For the first time in more than a year the sweet sound of music could be heard echoing through the halls of the Shenkman Arts Centre on Sept. 18. Cuban-born pianist Miguel de Armas brought together a group of fellow Cuban-born musicians to perform a tribute to the Buena Vista Social Club in the Richcraft Theatre.
|Members of the Buena Vista Social Club review acknowledge the audience following their performance at the Shenkman Arts Centre on Sept. 18. FRED SHERWIN PHOTO
The first performance since the COVID pandemic began was held with a number of safeguards in place including limited seating and contact tracing.
The concert was held in a cabaret setting with no more than two people per table to allow for proper social distancing. The members of the audience had to fill out a COVID questionnaire before entering the theatre and they had to wear a face mask throughout the performance.
The second of the two shows started out with the familiar piano intro into the Buena Vista Social Club’s signature song Chan Chan. But first a bit of history. The Buena Vista Social Club consisted of a group of Cuban singers and musicians brought together by American guitarist and producer Ry Cooder in the early 90s. Several members of the group like Rubén González and Compay Segundo were coaxed out of retirement for the project.
The album of the same name and subse-quent series of concerts brought world acclaim to the group.
The project was named after a social club that operated in the Buenavista quarter of Havana from 1929 until just after the Cuban Revolution when it and other social clubs were closed by the new regime.
A number of the musicians who were part of the Buena Vista Social Club project continue to tour to this date as a 13-member band called Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club.
Tribute performances, like the one at the Shenkman Arts Centre, are extremely popular among latin music fans.
Accompanying Miguel de Armas on the Richcraft Theatre stage were lead singers Andy Rubal and Noderlis Valdés, bassist Alex Bellegarde, trumpet player Delfin Marsal, Carlos Alberto Carralero on the Cuban tres, Adrian Perez on guitar, Michel Medrano on drums, and Diomer Gonzalez on congas.
The musicianship of the assembled play-ers was second to none, especially Carlos Carralero on the Cuban tres and Delfin Marsal on trumpet. The tres is a six-string Cuban guitar. It’s shape gives it a distinctive sound. Compay Segudo played the tres on the original Buena Vista Social Club recordings.
No Cuban song is complete without the rising, soaring notes of the trumpet and Marsal provided those notes all evening long.
My personal highlights included “El cuarto de Tula”, “El carretero” and Ibrahim Ferrer’s signature song “Dos Gardenias”.
The first performance in the Harald Shenkman Hall will take place on Oct. 23 when Canadian comedian Sean Cullen takes the stage for some sophisticated silliness. For ticket information visit shenkmanarts.ca.