Cuba to Celebrate 100th Birthday of US Musician Leonard Bernstein

Cuba will celebrate the 100th birthday of the US composer, musician and orchestra conductor Leonard Bernstein with a selection of his most renowned musical works at Havana's Marti Theater, organizers said here.

The shows are scheduled for December 1 and 2, as part of a joint work by Cuba's National Lyric Theater, the Duchesne Cuzan Philarmonic Orchestra, the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television's Choir and the Laura Alonso Ballet.

The tribute to Leonard Bernstein, entitled 'Bernstein Gala' will have the participation of outstanding singers such as the sopranos Dayri Llanes, Angeline Diaz and Daili Roche, and the Swedish mezzosoprano singer Charlotta Huldt, as a guest, under the musical direction of Cesar Eduardo Ramos.

The program consists of a selection of the comic operetta 'Candide' and the musical show West Side Story, a classic in the highly acclaimed artist's repertoire.

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) was a versatile US musician whose 100th birthday has been celebrated in the world since August 2017, with a program consisting of 2,000 shows in all continents, including concerts and exhibitions at important cultural centers.

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Punto Guajiro Highlighted as Humankind's Heritage

The holding of peasant clubs in different scenarios of this central province on Tuesday highlighted Cuba''s Punto Guajiro as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Controversies, tunes and improvisations delight every weekend the followers of that musical expression in Ciego de Avila, where the Punto Guajiro has great representation.

Considered an authentic sonorous genre of the nation's cultural identity, Cuba's Punto Guajiro has its origins in the years of Spanish colonization, and although it was always rooted in rural areas, it has spread to the cities today.

The poet Gualberto Dominguez, from Ciego de Avila, told Prensa Latina that every other Saturday in that territory, peasant parties are held at which groups and improvisers from the community and guests from surrounding provinces perform.

One of the most dynamic peasant music clubs is 'Maria, la Matancera', which in recent days celebrated its 10th anniversary with the participation of representatives of the genre from the provinces of Ciego de Avila and Sancti Spiritus.

Different types of Punto Cubano, tunes, son, boleros, guarachas, sucu sucu and controversies, among other expressions of popular art, enliven every peasant party in the province of Ciego de Avila.

As essential instruments, they use the guitar, the tres, the lute, the claves, the bongos and guiro, which together with the interpretation of a poet achieve high poetic level in ten-line-stanza songs.

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Music improves social communication in autistic children

Engaging in musical activities such as singing and playing instruments in one-on-one therapy can improve autistic children's social communication skills, improve their family's quality of life, as well as increase brain connectivity in key networks, according to researchers at Université de Montréal and McGill University.

The link between autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and music dates back to the first description of autism, more than 70 years ago, when almost half of those with the disorder were said to possess "perfect pitch." Since then, there have been many anecdotes about the profound impact music can have on individuals with ASD, yet little strong evidence of its therapeutic benefits.

To get a clearer picture, researchers from UdeM's International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound (BRAMS) and McGill's School of Communication Sciences and Disorders (SCSD) enlisted 51 children with ASD, ages 6 to 12, to participate in a clinical trial involving three months of a music-based intervention.

First, the parents completed questionnaires about their child's social communication skills and their family's quality of life, as well as their child's symptom severity. The children underwent MRI scans to establish a baseline of brain activity.

Children were then randomly assigned to two groups: one involving music and the other not. Each session lasted 45 minutes and was conducted at Westmount Music Therapy.

In the music group, the kids sang and played different musical instruments, working with a therapist to engage in a reciprocal interaction. The control group worked with the same therapist and also engaged in reciprocal play, without any musical activities.

Following the sessions, parents of children in the music group reported significant improvements in their children's communication skills and family quality life, beyond those reported for the control group. Parents of children in both groups did not report reductions in autism severity.

"These findings are exciting and hold much promise for autism intervention," said Megha Sharda, a postdoctoral fellow at Université de Montréal and lead author of the new research, published in Translational Psychiatry.

Data collected from the MRI scans suggest that improved communications skills in children who underwent the music intervention could be a result of increased connectivity between auditory and motor regions of the brain, and decreased connectivity between auditory and visual regions, which are commonly observed to be over-connected in people with autism.

