Review by Anita Perry
Last weekend, the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra (OSO) shared the stage with acclaimed singer-songwriter Alex Cuba, winner of multiple Juno and Latin Grammy awards. The capacity theater audience enjoyed the unique combination of Cuba’s sunny, infectious music mixed with a touch of OSO pizzaz, resulting in an uplifting and satisfying evening.
The concert opened with fandango by Fred Perkins. Wielding her baton with exquisite finesse, Maestra Rosemary Thomson skillfully created a passionate, romantic and expressive mood for what was to follow. Thus prepared, the audience eagerly welcomed Alex Cuba on stage. Always entertaining and always versatile, Cuba’s laid-back, warm style set the tone for its partnership with Thomson, uniting the world of classical orchestral music with the unique Latin and North American pop that is the signature of Cuba.
Alternating between acoustic and electric guitars, Cuba’s voice was clear, precise and pure. Although all of Cuba’s works are poignant and emotionally direct, it should be noted By Donde Vas with its catchy rhythmic pulse, satisfying harmonies and enchanting melodies. The layout of Ruido In El System asked the violinists to strum like a guitar in an infectious rhythm, while If Pero No featured lush brass, pizzicato fiddles and one of many chants from the audience.
The second half of the concert opened with the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra performing the lavish and lush works of Ernesto Lecuona Andalusia. Congratulations to Dominique Bernath for her impeccable timpani work and to Audrey Patterson for her magnificent trumpet playing. After thus warming up the audience, the OSO once again welcomed Alex Cuba on stage.
Cuban music is like wrapping puppies, ice cream and baby laughter in the sun. Well constructed and satisfying, each song is imbued with an infectious sense of joy. Of the sun, popsounds of From Camino romantic, intimate and well-written Lament, the Orchestra and Cuba played together with beautifully timed entries and perfect balance. Lush and appropriate orchestration added color and dimension to the performance.
In his own words, Cuba says, “The power of music is to unify” and, as musicians, “We try to give you our soul. Cuba’s easy grace, charm and enjoyment of making music, combined with her warmth, sincerity and hospitality made the evening intimate, like friends gathered in her living room. The standing ovation (rewarded with a recall of four selections) indicated the public’s reluctance to let the evening end. It was a most successful concert, bringing together diverse cultures and origins, and, to paraphrase Cuba, proving that music has no walls, only bridges.