About Camerata Caribe 1983-2003 and Lotta
Camerata Caribe was formed in August of 1982 “in residence” at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico by five professors who wanted to play chamber music together: Peter Kern, flute; David Bourns, oboe; Kathleen Jones, clarinet; Alan Brown, bassoon; and Vanessa Vassallo, piano. The four winds were also principals of their sections in the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra and all five had performed as soloists with the PRSO on various occasions. These founding members worked together for approximately two decades, presenting more than100 concerts at the CMPR, in the Casals Festival, at the University of Puerto Rico, and in other venues on the island and abroad. In the early years, David recorded some of the concerts with his personal equipment onto cassettes. These now aged tapes are possibly the only extant recordings of the group from that era.
One of Camerata’s stated goals was to encourage the composition of new works for their somewhat unusual instrumentation. By 2007 some 66 works had been written for them, as documented in “An Annotated Bibliography of Works Written for Camerata Caribe.” The present CD includes live recordings of three original compositions written for the group by Lotta Maria Hertlein Riefkohl. The audio engineer Néstor Salomon has digitized, restored and mastered the recordings, with the musical and sound supervision of Kathy and David (the only two founding members still living.) With modern technology it has been possible to eliminate unwanted noise and optimize the sound, while preserving the essence of live recordings from the 1980’s and 90’s. In addition, some performance details have been improved.
We hope you will enjoy listening to these works by our friend and colleague Lotta (1935-2007,) who was wife, mother, friend, pianist, accompanist, teacher, forensics coach, and, at her heart, passionately self- proclaimed, COMPOSER. We invite you to “Meet Lotta.”
And as for Camerata Caribe, younger Conservatory professors have joined the group, which celebrated its 40th anniversary with a concert on February 5, 2023 at the Conservatory’s new facilities in Miramar.
About the works and recordings:
Piano Woodwind Quintet, was Lotta’s first composition for Camerata, written in 1984 and premiered that year in the CMPR on November 25 in a concert sponsored by the Latin American Foundation for Contemporary Music (Fundación Latinoamericana para la Música Contemporania.) The live recording presented here was made by David Bourns, also performing as oboist, on February 25, 1996 in the Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico, Sala Sanroma en Hato Rey, in a concert celebrating Puerto Rican Music week (Semana de Música Puertorriquena.)
“Jazz” for oboe and piano was “Written for Mr. David Bourns” in 1986, and is “Dedicated to Dr. James McCoy,” Lotta’s friend and colleague from the Interamerican University music faculty. It was premiered by David Bourns and pianist Alberto Hernández at the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriquena in a recital on Jan. 25, 1987. This recording is probably from a rehearsal without public present.
Homage, a sonata for clarinet and piano, was written about two years after the Quintet, dedicated to Kathleen Jones, and performed only once, on a Camerata concert of December 7, 1986 in Sala Sanroma at the CMPR in Hato Rey. Lotta taped the performance on a small cassette recorder and sent it to Bernard Portnoy, to be considered for publication in the Indiana University Series of Clarinet Solos. Portnoy, indeed, chose the work, and it was published in 1989 by Southern Music, now Keiser.
Bonus tracks “At Christmas Time” and “I Have Lost My True Love.” We are pleased to include these two songs with words and music by Lotta. Her son, Luis Riefkohl Hertlein, received a CD in 2022 from a family friend with copies of tracks recorded (with some technical deficiencies) around 1983 by his mother, on piano, and on vocals, Olga Merediz, who was, at that time, beginning her career in New York City. Ms. Merediz, now a Broadway and screen star (Abuela Claudia from “In the Heights,” by Lin Manuel Miranda,) had been a student of Lotta’s at Commonwealth School in San Juan in the 1970’s. Ms. Merediz has kindly given permission for these beautiful songs to be included on this CD, a tribute to her former music teacher. The middle section of the second song was translated to Spanish by Ms. Merediz. It has not yet been possible to identify the musicians on electric bass or drums.
We hope that you, the listener, will enjoy these wonderful works by Lotta Maria Hertlein Riefkohl, and that her compositions will continue resonating.
Lotta Maria Hertlein Riefkohl (1935-2007), composer
Born in Philadelphia, Lotta Maria earned a Bachelor of Music degree in violin from the Academy of Music and a master’s degree in music education from Temple University, both in her home city. She arrived in Puerto Rico in the early 1960s to teach in the music department of Interamerican University in San German.
She married Luis E. Riefkohl, and they had one son. During her career as musician and educator Lotta worked at Interamerican University, at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico (accompanying the students in Maria Esther Robles’ vocal studio,) at Commonwealth High School and at St. John’s School.
Her works include sonatas for violin, two song cycles, and children’s songs, in addition to the compositions in the present collection. Her photos are courtesy of Luis B. Riefkohl Hertlein.
Camerata Caribe 1983-2003
Camerata Caribe is composed of five professors at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico who aspire to encourage local and international composers to write new chamber music works. The members are: Peter Kern (flute,) David Bourns (oboe,) Kathleen Jones (clarinet,) Alan Brown (bassoon,) and Vanessa Vassallo (piano.) The group is sponsored by the CMPR, where they offered their first concert in February of 1983. They have also performed at the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, and at the Luis A. Ferré Fine Arts Center.
Each of the members of Camerata Caribe has participated as soloist with the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, and in numerous recitals and chamber music programs in Puerto Rico and off the island. The four wind professors are also principals of their sections in the PRSO.
