Jorge Luis Valcarcel Gregorio celebrates the 50th anniversary of his artistic work this season. This symphonic concert devoted to him is the culmination of our Drums Carnival week. We have been listening to percussion music in various guises throughout the week. However, on this most special day, we give the field to the genre that Jorge Valcarcel likes the most:
"My brother, Marcos and I entered the world of percussion not with folk instruments or a jazz set, but with marimba, timpani and the like. My father had been the first timpani at the opera house in Havana for many years and took us to rehearsals. More than once, we played the drum rehearsals while tapping rhythms. My father enrolled us in a music school, and from then on, I was condemned to percussion… and even symphonic drums. Everyone thinks that I am most crazy about these Congas, yet in fact, my passion is symphonic music. "
The first piece that Jorge Valcarcel performed 50 years ago as a professional drummer and orchestra member was "Halka" by Stanisław Moniuszko, staged in Havana by Maria Fołtyn, an outstanding opera singer, who was starting her directing career at that time. "I remember when the conductor Bogusław Madey asked if I could make it ... Back then, I could not have foreseen that this piece would become prophetic for me!" Jorge laughs today.
Luckily, these performances entered the canon of stories about Polish musical life for a different reason. Sławomir Pietras recalls: "At the request of the then minister of culture, I borrowed a set of decorations and costumes from the Wrocław Opera to Halka, which was directed in Cuba by Maria. After her return to Poland, I demanded to have them returned, to which Fołtyn, with fire in her eyes, screamed: 'God is not in your heart! After the last performance, I gathered a Havana ensemble and, as a thank you, let them go home in these costumes because there is poverty, and they have nothing to wear!".
After several years, being in Havana, I visited our ambassador. "Do you know, sir, that we still meet on the streets of Havana aged rum amateurs dressed in highlanders' costumes?" – he said amused *.
Later in the concert, symphonic works by Cuban composers will be performed – the already mentioned Marcos M. Valcarcel Gregorio, Guido Lopez Gavilá, Flores Chaviano and Leo Brouwer. Although many composers wrote both classical and popular Creole music in Cuba, the distinction became more apparent after the 1960s, when (at least initially) the regime frowned on popular music and closed most of the nightclubs while providing funding and support for classical music.
I was the first person in Cuba's history to graduate from higher percussion studies, continues Jorge Valcarcel. After studying in Poland and working in Cuba for several years, he decided to return to Poland permanently, however, maintaining many friendships among performers, conductors and composers whom the whole world knows today.
* Sławomir Pietras, Maria Fołtyn. Życie z Moniuszką, "Angora" No. 19 of May 10, 2020, p. 9.
Jorge Luis Valcarcel Gregorio | Artistic jubilee