If you wanted a great opportunity to watch the weaving of a multi-cultural fabric here in New Brunswick, the concert of Raíces Cultural Center Ensemble on October 27th offered you one. The music was amazing. Proverbial value had the title of the last bolero — Como fue? How Come? How come we had such sunny, Caribbean rhythms in our autumnal and somewhat dark sanctuary?
The answer to that question is, of course, extremely complex when one takes the history of Cuba in the latter half of the 20th century into account. The more surprised many of us were when it came to the Question-and-Answer session following the concert. There were about 25 elementary school kids with their teachers from the Livingston School with us, most with Latino background. It was simply amazing in what a natural way they asked so many questions. One little girl even inquired about the African traces in the music we heard. In the end, I had to interrupt the conversation. Otherwise the class would have been too late in going to lunch and back to school.
Would the same have happened had the ensemble presented Vivaldi and Telemann? Most likely not! However, it is precisely our hope here at First Reformed Church to introduce the children (and the wider audience) to a variety of serious musical traditions. It is a small contribution we can make towards the overall integration efforts so needed in our city.
And so we thank Francisco G. Gomez, the leader of the Raíces Ensemble, and his fellow musicians not only for their beautiful art, but also for the important service they provided that day. We thank also our kitchen team, as it undergoes its very own integration experience: We had delicious soups (one was beets with sour cream!) paired with hot dogs and cookies. But if you surmise that only children took hot dogs, you are far off. “Oh, well,” somebody commented on an adult without soup, “their loss.”
And she was right, because the soups very truly incredible.