Update to this early biography of the group: as professors have retired, new members of the wind department have replaced them. Camerata Caribe celebrated its 40th anniversary concert at the CMPR on February 5, 2023 with professors Josue Casillas, flute; Jesus Ramos, oboe; Kathleen Jones, clarinet; Joshua Pantoja, horn; Adam Havrilla, bassoon; and Pedro Juan Jimenez, piano. Camerata Caribe expresses its gratitude to the administration of the Conservatory for its continued support.
Peter Kern (1938-2018), flute
Born in Slatedale, PA, Prof. Kern graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia in 1962 with a bachelor’s degree in music, a student of William Kincaid. He joined the Coast Guard Band, and played in The Bach Festival, as well as Allentown bands. He arrived in Puerto Rico at the invitation of Pablo Casals and was a member of the Casals Festival Orchestra and the principal flutist in the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra until his retirement in 2003. He played in the Soni Ventorum Wind Quintet from1966 to 68 and was a professor at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico for 30 years, playing in Camerata Caribe from its founding until 2001. In 1974 he was the flute professor at the University of Wisconsin, where he also played with the Woodwind Arts Quintet. In 1976 he played at the Berlin Philharmonic Hall in the annual Bach Festival.
David Bourns (b. 1944), oboe, recording engineer of original cassettes, consultant, and co-producer of “Meet Lotta.”
David Bourns studied at the University of Michigan and then earned a Master of Music degree at the Manhattan School in New York in 1967 studying with Robert Bloom. He was principal oboe of the Puerto Rico Symphony and Professor of Oboe at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico from 1968 until he retired in June of 2006. He was soloist with the PRSO on various occasions and was a member of the Casals Festival Orchestra from 1968, being named to its principal oboe chair in 1979. He released Caribe Oboe, a CD of works by Puerto Rican composers, in 2005.
Kathleen Jones (b. 1952), clarinet, and “Meet Lotta” producer.
Kathleen Jones was principal clarinetist of the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra from 1975 until her retirement in June of 2021. She was professor of clarinet at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico from 1975 until she retired in 2009, having returned on contract in 2011 until present. She played principal clarinet in the Casals Festivals of 1977 and 1980. She was a founding member of Camerata Caribe in August of 1982.
Her recordings Caribe Clarinete and the complete Voxman Selected Studies have received critical acclaim, including a 2009 Latin Grammy nomination for “Voces del Barrio” by Alfonso Fuentes.
A native of Eugene, Oregon, her teachers have included Robert Marcellus, Mitchell Lurie, Leon Russianoff, Clark Brody, William McColl and Raymond Wheeler. Her bachelor of music degree is from the University of Southern California; her masters is from Northwestern University. She attended Tanglewood, the Music Academy of the West and was guest artist at the Olympic Music Festival for 7 seasons. Having survived Hurricanes Hugo, Georges and Maria, she has first-hand experience of wind speed.
Alan Brown (1936-2019), bassoon
Alan Brown graduated from the Eastman School of Music in 1960, having studied with David Van Housen. He played in many of the principal orchestras in the New York area, and in the Rochester Philharmonic and the Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra. He was active in chamber music in New York, being a member of the “Lark” Woodwind Quintet. He was named professor of bassoon at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico, principal bassoon in the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, and bassoonist in the Casals Festival Orchestra in 1968, positions he retained until his retirement in 2003. He was a founding member of Camerata Caribe in 1982.
Vanessa Vassallo (1938-2010), piano
Vanessa studied piano in Puerto Rico with Margarita Van Rhyn and Jesus Maria Sanroma, and in Paris with Marcel Jacquinot and Ives Nat. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico, and a master’s degree from New York University. She was soloist with the Puerto Rico Symphony, gave recitals as soloist and in chamber groups, and was a member of the piano faculty at the CMPR for decades. She also directed the Department of Music at the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture for four years. She was a founding member of Camerata Caribe in 1982.
Alberto Hernandez (b. 1952), piano
Alberto Hernandez Banuchi, pianist in “Jazz” for oboe and piano, studied with professors Cecilia Talavera and Jesus Maria Sanroma at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico, and then with Frank Glazer in Rochester, NY. He earned a doctorate at Columbia University, writing his thesis on the history of the piano in Puerto Rico in the 19th C. He has authored various articles in the Revista del ICP (Magazine of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture,) Music Teacher, International Piano, and wrote a book about the pianist Jesus Maria Sanroma.
Olga Merediz, vocals, b.1957
Ms. Merediz is an Award-winning actor and humanitarian whose career spans four decades. Best known for her critically acclaimed work as Abuela Claudia in the Warner Bros., Jon M. Chu screen adaptation of Lin Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights, a role she originated and was Tony nominated for on Broadway in 2008, she is a force to be reckoned with, earning universal critical praise as “a showstopper,” “moving,” “a definitive standout,” “big-hearted” and “breathtaking.”
Olga won a 2007 Drama Desk Award for “Outstanding Ensemble Performance” for her role in the Off-Broadway run of In the Heights and a 2007 Hola Award for “Outstanding Performance by a Featured Female Actor.” In 2008 Olga earned a Tony Award nomination for “Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical.” In addition to Heights she lent her singing voice to the film and soundtrack to the Walt Disney Studios’ animated feature Encanto, which was released in 2021.
Born in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and raised in Puerto Rico, where she was a music student of Lotta Riefkohl’s at Commonwealth School, Ms. Merediz currently lives in New York City and is a passionate advocate for animals.