Harmony Beat

William Harvey's thoughts about cultural diplomacy and news about Cultures in Harmony, the non-profit he founded in 2005.

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Location: San Juan, Argentina

violinist, violist, educator, composer, conductor, arranger, cultural diplomat

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How Four American Musicians Found an Unofficial Grandfather in the Philippines

Written by Cultures in Harmony Deputy Director Danielle Kuhlmann

Yesterday we traveled to two of the island communities where our Tagbanua musicians live. We woke up early, and set sail for Chinonden, a tiny village that was hard hit by Typhoon Haiyan. We arrived by banka boat, but couldn't approach the shore because of low tides (the tides are particularly low because of the recent supermoon!), so the community sent out a couple of smaller boats to shuttle us (and our instruments!) to the shore. 

We set up in an all-purpose open air structure, and were soon joined by people from the village of all ages. As we proceeded with our presentation, we were often visited by some other locals- a hen with her chirping chicks in tow, and few stray pigs! When I demonstrated the French horn, the pigs squealed and all ran away! We all shared a good laugh at my expense. 

It was particularly wonderful for us to get to see some of the Tagbanua musicians in their hometowns. We met many of their wives and even children. They spoke with pride about their instruments and their music. With every day and every performance they gain confidence- speaking louder, longer, and with more excitement every time. 

I'd like to digress from the play-by-play kind of updates to reflect a bit on our time spent with the Tagbanua musicians of the islands of Coron, Alulad, and Chindonen. 

We spent 5 days getting to know the musicians of the Tagbanua Tribe-eating with them, talking with them, and living with them as friends and equals. 

Sometimes it's easy to overlook or take for granted the personal connection we can create through the arts. As seasoned performers and teachers, it's easy to forget what a privilege it is to be able to express ourselves in a creative way, and furthermore, to be appreciated and compensated for it. For indigenous people, and musicians, even acknowledgment and respect can be an every day struggle. Rodolfo, one of the musicians, communicated to us that he'd had many negative interactions with foreigners, tourists, and Americans. He had felt taken advantage of, disrespected, and treated as a lesser human being. It's hard for me to even type these words, knowing how special and important Roldolfo is in his own community, and now to ours. Every country struggles to navigate the difficult history and current hardships of our indigenous communities. It's important to see indigenous people as fellow human beings and legitimate communities and nations, instead of exoticizing them as colorful tourist attractions and props. 

The bond that we formed and felt with these musicians is hard to describe. It might be best summed up on some of the words that we spoke to each other during our final day. Francisco, who arguably has the biggest personality of anyone I've ever met, talks faster than anyone I've ever heard, and can make an entire room laugh even though none of us speak the same language, told us that the feeling he felt after working with us and with his fellow Tagbanua- that feeling, to him, was happiness. 

Diostado, our Flauta player, and sort of unofficial "Lolo" (grandfather), told us he could not accept that it was coming to an end. We couldn't either, and as we played our last Paalam song of farewell at our final performance on Culion Island, we all felt the joy and sadness that the experience had happened, and was coming to and end. Once again, Diostado was overcome with emotions and could not continue playing. He sat down and looked off into the distance, tears streaming down his face. Rebecca walked across the stage, still playing, and sat with him. He started up again, and then he refused to stop! We played until we couldn't play any more.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Kimberly's update from Philippines

Cultures in Harmony cellist Kimberly Patterson has this update from our ongoing project in the Philippines:

This trip has been one of the most emotionally poignant trips I ever taken. I think I can speak for all four of us and say that the bond we forged with the Tagbanua is sound. 

The Tagbanua transformed from shy men to confident musicians who were immensely proud to share their music with other Tagbanua and the people of Culion. Each concert became more lively, with the men barely speaking about themselves to the audience, to speaking about detailed histories about themselves and the instruments.  

I could tell that something special had happened during our time when we were performing the last piece of the last concert: we played the traditional Farewell song. After Danielle and Rebecca played their answer solos, Diostado, the flute player, was supposed to take the melody over. However, he couldn't find the strength to play because his emotions were getting the best of him, which led to a chain reaction with every musician, including us. When we finished, the Tagbanua, all grown men of vastly differing ages, hugged each one of us with tears streaming down their faces. Something truly special had taken place over the past few days.  

