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Pianist Havasi debuts ‘Unconquered’ in world premiere at Hard Rock Live

HOLLYWOOD — Balázs Havasi looked more like a rock star with his spiked hair, leather jacket and jeans, than a classically trained pianist and composer when he took the stage Oct. 23 at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood to debut his new symphonic composition “Unconquered.”

The piece tells the story of the Seminole Tribe in three sections: “tranquility,” “turmoil” and “triumph.” Havasi was
inspired to create “Unconquered” through his conversations with S.R. Tommie, a tribal member who worked with him to put together the event.

Havasi was looking for North American representation and he found Tommie’s company, Redline Media Group, which
represents musical artists. It took a couple years for them to finally meet, but when they did Tommie and Havasi found common ground.

“The composition came about when we sat down to get to know each other,” said Tommie, founder and president of Redline. “He was fascinated with the tribe. I shared stories from my mother, grandmother, aunts and elders. They shared so much with me about our early days, who we were and who we are today. He [Havasi] became emotional
when I shared the stories. As I looked at him across the conference room table, his eyes were full of tears. He shared his story about how Hungarians were pushed out of their lands by the Russians. He felt my pain and I understood his. Our life experiences and stories from elders were so in line and similar.”

Havasi performs “Unconquered” on Oct. 23 at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood. It was the symphonic composition’s world premiere in front of a sold out audience. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

Once the connection between the two was made, Tommie didn’t hear from Havasi for a few months. He was busy composing and doing research on his own. He found a 100-year-old recording at the Museum of Natural History in
New York City of a person chanting in Seminole Creek and he wanted to use it at the beginning of the piece.

Tommie said the words mean “everything is great, beautiful.” They were used to open the “tranquility” section, which evokes the tribe’s peaceful times of living at one with the earth. The second section, “turmoil,” illustrates the times of adversity and the intensity of the Seminole Wars. The last section, “triumph,” reflects the story of the tribe today and
how prosperity has allowed it to care for and provide for tribal members.

Havasi performs at Hard Rock Live. (Photo Beverly Bidney

“I was so moved that he was so moved by our story and took the time to do his research,” Tommie said. “It’s a powerful
piece, it’s a story about never giving up. It gives the world hope that we can all rise.”

Havasi, 46, is a graduate of the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Hungary. He has played his symphonic compositions around the world in Berlin, Budapest, London, Poland, Romania, Shanghai, Sydney and Vienna before coming to Hollywood.

“I am a native born Hungarian and what is amazing that two different individuals, S.R. Tommie and myself, from completely different parts of the globe, could relate to the same story in such a strong way. We Hungarians have had to overcome adversity, too. And I found the Seminole history resonating with me as I considered that the Hungarian revolution of 1956, our fight for independence against Soviet-imposed policies, was happening almost at the same
time as the Seminole Tribe was finally being formally recognized by the U.S. government,” Havasi said in a statement.

The performance was originally scheduled for 2020, but the pandemic put it on hold for more than a year and a half.

The sold-out show was much more than a symphonic concert; it was a light show complete with lasers, pyrotechnics
and fire. The stage was filled with traditional orchestral instruments such as strings, horns and timpani drums, but it also had a chorus, solo violinist, flutist and a musician playing two electronic keyboards. It ranged from mellow to high energy songs, each one introduced by Havasi with a story about what inspired it.

S.R. Tommie, onstage with Havasi, addresses the crowd prior to Havasi’s performance of
“Unconquered.” (Photo Beverly Bidney)

The 7,000-seat venue was full. Before the performance started, tribal members in attendance said they looked forward to hearing the world premiere of “Unconquered.”

“Something like this will be great for the audience,” Cassandra Jimmie said. “There are different ways of telling who we
are, music is another way of storytelling.”

Barbara Billie brought her grandchildren to the show so they could experience different types of music.

During the concert, Havasi thanked the Hungarian ambassador who was in the house as well as the tribe. He played some of his favorite compositions, including his popular song “Storm.”

Havasi presents S.R. Tommie with a plaque commemorating the performance of “Unconquered” at
Hard Rock Live. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

“The Seminole Tribe inspired me to create a piece to symbolize their journey,” he said as he introduced “Unconquered.”

“I thought it was so inspirational,” said Hollywood Board Rep. Christine McCall. “To be able to see and experience such a beautiful masterpiece was amazing.”

President Mitchell Cypress brought his family to the show.

“The music was impressive,” said Nichele Cypress, 11. “I liked the tempo.”

“I liked the lasers and when they used the fire,” added Mitchelanie Cypress, 8. “And the music was good.”

“It was very surprising that someone from another country was interested in our unconquered history,” said President
Cypress. “It was a good concert. I enjoyed the entertainment. I liked in the video when the eyes were opening; it showed the future.”

The video, produced by Redline, featured the 100-year-old recording, Seminole medicine man Bobby Henry moving to its chant, historic photos and a variety of tribal members. Some photos were made to come to life by using the parallax effect during production.

A group of young tribal members who were featured in the video attended the show in their finest patchwork.

Havasi described the composition as being inspired by the universal message of self-determination.

“It is a story that celebrates the human spirit and the power of our strength and will,” he said.

“This music is medicine for the world right now,” Tommie said. “It could be a catalyst for healing the world.”

S.R. Tommie, middle, back row, with family members, the cast of the “Unconquered” video and Hollywood Board Representative Christine McCall gather after the performance. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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