1920 Manzanillo Cuba

Selvin was born on Christmas Day in Manzanillo, Oriente, Cuba. He was the older of two children, and the only son of Santiago Nelson Hall and Gladys Mabel Ferguson. His sister Elvira sang very well but was not inclined to pursue music; by contrast, from his earliest years, Selvin showed unusual musical gifts and innate creativity in writing music.

His formal training in music was limited but included, in his early youth, lessons with famed Cuban musician Jorge Ankermann and later in life training with acclaimed classical musicians such as Gisela Hernandez, Olga de Blanck, and maestro Rafael Somavilla in a brief but intensive course at the Institute for Music Instructors. Despite his limited formal training, Selvin became a well-known singer, choir director, and composer in Cuba’s Christian circles and later in New Jersey and Florida.

Early in his childhood, Selvin joined the Gideon Evangelical Church, which had been founded by one of his relatives (the church was later renamed Soldiers of the Cross.) In 1948, He married fellow church member Elsa Fortún. They had six children; three of them, unfortunately, died at a young age. The three surviving children, David, Nelson, and Merari, live with their families in the United States. While in Cuba, Selvin taught music and served as Director for choruses of the armed forces of that country, a position he was appointed to after graduating from IMI.

The Hall family, except for David -the Cuban, communist regime did not allow him to leave- came to the U.S. in 1968. After a brief stay with relatives in Jamaica, N.Y., they settled in Union City, New Jersey. Of those early years, his son Nelson remembers:

“Like many of other exiles who came to the U.S., my father did what he had to do to make a living. He worked in many menial jobs to support our family but continued to write and perform his music and serve as choir director in the Hoboken Adventist church.”

In 1976, the Halls moved to Miami and Selvin again became very active in music in the Soldiers of the Cross church, which they had rejoined shortly before while still in New Jersey. In 1978, Selvin’s oldest son, David, and his family, were finally able to leave Cuba and come to the U.S.

All three of Selvin’s children were involved in music from their earliest years. Nelson, who had been taught the fundamentals by his father, pursued music as a career, became a music educator and a skilled performer, arranger, and conductor with a doctorate in music. David has pursued a career in radio and communications and has served as a church musician. Merari (Chollette), a lover of music, is a healthcare professional and mother to two daughters whom she has provided with opportunities in music.

Devout Christians, both Halls continually praised God for the blessings in life despite the challenges and tragedies in their lives. Selvin always acknowledged his Creator as the source of his gifts and continually sought to glorify Him in all his music making and writings. He served as a minister of music well into his eighties, for over six decades, in both churches.

As he had in Cuba, Selvin continued to compose music for the rest of his life, writing over 150 sacred songs, including settings for sixteen Psalms, a Christmas Cantata, Navidad Antillana (Antillean Christmas), and numerous other choral works.

The Halls were able to return to Cuba to visit friends and relatives several times; they were living in Miami when Selvin died at age ninety, on November 10, 2011.