Diostado and Frank had such an incredible bond because of music. Diostado, a man in his late 60's, hugged Frank while crying for a solid minute, calling him his friend- all because of connecting with him through music. Frank would eagerly learn Diostado's flute melodies which granted him an incredible amount of respect from Diostado. 

On a side note, Frank's new nickname should be, one who makes grown men cry. Then again, Diostado made Frank cry. I think this trip truly defines the name, Cultures in Harmony.

Photos by CiH violinist Rebecca Schlappich

Friday, August 15, 2014

Concert for lepers in Philippines

Written by CiH Deputy Director Danielle Kuhlmann

Today we had our first exchange with the Tagbanua in Cagait on Culion Island. We traveled by banka boat, waded through the mangroves, and hiked up a steep hill before we reached our venue. Excited villagers gathered as we unpacked our instruments, many of the young girls covering their faces (the Tagbanua are known for being extremely shy).

We began with a performance of a Filipino folk song, and as we played, the audience grew. We introduced each instrument- both those of Cultures in Harmony participants and those of the Tagbanua musicians. Some people in the village were familiar with these traditional instruments, but others were seeing them for the first time. Many have only heard of them, as their presence has died out in many regions.

The Tagbanua musicians led us in a performance of a Tablay, or song, involving all of the Tagbanuan and CiH musicians.

Our exchange went on to demonstrate the different ways in which musical traditions are passed on through generations. In the Western Classical tradition, our musical notation, and more recently the prevalence of recordings, have preserved our musical heritage. For the Tagbanua tribe, their musical history has been passed down orally.

After a few more performances, we broke off into smaller groups. It was important to us that the community could get a closer look at the traditional instruments and have a chance to interact with their fellow musicians. I was with Diostado, the older Flauta player, and as we approached each small group, he spoke in their mother tongue about the history of his instrument, how he built it, and the importance of the musical tradition. He spoke of how, in his mind, playing these instruments was a way to equalize people of all classes, languages, and cultures. Some of the villagers kissed his hand, thanking him profusely for bringing the instruments and music of their ancestors back to them. It was a very special and powerful exchange that I was honored to be able to facilitate.


After arriving back in Culion, we took merienda, a short rest, to recuperate, and then headed up the hills of Culion for a special performance at the local hospital. Culion Island is well known historically for being one of the most prominent Leper colonies in the Philippibes and the world. There are many living here today who are still greatly affected by the disease, whether it is a physical deformation, the memory of a lost loved one, or the memory of the discrimination that has often been felt towards the Leper community. The patients we visited have little to no family, and no place else to go. They live out their old age at the hospital.

We were instructed to be mindful that the patients may be missing limbs, and, while, there would be no photography or video allowed of any kind, the patients were no longer suffering contagious symptoms, and we were free to interact with them as we pleased.

We arrived in the hospital, a rustic, open-air facility with quite possibly the world's most beautiful view from a medical facility. Again, each instrument and musician was introduced and demonstrated, and we performed traditional Tagbanuan music together. It was a truly joyous experience. There were around 25 patients and staff who listened raptly to each musician and clapped vigorously at every demonstration. The music brought wide smiles to the faces of every person in the room, many who clapped and danced along.

One woman, a nurse told us, was often completely unresponsive, in a constant state of lying down. When we began to play, she rose up and clapped her hands, smiling! The nurses were flabbergasted and thrilled.

There was a Tagbanuan woman who worked at the hospital. She told us she was the cousin of many of the musicians. She aided in the singing of the Tagbanuan Tablay song, and generously (and vigorously!) helped with the demonstration of the traditional Suring dance!

After our performance concluded, we thanked all of the patients for inviting us into their space to perform. Many shook hands with the performers and members of Cartwheel. Some had tears in their eyes and all were smiling. It was a really wonderful experience for all of us!

Update from the Philippines

CiH Deputy Director Danielle Kuhlmann sends this update from our current project in the Philippines:

We've been working and living on the remote island of Culion for 3 days, and already we feel such camaraderie  with the Tagbanua musicians! We've been exchanging music and cultural stories- the Boy Who Cried Wolf, for example, was countered by an old Tagbanua tale of a man who convinces his friend to take a bath by telling him there is a party going on under the water.

