From Haiti to Denver
By Nick Dobreff
"Sa k'pase? N'ap boule!"
A common Haitian Creole greeting, it means “What's up?” or “How's it going?” and the response is ‘”I'm on fire!”
For three visiting students from the Haiti Youth Orchestra, this greeting became a rallying cry for a weeklong visit to Denver.
Students Peter Clervoyant (violin), Fencia Clervoyant (cello), and David Marcellus (trumpet) spent a week in Denver from December 5-10 that included the opportunity to work with members of the Colorado Symphony and perform at Boettcher Concert Hall. In addition, they observed and played with El Sistema Colorado and the Denver Young Artists Orchestra, and participated in an interview and performance on KUVO Jazz.
“The phrase ‘N'ap boule’ became a pretty accurate description of their time here,” said Catherine Beeson, Assistant Principal Viola and Director of Community Education Programs for the Colorado Symphony. “Their enthusiasm for learning was infectious. It seemed that every Symphony musician, audience member, and fellow student they touched walked away with a little more fire than they had before.”
This visit, their second to Denver in the last two years, is part of a partnership with Road to Hope Haiti which supports the Haiti Youth Orchestra and its programs. The Colorado Symphony has partnered with Road to Hope Haiti since 2014 when they began helping the organization collect instruments for the students.
Over the past two summers, Colorado Symphony musicians have traveled to Mirebalais with donated instruments and a wealth of knowledge to dispense to an eager group of students. You can read more about the Colorado Symphony’s community outreach with the HYO here and here.
“Our HYO teaching team of Helen McDermott, Abby Raymond, Paul Naslund, and student apprentice Anna Martens came back from their work in Mirebalais this summer with inspirational stories of improvement from the now 80 students in this growing 5 year old ensemble,” Beeson explained. ”This time it was Peter, Fencia, and David's chance to spread that inspiration to the rest of us here in Denver.”
The visit included private lessons, ensemble rehearsals, and side-by-side observations of Colorado Symphony rehearsals. But perhaps the most memorable moment was the opportunity to meet world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
After rehearsals for his December 10 performance with the Colorado Symphony, Mr. Ma spoke at length with the students, in fluent French no less, about a wide range of topics including the importance of never giving up the work of connecting and building community through music. He even allowed Fencia the thrilling opportunity to play his own personal Davidov Stradivarius cello.
The students’ whirlwind visit was capped by a performance at Boettcher Concert Hall on December 10 along with Colorado Symphony violinists Dorian Kincaid and Anne-Marie Hoffman, violists Helen McDermott and Leah Kovach, cellists Judith McIntyre and Andrew Briggs, bassists Steve Metcalf and Owen Levine, clarinetist Abby Raymond, oboist Nicholas Tisherman, trumpeters Justin Bartels and Philip Hembree, and trombonist Paul Naslund. The performance featured the American National Anthem, Strauss’ Pizzicato Polka, Carol of the Bells by Mykola Leontovych, Beethoven Andante, Bach Fugue, Jupiter from Holst’s ‘The Planets’, and the Haitian National Anthem.
The making and sharing of music between cultures was a special experience for all involved with Beeson summing up the week as, “A powerful thing to experience, this music without borders, this building of community through cultural infrastructure.
Visit haitiyouthorchestra.com to learn more about their mission and contact Catherine Beeson, Director of Community and Education Programs at email@example.com for more information about the Colorado Symphony’s involvement with the Haiti Youth Orchestra.