This week I spent a very entertaining evening over a meal and a bottle of wine (and later, on the back of their trademark scooters) with some old friends – the Irish contingency of UNA CORDA. They had flown in for a few days to see what was happening to a great little joint project (Ireland-Cuba) they´d initiated here some years ago.
Back in 2005, one of the group – an unassuming, but well-known, Irish piano tuner, Ciaran Ryan – had come across a project called SAPH. ´Send a piano to Havana´ was the brainchild of the extraordinary Ben Treuhaft who collected piano´s from all over the USA and shipped them to Havana – despite a fierce US blockade – in order to fix and tune them.
Ryan later joined Treuhaft in Havana then returned, excitedly, to Ireland where he and other aficionados – UNA CORDA – raised a deal of money to develop the work. And so it was that Ryan and a group of Irish tuner colleagues – armed with felt, leather, piano wire, glues and tools – came back here, in 2009, to work alongside six young, Cuban, trainee tuners in the capitals pre-academy music school. Why Cuba, you might ask? Because tuning is a dying trade, because of the great humidity and because of pesky little termites which simply eat the wood. Students and teachers are working with pianos which are falling apart and there aren’t enough tuners or materials to save the day.
The project has suffered a few setbacks this last year but the UNA CORDA people don´t give up easily. They are back to give the project the necessary push forward, with the hope that their dream – to support tuners, work together with Cuban institutions and set up a new and independent exchange project – can be realized. Watch this space.
UNA CORDA is always looking for very kind visitors to Cuba who will be ´´mules´´; to bring out bits and bobs of tools and equipment. Please contact ESENCIA for details of how you can help this very wonderful and worthy project.
For more information about the Irish piano tuners project or the radio and documentary programmes being made about them, please contact Ciaron Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org