Sharda explains that optimal connectivity between these regions is crucial for integrating sensory stimuli in our environment and are essential for social interaction. For example, when we are communicating with another person, we need to pay attention to what they are saying, plan ahead to know when it is our turn to speak and ignore irrelevant noise. For people with autism, this can often be a challenge.

This is the first clinical trial to show that music intervention for school-age children with autism can lead to improvements in both communication and brain connectivity, and provides a possible neuroscientific explanation for improvements in communication.

"The universal appeal of music makes it globally applicable and can be implemented with relatively few resources on a large scale in multiple settings such as home and school," said Aparna Nadig, an associate professor at McGill's SCSD and co-senior author of the study with Krista Hyde, an associate professor of psychology at UdeM.

"Remarkably, our results were observed after only eight to 12 weekly sessions," said Hyde. "We'll need to replicate these results with multiple therapists with different degrees of training to evaluate whether the effects persist in larger, real-world settings," she said.

"Importantly, our study, as well as a recent large-scale clinical trial on music intervention, did not find changes with respect to autism symptoms themselves," Sharda added. "This may be because we do not have a tool sensitive enough to directly measure changes in social interaction behaviors." The team is currently developing tools to assess if the improvements in communications skills can also be observed through direct observation of the interaction between child and therapist.

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Materials provided by University of Montreal. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Ruben Blades Documentary: Panamanian Proposal to Goya, Oscar

Panama, Sep 15 (Prensa Latina) The documentary by local filmmaker Abner Benaim, I do not call myself Ruben Blades, will represent Panama in the upcoming Oscars and Goya awards, it was released here today.

According to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of Panama, one of the main values ​​of the material is that it presents a Blades unknown to many.

'Once again Abner surprises us with an exquisite work (...). When finding a character as rich in experiences as Ruben, the temptation to take an inventory of his life is great. Abner abandons that temptation and shows us a more intimate and human Ruben,' said Sergio Cambefort.

According to the president of the Academy of Arts and Cinematographic Sciences of Panama, 'he is not the singer of Pedro Navaja or the Latin policeman who accompanies Harrison Ford in the thriller The Devil's Own, by Alan J. Pakula. It is the Ruben who helps the singer Luba Mason, his wife, to take the garbage off at his residence in New York.'

He added, 'with great generosity Ruben shows us his personal treasures: his house, his comics, his day by day, all accompanied by a camera that is not an annoying intruder, a camera that seems to have been there forever.'

Since 2016 Panama has participated in the Goya Awards with proposals such as Kimura, by Aldo Rey Valderrama; Salsipuedes, and since 2014 at the Oscars represented by Invasion, by Abner Benaim, More than Brothers by Arianne Benedetti, among others respectively.

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Cuban Jazz Musician Chucho Valdes Will Receive Latin Grammy Award

Cuban jazz musician Chucho Valdes will receive the Latin Grammy Award for Musical Excellence 2018 at the gala scheduled for November 13 in Las Vegas, according to the Latin Recording Academy.

During the ceremony at the Four Seasons hotel in that city, the Spanish Dyango, the Brazilian Erasmo Carlos, the Dominican Wilfrido Vargas and the Mexicans Jose Maria Napoleon and Yuri will also be recognized.

Argentine Guitarist Horacio Malvicino and Spanish Tomas Muñoz, executives of the record industry, will also receive the award from the Board of Directors of the Academy.

The Musical Excellence Award is given to artists with a relevant background and contributions to Latin music, and even rewards those who, without being interpreters, contribute significantly to music.

Dionisio Valdes Rodriguez, known worldwide as Chucho Valdes, is a Cuban pianist, founder of the Irakere group and author of a successful work in which he mixes jazz with other rhythms such as rock, classical music and Afro-Cuban roots.

For his exceptional work he received four Grammy awards: in 1979 with Irakere and the album Irakere; in 1997, with Roy Hargrove's Crisol and the album Habana; in 2000, with Live At The Village Vanguard; and in 2009, with Juntos para siempre (Together Forever).

In Cuba he was awarded the National Music Prize 2000 as a just reverence for his wonderful work.

