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Cuban choir coming to Red Wing

The Shalom Interdenominational Choir from Cuba will perform about a dozen times throughout Red Wing for more than a week starting with two performances at the Diversity Festival in Central Park on Saturday.

Cuba has strict rules about its citizens visiting America, but the hard work of a few local residents will soon pay off as a Cuban choir travels to Red Wing this week.

Carol Duff and Chuck Richardson with the Philip S. Duff Jr. Endowment Fund have taken a lot of time during the past few months to fill out paperwork for every choir member, provide information about the Duff Fund to Cuban officials, send a letter from a local pastor overseas and make dozens of phone calls regarding the trip. They even traveled to Havana to get permission from the Cuban Council of Churches and authorization from the U.S. Interests Section to have two dozen Cubans leave the country.

But despite having had to jump through so many hoops, Duff said she knows having the Shalom Interdenominational Choir -- known in Cuba as the Coro Evangelico Shalom -- come to Red Wing will be well worth the effort.

"Definitely. I think it will be a wonderful experience both ways," she said.

Although it took a lot of work, all of it was necessary for the trip to happen.

"Because we don't have diplomatic relationships with Cuba, there are only a few reasons why Cubans can come to the United States, and one of these is religious," Duff explained, adding that the choir is an ecumenical choir. "So we approached it from the religious angle."

During the 10 days that the choir is in Minnesota, it will perform at more than half a dozen churches, including one in Minneapolis.

Perhaps the most anticipated performances, however, will be those at Red Wing's annual Diversity Festival on Saturday. The 24-member group will entertain at both 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. in the Central Park Band Shell.

"In the park they'll be singing both religious and secular songs," Duff said. "They're also bringing some Cuban folk music into it."

During the choir's visit to Red Wing, the singers will be staying with community members who volunteered their homes.

"People have gone out of their way to offer assistance," Duff said.

Aside from individuals offering places to stay and churches or organizations providing meals for the choir members, the Philip S. Duff Jr. Endowment Fund is paying for the entirety of the costs incurred for the visit.

Duff said the Duff Fund decided to get involved because bringing the Cuban choir to Red Wing perfectly embodied the two major priorities the fund aims to achieve.

"One is to help Red Wing people understand the issues," she explained. "The second is to understand our role in the rest of the world and this is by getting to know people from other countries and them getting to know us."

The choir members -- ranging in age from 20 to 73 years old -- are scheduled to arrive in Red Wing late Thursday night. They'll have time on Friday to tour the town and adjust to the area before taking to the stage this weekend.

The Shalom Interdenominational Choir members will perform at the following times and locations throughout their stay in Minnesota:

• 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. Saturday Sept. 8 at the Diversity Festival in Central Park

• 5 p.m. Saturday Sept. 8 at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, 320 West Ave.

• 9:30 a.m. Sunday Sept. 9 at First United Methodist Church, 403 East Ave.

• 10 a.m. Sunday Sept. 9 at Christ Episcopal Church, 321 West Ave.

• 11 a.m. Monday Sept. 10 at Deer Crest, 470 Fairview Blvd.

• 8:30 a.m. Tuesday Sept. 11 at St. Brigid's at Hi-Park, 213 Pioneer Road

• 6:30 p.m. Wednesday Sept. 12 at First Lutheran Church, 615 W. Fifth St.

• Two performances Thursday Sept. 13 at St. Olaf College and Carleton College in Northfield

• 11 a.m. Friday Sept. 14 at Seminary Home, 906 College Ave.

• Evening performance Friday Sept. 14 at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1200 Marquette Ave. S., Minneapolis

• 11 a.m. Saturday Sept. 15 at Seventh Day Adventist Church, 4652 Highway 61 N.

• 5 p.m. Saturday Sept. 15 at the Church of St. Joseph's, Seventh and North Park streets

• 10:30 a.m. Sunday Sept. 16 at First Presbyterian Church, 503 W. Sixth St.

• 7 p.m. Sunday Sept. 16 at United Lutheran Church, 628 W. Fifth St.