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Sunday 23 September 2018
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Soca-Lypso: Another way to export TT’s music

The Signal Hill Choir, through its musical director John Arnold, hopes to curate TT's music. Soca-Lypso is the choir's attempt to do so.
The Signal Hill Choir, through its musical director John Arnold, hopes to curate TT's music. Soca-Lypso is the choir's attempt to do so.

There are many ways to soca, Trinis often say, but John Arnold, musical director of the Signal Hill Choir, hopes to introduce yet another way to do so through Soca-Lypso. It’s a “show choir presentation of some of the calypsoes and soca music that we have enjoyed, danced to, promoted, partied with and continue to sing on a daily basis,” Arnold said in a brief description.

The show will feature choral treatment of local music in four-, five- and six-part harmonies, and “is indicative of yet another pre-Carnival offering that will whet your appetite for good music presented as a full meal to participate in,” Arnold said.

The show’s choreography, he said, would add to the presentation and allow a visual movement that would amplify the music’s message.

Soca-Lypso is scheduled for January 7, 2018, at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s from 5.30 pm to 9 pm.

The “show choir experience” will feature the Signal Hill Alumni as well as approximately 22 choir singers from Signal Hill now living in Trinidad, and also from other choirs. For Arnold, not only does the show provide a chronicle of TT’s music but it also provides a way for TT to earn creatively.

Arnold said the idea came to him from similar work done in the 1990s. “For the last few decades, since 1990, we went into this thing about choral calypso, which was arranging calypsoes not only as medleys but in terms of presenting it in four-part choral harmonies, giving it new arrangement – similar to what the pan would have been doing. After all these years we now have a collection of that. It hit me that the same way we have to build different products around our music, the same way we have the UTT orchestra doing interpretations, the military band doing interpretations of 1990 calypsoes in nice harmonic phrasing. The same thing can happen with choirs.”

This, he said, presents a new way in which TT can export its music.

Arnold said the general idea is to curate TT’s music, to have all the music written out and actually commercialised, “so that other people can actually do the arrangements.”

Explaining how this could bring earnings to the country, Arnold said groups such as Signal Hill which travel all over the world to choral festivals were constantly asked, “‘Can I get an arrangement of this or that?’ – and we don’t have it.”

The Signal Hill Alumni choir will take its audience through Soca's evolution at Soca-Lypso. The choral show piece will take place on January 7 at Queen's Hall.

With IP (Intellectual Property) legislation, he explained, every song’s composer and lyricist get royalties once it is played.

But now with neighbouring rights [this refers to the right to publicly perform, or broadcast, a sound recording] Signal Hill, as a performer, would be entitled to a quantum of royalties as well.

This opens up real possibilities for the country to earn. Arnold said, “ If another choir does it somewhere else, the reciprocal payment of royalties would occur. If the music went to a festival in Ireland and another choir is playing an arrangement we have done, then the author and composer could be in line to get royalties.”

While one might wonder how today’s soca might fit within the choral mould, Arnold said the show would trace TT’s music from its roots, calypso, right up to today’s soca. “We are going to trace some of the calypsoes and we are actually going to come right up to songs like Far From Finished, D’Journey and Phenomenal by Benjai. What we really want to show you is, really, you can see what has happened with some of the melodies over the years. You would be able to trace that, both in terms of the lyrical content and also the musical style. You would be able to trace the difference energy as well. You would see the tempo of some of the songs have now come back down a bit.”

Patrons can look forward to interpretations of songs like Machel Montano’s Craziness and Shurwayne Winchester’s De Band Coming. “We have taken some of that soca and calypso. That is why I used the word soca-lypso, because we really want to say that from calypso soca’s real birth occurred.”

Some of the late Grandmaster Kitchener’s work will also be featured.

But there is a greater aim to Soca-Lypso: Arnold hopes it would lead to the curation of TT’s music. “The idea is really to let people know that we really need to start curating our material, just like Beethoven, Mozart...we have to start curating this material so 100 years from now, people would have this material and be able to say hear this version of that and hear this version of this. That is how you will know that the music could have posterity.”

The show will feature 22 songs, including four medleys. Arnold said while it is exploratory it gives people the opportunity to experience something outside of the traditional Carnival activities. Patrons could also look forward to musical collaboration with 2016 Panorama champions Desperadoes Steel Orchestra, as well as guest artistes Shurwayne Winchester and Oscar B.

Arnold hopes it becomes an annual event on the Carnival calendar. The show is being held under the patronage of Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts.

Tickets are available at Queen’s Hall box office and go on sale from next week.


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