Duets from a Distance: An Update from the Haitian Orchestra Institute
by Kathleen Sykes
Like many people, we had big plans for the year 2020 that were put on hold while we navigate a global pandemic. Our orchestra musicians were planning on our third annual trip to hold the 2020 Haitian Orchestra Institute (HOI) in partnership with BLUME Haiti when we received news that travel would be limited to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
But come what may, these musicians in Haiti and our orchestra are non-stop! Violinist Yuki MacQueen and cellist John Eckstein have kept in touch with some of the musicians in Haiti and coordinated some socially distant duets which she put on their YouTube channel. Here’s a selection of these duets as well as some information about the featured musician as told by MacQueen and Eckstein:
Utah Symphony cellist John Eckstein writes: I first met Getro Joseph in 2016 at the Saint Trinity Summer Music Camp, where I was a briefly a volunteer teacher. Getro had just recently begun studying the cello and has no recollection of me being there. Getro is a gifted cellist and was recently able to learn functional English in about a month! He continues to rapidly improve as a cellist and share his knowledge with his students in Haiti. Getro participated in the first two Haitian Orchestra Institutes.
Violinist Yuki MacQueen writes: When I emailed Haitian violinist Santya Alexandre to ask if she wanted to play a duet from a distance with me, her reply was “Yes I want”! Such enthusiasm and dedication!! We followed through and made this video of the Allegro from Telemann’s Canonic Sonata No. 1 in G major. So we continue the new tradition of duets from a distance (2000 miles apart), connecting Haiti & the USA!
John Carly Menard
Violinist Yuki MacQueen writes: I met John Carly Menard in 2016 at the Saint Trinity Summer Music Camp outside of Port-au-Prince. John was a bass player then, just starting to experiment on the cello. He has been in the bass section of the previous two Haitian Orchestra Institutes, but was selected as a cellist for the 2020 HOI. A testament to his remarkable work ethic and talent. I’ve had the chance to work with John during each of my trips to Haiti and it has been a highlight for me.
Violinist Yuki MacQueen writes: I met cellist Emantero Valbrun in Haiti in April 2019 when he traveled to Cap Haitien, Haiti to study with Utah Symphony cellist John Eckstein. Emantero is largely self-taught, and also plays trombone, and speaks Haitian Creole, French and English! A very accomplished young man, who is driven to study the cello and improve himself in every way possible.
Violinist Yuki MacQueen writes: Sarah is an accomplished violinist living in Port-au-Prince Haiti. And she was the assistant concertmaster for the 2017 Haitian Orchestra Institute (HOI). We have kept in touch thanks to social media, and it’s nice to have a virtual reunion by playing duets from a distance.
Violinist Yuki MacQueen writes: I met Berlande Alexis at the 2018 Haitian Orchestra Institute in Cap Haitien. She has a wonderfully optimistic and positive attitude that affects us each time we see her.
Ishel Jean Noel
Violinist Yuki MacQueen writes: I met Ishel in the summer of 2016 when I volunteered to teach at a summer camp in Grand Goave, Haiti. Each time I’ve met him since, his violin playing has improved noticeably. I feel that his future is very bright.
Ishel has not been able to travel back to Haiti to see his family because of travel restrictions due to the pandemic, so I hope you join me in sending him some love and encouragement from Haiti and the USA.