Chair of Sacred Music of the Padre Félix Varela Cultural Center

by | 21 Mar 2024 | Sin categoría | 0 comments

The first visit of a Supreme Pontiff to the island in 1998 rekindled the interest of institutions, musicians and composers in sacred music. Thus began a dynamic stage of musical activities with liturgical and extraliturgical character that included efforts such as the creation of the “John Paul II” Choir to offer greater social impact with another degree of social repercussion that could reach the choirs of parishes and churches in the Havana diocese.

In spite of these and other important isolated actions, church musicians and professionals linked to the ecclesiastical activity in general still needed to have the necessary knowledge to undertake the practice of sacred music inside and outside the liturgy, with dignity and mastery of each of its elements.

On the other hand, it was necessary the restitution of a regular cultural and spiritual program of religious concerts performed inside the temples as natural stages of sacred music and vehicles of expression of the dogmas of faith, a fact that in past times had been recurrent in the Hispanic American venues.

In response to these needs, the Chair of Sacred Music was created in 2013, with headquarters at the Padre Félix Varela Cultural Center and academic dependence of the Padre Félix Varela Institute of Ecclesiastical Studies, both founded that same year and located in the magnificent historic building of the Royal and Conciliar Seminary College of San Carlos and San Ambrosio, erected in 1768.

The Chair’s initiative responded directly to the Apostolic Constitution Sacrosantum Concilium on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (1962-1965), oriented to the musical formation of individuals in charge of sacred music within the temples: Much importance should be given to the teaching and practice of music in seminaries, in novitiates for religious of both sexes, and in houses of studies, as well as in other Catholic institutes and schools; in order that this teaching may be imparted, teachers in charge of sacred music should be carefully trained. It is further recommended that, according to circumstances, higher institutes of sacred music be established. A genuine liturgical education should also be given to composers and singers, especially to children.


Our vision

To manage the practice of sacred music in the Archdiocese of Havana. To implement teaching programs specialized in sacred music. To serve the liturgy in the Havana Archdiocese.



    • To manage sacred-musical events and concerts in the Archdiocese of Havana.

    • To train sacred musicians who participate in the liturgical service and professional musicians who perform sacred repertoires.

    • To support the liturgical activities of the archdiocese.

    • Preserve and disseminate the historical and documentary musical heritage of the diocese, with emphasis on instruments.

    • To promote the composition of sacred music in Cuba.

Since its foundation, the Chair has been involved in the development of events such as the Havana Sacred Music Week (2014 onwards), MUSICANOVA (2019 onwards) and the Havana International Organ Week (2019 onwards), where suggestive proposals of sacred-musical concerts converge with an academic program of the highest level implemented through workshops and conferences. Likewise, it actively participates in the liturgical and paraliturgical celebrations of the diocese, and promotes the creation and support of socio-cultural programs related to sacred music such as the Escolanía de la Arquidiócesis de San Cristóbal de La Habana for the instruction of children and young people.

Under the academic protection of the Institute of Ecclesiastical Studies Father Felix Varela and with the cooperation of teachers of the Catholic Institute of Sacred Music and Musical Pedagogy of Regensburg (Hochschule für katholische Kirchenmusik & Musikpädagogik Regensburg), the Chair organizes and manages several training offers throughout the academic year as the Diploma of Sacred Music (2017 onwards) and the Seminar of Introduction to Sacred Music (2018 onwards). The Diploma is a solid academic proposal for the training of practical musicians who participate frequently or in isolation in the exercise of musical liturgy, while the Seminar responds to the pastoral vision of instructing non-professional musicians from different religious venues in the city.



The academic proposal focuses on the study of the interpretation of the sacred-musical repertoire for organ, conducting and choral singing. Among its objectives is to offer specialized training in sacred music to practical musicians who currently perform music within the liturgy of the Catholic Church. However, this study program aims to reach not only church musicians directly related to the communities of faith, but also students or graduates of the Middle Level of musical education in Cuba and/or the Faculty of Music of the University of the Arts, in order to begin to awaken interest in research, interpretation, composition and dissemination of sacred music in our country.

