The spirit of the Irish connection to Cuba is captured by a plaque on Old Havana's O'Reilly Street:
"Two island peoples in the same sea of struggle and hope: Cuba and Ireland"
Cuba’s third annual Celtic Festival will shortly be celebrated. For the first time Irish American musicians, singers, dancers, academic specialists and fans will be able to participate, enjoying the craic while learning in the most direct and personal way possible about life in Cuba today.
The festival offers direct involvement with Cuba's well-established emigrant societies from Spain's Celtic provinces of Asturia and Galicia that play a role in Cuba similar to Irish county societies in the US. With limited resources they foster a lively expression of traditional music, instruments, dance and costumes.
CeltFest receives the support of Culture Ireland, the Historian’s Office in Havana, Na Piobairi Uilleann (Uilleann Pipers Club of Ireland), the Irish Arts Council, and the embassy of Ireland for Mexico and Cuba. It features workshops in uilleann piping, fiddle, singing and dance, pipe and reed-making classes, informal seisiúns and concerts with performers from Ireland and Canada.
Scheduled to date from Ireland are pipers Paddy Keenan, Gay McKeon and Donnacha Dwyer; from Canada the Tam O'Shanter Dancers of South Surrey/White Rock, Prince Edward Island fiddler Roy Johnstone and Cape Breton fiddlers Chrissy Crowley and Rosie MacKenzie.
Among the Cuban performers are Artistica Gallega Pipe Band, Asturian Pipe Band, Aires Galegos De La Habana, Asturian Folk Group "Resurrectio" of Pinar Del Rio, Band and Dancers of Monterroso y Antas de Ulla, Havana's Galician Dancers "Grupo de baile de la Sociedad Agrupación Artística Gallega de La Habana", and the symphonic prog rock band Anima Mundi with Galician bagpipes, the Celtic flute and the tin whistle.
Evening concerts will be held in the Asturian and Galician clubs and in conjunction with the Festival of Dance in Urban Landscapes. Workshops will usually take place in the morning and informal sessions at night. The Irish and Celtic influence outside of Havana will be the focus of field trips to Pinar del Rio and Matanzas.
During times that no CeltFest activities are scheduled, discussions will be held with Cuban experts on the role of the Irish in their country’s history. Visits will be made to related historical locations in the UNESCO world heritage city of Old Havana.
Participants will have an opportunity to meet Cubans active in other aspects of the country’s music and dance, including a visit to the International School of the Arts, a performance of Opera de la Calle (Opera of the Street), and encounters with salsa and jazz musicians.
inal price will be affected by the number of participants.
John McAuliff, formerly President of the Philadelphia Ceili Group and Assistant Editor of the Irish Edition has traveled frequently to Cuba since 1997 as Executive Director of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development. He’s at [email protected]