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Cher to release new album, 'Dancing Queen,' next month

Cher will release "Dancing Queen," a new album of Abba covers, on Sept. 28, Warner Bros. Records announced on Thursday.

The singer and actress -- who has won Oscar, Emmy, and Grammy Awards -- was inspired to record the album following her performance in the recently-released hit film, "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again," according to the announcement.

"I've always liked Abba and saw the original 'Mamma Mia' musical on Broadway three times," Cher said. "After filming 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,' I was reminded again of what great and timeless songs they wrote and started thinking 'why not do an album of their music?' The songs were harder to sing than I imagined but I'm so happy with how the music came out. I'm really excited for people to hear it. It's a perfect time."

The album was recorded and produced in London and Los Angeles with Cher's longtime collaborator Mark Taylor, who previously produced Cher's global hit single "Believe."

Cher released a teaser video for the album's first single, "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!," Wednesday night.

Cher is scheduled to be awarded a Kennedy Center Honor on Dec. 2 in Washington DC. She is also a co-producer of the "The Cher Show," the upcoming Broadway musical opening on Dec. 3, and will be touring Australia and New Zealand in September. She is currently performing a residency at MGM Resorts in Las Vegas.

Check out the track list below:

  1. Dancing Queen
  2. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)
  3. The Name Of The Game
  4. SOS
  5. Waterloo
  6. Mamma Mia
  7. Chiquitita
  8. Fernando
  9. The Winner Takes It All
  10. One Of Us
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Cuban Septeto Santiaguero Will Be on its First Local Tour

Santiago de Cuba, Jul 25 (Prensa Latina) Septeto Santiaguero (ESS), an emblematic group of Cuban traditional music, will begin its first national tour at the end of the year, reported Mario Escalona, director of the Recording and Musical Editions Company (EGREM).

During the presentation of 'A mi que,' a tribute to the Cuban classics, the most recent album of the ESS, its director, Fernando Dewar, also announced that in the coming months they will perform in Mexico, the United States and Europe, which will consolidate the vast international trajectory of these musicians.

On the other hand, Alden Gonzalez, manager of 'El Septeto Santiaguero,' alluded to the close links with the EGREM and the continuity of the record work from the beginning with the companies 'Nube Negra' and 'Picap,' as well as the third production they will do for the trilogy with the Dominican Jose Alberto alias The Canary.

As usual in the ESS' phonograms, it has collaborations of world-class artists such as the Canary, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Pancho Cespedes, Edwin Colon and Krency Garcia, 'The Prodigy', along with Cubans Alexander Abreu and Orlando Valle, 'Maraca'.

With a Grammy Award in 2015 for 'No quiero llanto-Tributo a Los Compadres,' the septet has been nominated on three other occasions, including one for the Anglo-Saxon version of those awards.

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Sting lashes out at 'coward' leaders over migrants' fate

British singer Sting lashed out against world leaders on Saturday calling them "cowards" for failing to resolve the refugee crisis, praising though the role of Greece.

"Thank God for Greece because you have shown the way," said Sting, at an Amnesty International event in Athens ahead of his performance Saturday night.

"You have shown how to treat refugees when other people are building walls. When children are being taken from their mothers and put in cages, you are acting with compassion and generosity and commonsense," he said according to Athens News Agency.

Trump on Wednesday ordered an end to the family separations which have sparked domestic and global outrage but the fate of the more than 2,300 separated children has remained unclear.

"Because our so-called leaders, a sad parade of half-men, cowards, have not got the solutions. Democracy began here in Greece, you are showing us how to be civilised again", Sting added.

Greece, with a population of 11 million, recorded 58,661 asylum applications last year, making it the EU member state with the highest number of asylum seekers per capita, according to official data.

French President Emmanuel Macron came out Saturday in support of financial sanctions against EU countries which refuse to accept migrants.

"We can not have countries that benefit hugely from EU solidarity and claim national self-interest when it comes to the issue of migrants," he said at a press conference in Paris alongside Spain's new Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

On the eve of a mini-summit about the divisive migration issue, the two leaders also declared support for the creation of closed reception centres where migrants would be held while their asylum claims are considered.

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