The Diploma in Sacred Music will provide the student with cognitive tools to establish dialogue and research on sacred music topics from a deep knowledge of liturgy, universal and Cuban sacred-musical history, philosophy, theology, art history and biblical literature. The graduate will be fully capable of practicing music within the religious office, as well as to approach the interpretation of sacred music in social and community outreach activities, raising concern for the enjoyment and understanding of it.

Total graduates to date: 10


Havana Sacred Music Week

Every year since 2013, the Chair of Sacred Music convenes the Sacred Music Week, a day of concerts, workshops, lecture series and liturgical celebrations, which aims to promote the study and listening of sacred repertoires from all periods and origins. It is the fruit of the joint efforts of the bishoprics of Regensburg and Havana, especially the founding visions of Cardinals Gerhard Ludwig Müller (Germany) and Jaime Ortega Alamino (Cuba). Since its first edition, it has had the academic tutelage of the Catholic University of Sacred Music and Musical Pedagogy of Regensburg (Hochschule für katholische Kirchenmusik & Musikpädagogik HfKM, Regensburg), translated into the almost permanent presence of its rector, German organist Stefan Baier, and the participation of prestigious European and Latin American professors and performers. Likewise, it has had the teaching and/or logistic support of the Esteban Salas Musical Heritage Cabinet (Office of the Historian of Havana), the Concert Music Center (Cuban Institute of Music), the University of Valladolid (Spain), the Baltisches Orgel-Centrum, the cultural councils of the German and Polish embassies in Cuba, among other institutions.



The very dynamics of the Sacred Music Week revealed other realities and needs. One of them was the existence of an extensive contemporary sacred music repertoire of local and foreign authors, works generated even under new perspectives, pieces with a different language with respect to those that emerged from the post-conciliar changes of the mid-twentieth century.

Thus, in 2019, the Chair of Sacred Music organized and celebrated for the first time a new day dedicated exclusively to this “new” sacred music. Some of the works by authors in training, were produced in the heat of the same composition workshops promoted in the SMS programming. However, MUSICANOVA is already a unique biannual event inside and outside the archdiocese, which makes visible and builds from the present the history of contemporary composers and audiences singing their faith.


Diocesan celebrations

Participation in the liturgical and paraliturgical celebrations of the Diocese of Havana is one of the fundamental objectives of the Chair of Sacred Music.
The spiritual and musical instruction of its teachers and students, as well as its creedal implications with the Catholic faith, make the Chair the competent instance to carry out a musical practice of excellence within the religious service of the Havana diocese. Such exercise is evident throughout the liturgical calendar with emphasis on Christmas and Holy Week. The festivity of St. Christopher of Havana, invocation of the founding of the city, has been reinforced since 2018 with the participation of the Chair, for the purpose of which has emerged the Hymn to St. Christopher, musical emblem of the celebrations for the 500th anniversary of the Villa on November 16, 2019.


International Organ Cycle in Havana

Another space somewhat derived from the Sacred Music Week is the Havana International Organ Cycle. With a biannual character and alternating with MUSICANOVA, this cycle of concerts aims to contribute to the discovery of the sonority of the active organs in the diocese of Havana, as well as to the socialization of repertoires suitable for them, according to their organological characteristics.
Most of the organs in operation in Havana have been recovered as a result of alliances established between the capital’s bishopric and cultural institutions from inside and outside the island. The Cycle is, therefore, the answer to several needs: to keep the instruments in optimal working order by means of a constant practice of interpretation; to make known the expertise of the new organists trained in the teaching programs of the Chair of Sacred Music; and to satisfy the demand of new audiences interested in the sound of the organ and its secrets.


About us

Father Yosvany Carvajal Sureda

Director of the Father Félix Varela Cultural Center


Ramón Leyva González

Choral Director / Organist. Coordinator of the Chair of Sacred Music.


Antonia Reicino Rivero

Executive Producer and Public Relations


Claudia Fallarero Valdivia

Prof. Sacred-Musical Heritage


Joanne de la Torre

Singing and Choral Conducting


Rocio Mezerene

Prof. Theoretical Studies of Sacred Music at St. Charles and St. Ambrose Seminary


Social Networks