We are preparing an interactive concert to present to the island communities of Cagait, Chindonen, and Alulad. The Quartet of musicians from Cultures in Harmony will perform a traditional Filipino folk song alongside a Bach Fugue. We will dance with the community in a traditional wedding dance called Suring. We will collaborate with the Tagbanua musicians and share with each community how we learned each other's music and worked together to create the pieces we will perform, including the Tablay song and the Paalam, a farewell song. An we will facilitate the exchange of traditional music between the Tagbanuan musicians and the other communities.

We rehearsed this morning before departing for our first performance. As we played an extended version of the Paalam, the flauta player, Diostado, the oldest of the Tagbanua musicians, was so overcome with emotion that he couldn't continue playing. He said that the joy of playing the music with all of us "cut straight into his heart." Needless to say, we were all overcome with emotion! It has been a beautiful experience in just a few days, and we look forward to spending the next few days sharing this joy with each community we are visiting!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A question

What is the Passacaglia Project?

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Cultures in Harmony projects start this week

This week, Cultures in Harmony will send two teams of American classical musicians on projects to Tunisia (August 3 to 16) and the Philippines (August 9 to 23) to promote cultural understanding through music.

Danielle leads a workshop for the Tala-Andig indigenous community in Miarayon, Mindanao, Philippines, in 2007. Then as now, CiH worked with the Cartwheel Foundation.

We are very excited to return to the Philippines after a 5-year hiatus. We will collaborate with the Cartwheel Foundation to present workshops for Tagbanua indigenous communities on the island of Culion. The Tagbanua communities suffered a great deal after Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the Philippines  last year. We hope our workshops will help bolster efforts to revitalize Tagbanua culture, and we are particularly excited to work with Tagbanua musicians to bring traditional instruments back to communities where such music had died out even before the typhoon.

We will present concerts alongside our Tagbanua musician partners in various communities before returning to Manila for a concert at the Ayala Museum on August 21. At that concert, in collaboration with musicians from the Manila Symphony, we will help the Cartwheel Foundation celebrate 15 years of their work nurturing Filipino indigenous heritage through relevant education. The project in the Philippines will be led by Danielle Kuhlmann, French horn, and will also include Frank Shaw, viola; Rebecca Schlappich, violin; and Kimberly Patterson, cello. Thank you to CiH donor Dianne McKeever for underwriting the participation of Rebecca Schlappich!

A young audience member enjoys CiH's performance at the annual festival in Beni Mtir, Tunisia, in 2012.

In Tunisia, where we have traveled annually since our own founding in 2005, we will teach young musicians at a series of workshops presented in collaboration with Atlas Music Academy. The idyllic rural setting of Beni Mtir will enable the musicians to focus. Together with the CiH musicians, they will form a "musical caravan" and perform in communities such as Jendouba. Pianist Kimball Gallagher will lead the Tunisia project, which includes Shoshana Gottesman, viola; Anya Yermakova, composition and piano; and Joel Schut, violin and conducting.

These extraordinary projects depend entirely on your tax-deductible donations. Please donate to Cultures in Harmony to support our work promoting cultural understanding through music. Thank you so much!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cultural diplomacy blog and evening news in Taiwan

I am honored that the USC Center on Public Diplomacy featured my essay on their blog! Entitled We Need More Than A Violin To Connect Argentina and Myanmar, the essay argues for the importance of multilateral cultural diplomacy.

By a coincidence, I also made the evening news in Taiwan. The segment is about an indigenous group that makes violins. The news included snippets of me playing the Bach E Major Prelude on one of the indigenous group's violins at Monument Books in Yangon, Myanmar, as a guest artist at the Myanmar Music Festival, as well as a photo of me and the other musicians of the festival with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Meanwhile, in San Juan, Argentina, I conducted the Orquesta Festival de Ruidalsud, which I am preparing for San Juan's first festival of contemporary music at the end of August. Here is a recent article (in Spanish) about the festival.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Barenboim's thoughts on Gaza

Renowned musician and cultural diplomat Daniel Barenboim, the only person in the world to hold both Israeli and Palestinian passports, has a valuable perspective on the current tragic situation in Gaza.