il Postino, a new opera by Mexican composer Daniel Catán currently running at the Los Angeles Opera. It’s based upon the popular 1994 film of the same name, itself an adaptation of Chilean writer Antonio Skármeta’s 1985 novel Ardiente Paciencia. Set in the early 1950s on an island off the coast of Italy, the communist poet is befriended by his young postman who has learned that Neruda is the “poet of the people” and the “poet who loves women.” The shy young man seeks to win a local innkeeper’s daughter and the poet obligingly teaches him the meaning of metaphor. Reviews have been positive and apparently the opera does not shy away from its communist subtext. Next it’s off to Vienna and Paris. Hopefully the Met will stage it so Il Postino can be seen by the masses in its high-definition simulcast series. For more info visit http://www.peoplesworld.org/communism-at-the-opera/.

Irwin Silber: 1925-2010

Folk music activist, author and editor Irwin Silber passed away on September 8th at the age of 84. As co-founder of Sing Out! magazine in 1950 (with Pete Seeger & musicologist Alan Lomax) he could lay claim to being one of the architects of the folk music renaissance that reached a mass audience in the 1960s. As editor of Sing Out! Silber published songs by Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Malvina Reynolds, Leadbelly, Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Joan Baez & Judy Collins. In earlier times he was executive director of People’s Songs, an organization that promoted the music of the American labour movement. Irwin Silber founded Paredon Records in 1970 with his partner, singer & activist Barbara Dane. Until its demise in 1985 the company released the music of revolutionary movements from around the world. It’s now part of Smithsonian Folkways.

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