The Haiti Philharmonic: Rebuilding After The Quake The lives of Haitians were upended by a devastating earthquake in January, and musicians were no exception. Conductor David Cesar and Sainte Trinite, the Haiti Philharmonic's chamber group, recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to draw attention to their music school.
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The Haiti Philharmonic: Rebuilding After The Quake

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The Haiti Philharmonic: Rebuilding After The Quake


Earlier this year, NPR's Mandalit del Barco reported on musicians whose lives were upended by the devastating quake in Haiti, including players from the country's national philharmonic orchestra. Conductor David Cesar and other members of the orchestra are here in Washington this weekend. This past Thursday, their chamber group, Sainte Trinite, performed for dignitaries at the Organization of American States.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: Conductor David Cesar is in the studio. Welcome to the program.

Mr. DAVID CESAR (Conductor, Haiti Philharmonic Orchestra): Thank you.

HANSEN: And he's joined by Mariano Vales, coordinator of musical programs for the Department of Cultural Affairs for the OAS, who has traveled to Haiti to help the Philharmonic and the young musicians there. Welcome to the program.

Mr. MARIANO VALES (Coordinator of Musical Programs, Department of Cultural Affairs, OAS): Good morning, Liane.

HANSEN: The school, the Sainte Trinite school, was destroyed. Tell us a little bit about the school and its importance to the people of Haiti.

Mr. CESAR: Well, built in 1913 as an elementary school and in 1956 started the music program. We find gifted children in late '60s, the orchestra performed its first concert in officially 1971, June 1971 we performed officially our first concert.

HANSEN: Yeah, and the orchestra's essentially made up of the students and the teachers at the music school.

Mr. CESAR: Definitely, yes.

HANSEN: Mariano Vales, you went to Haiti to help reestablish the school and organize concerts, including the one that Mandalit del Barco reported on. What did you see when you were there?

Mr. VALES: It was, of course, complete devastation and they were pretty much in shock. It was a very happy moment, though, because I saw them, they were all together, they were rehearsing. And although they were in shock, music was a very strong thing that got them together and give them this hope that it could see, you know, starting to arise.

HANSEN: I'd like to bring another voice into the conversation. Bernadette Williams is a cellist with the Haiti Philharmonic and she's in the studio. Can you tell us what happened to you and what about your home and your instrument?

Ms. BERNADETTE WILLIAMS (Cellist, Haiti Philharmonic): My instrument was in my home, and my home is okay, so that's good for me.

HANSEN: What did it mean for you to be able to play at that point?

Ms. WILLIAMS: Playing cello is like a therapy for me.

HANSEN: Therapy.

Ms. WILLIAMS: Yes. That's why when Mariano came in Haiti after the earthquake, we thinks that we can help people with music.

HANSEN: So, the music is very important to the recovery of the country and the people's spirits.

Ms. WILLIAMS: Definitely. Sure.

HANSEN: Yeah. So, what is the status of the music community in Haiti now? I mean, the Philharmonic, you're still rehearsing, you're still performing?

Mr. CESAR: Oh yeah, oh yeah. So, we perform our last concert in March 28th. It was a requiem concert for all related to the music school who died, their families, friends, and also for all musician who have died during that terrible time. But also we are preparing a concert to give an aspect of resurrection, life continues and in order to show really Haiti will rise again.

HANSEN: Mariano Vales, why was it important to organize performances here in Washington? The Sainte Trinite Chamber Group, why was it important to bring them here?

Mr. VALES: Well, this is a part of an effort to bring visibility to the school and their efforts to reconstruct their facilities. But not only that, Pere David has a brother plan to include the school as a part of the Episcopal university in Haiti. And the school is seen as an icon, a cultural icon in Haiti. That's the main music school, with the main auditorium. So, the idea is, like, in three years to four years from now we'll be lucky enough to get enough funds to rebuild the school and to have a strong school of music, a performing arts facility in Haiti, which would be the first of its kind.

HANSEN: And, David Cesar, what do you hope comes out of this trip?

Mr. CESAR: Solidarity with our brothers and sisters because we are, all of us, children of God. So, sharing gifts, sharing talent, also possibility to invite everyone in Haiti to share our lives, to share our difficulties but also to share our joy and hope.

HANSEN: David Cesar is music director of the Haiti National Philharmonic Orchestra. Mariano Vales is from the cultural affairs department of the OAS. Bernadette Williams is a cellist with the orchestra. Thank you all for coming in.

Mr. CESAR: Thank you a lot.

Ms. WILLIAMS: Thank you.

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