Paraguayan partners perform

Regina Budden

White Concert Hall chirruped with bird song and piano trills Feb. 9 as Paraguayan singer Liliam Rodriguez and accompanist Diego Sanchez Haase performed music from their native country. The songs ranged from more contemporary, uniquely Paraguayan songs such as “Chiricoe,” by Juan Carlos Moreno Gonzalez, and the classical and better-known “Der Holle Rache,” by Mozart.

Rodriguez and Haase were able to bring us their culture’s music through a program called Kansas Paraguay Partners. It is a part of Partners of the Americas, which is an organization that matches up states in America with countries in South America. The organization is volunteer-based and encourages both countries to trade ideas and equipment in all aspects of their cultures. Some of the most important information is in the areas of health and emergency services. Kansas is getting ready to ship used firefighting materials to Paraguay’s firefighting volunteers because Paraguay doesn’t have any official fire department, said Kathryn Kasper, one of Rodriguez’ teachers through the Kansas Paraguay Partners program.

The day after the concert, Rodriguez gave Washburn another taste of her soprano when she and Haase taught a mastery class to the music department’s performance class. They brought Paraguayan songs and had the students sing along, and explained the significance of each piece. Also, Haase and Rodriguez’ husband, Victor, who had to translate some, gave a brief history of Paraguayan contemporary music, and also discussed the effect their country’s politics had on many composers throughout history.

Paraguayan music is difficult for Americans to read, Kasper said, because it is not written the way it is played. A lot of it is passed on through tradition, and, on the rare occasion that written music is found, it is more a set of guidelines than what would normally be thought of as sheet music. Haase is being paid to arrange the traditional music into a more legible format.

One of the biggest traits of this music is the amount of syncopation, or erratic rhythms. In the mastery class, a student asked Haase and Rodriguez what the biggest challenge was when working with Americans trying to sing Paraguayan songs. Haase said, “It is most difficult for them to have syncopation. They are too rhythmic.”

Rodriguez and Haase will be touring Kansas and will teach mastery classes in Wichita, Emporia, and Fort Hays, but this was the first. It was also the first time for Rodriguez to perform a song in English, which was “Let the Bright Seraphim,” by Handel. Although the way is paid for her to travel, Rodriguez does not make any profit for this tour. She is just doing this as a way to be an ambassador for her country. Rodriguez and Haase cannot stay in a hotel; part of the point of this tour is to introduce them into Kansas life. So, everywhere they go, they stay with a host-family that is responsible for their meals and living arrangements.

Although Rodriguez is missed in her home country, her fellow-Paraguayans are grateful that she has had this opportunity.

“There is a story in the papers there about her almost every day. They are very proud of her,” said Kasper.