Sometimes it is easy to forget that Trinidad and Tobago has a compilation of music that stands tall as any other type of music in the world.
The Signal Hill Alumni Show Choir’s SocaLypso gave a reminder at a show, held at Queen’s Hall on January 7. The event began promptly at 5.30 pm and was held under the patronage of Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly.
From the classics such as David Rudder’s Bacchanal Lady to recent hits like Bunji Garlin’s Differentology, Socalypso took each song or medley and put a new arrangement to it. Dubbed as a “pre-Carnival show choir and pan experience,” it took the some of the most popular soca and calypsoes and renewed them in “four, five and six part harmonies.”
In addition to the harmonies, the group’s crisp sound and movement gave deeper insight into how soca and calypso is perceived.
This was emphasised further when the choir’s musical director, John Arnold took to the piano and played a version of Shadow’s Dingolay, seamlessly blending it with classical music. Prior to this he highlighted the universality of music, pointing out that no one genre is better than another.
The first segment of the show consisted of performances of Merchant’s Umbayaya Oh, Kitchener’s Rainorama, Tobago Crusoe’s Pacro Water and Shadow’s Children Ting/We Love Calypso. It ended with guest performer Oscar B (a former choir member) who did his remake of Lord Nelson’s All Ah we is one Family. The patrons moved in their seats as Oscar B sang Soca Butterfly, even bringing a patron on stage to do the dance with him.
The show continued with the group doing a samba version of Kerwin Du Bois’ Possessed. But what also stood out as the choir sang and moved, was the backdrop which was splashed with pictures of the artistes whose music was being performed, almost like giving an insight into the artiste’s personality.
A scaled down Desperadoes as the programmes said, “allow[ed] us to hear how the steelpan creates interpretative soundscapes of popular calypso and soca music.”
Although, there were slight technical issues, these were easily and seamlessly addressed. When guest performer, Shurwayne Winchester (also a former member of the choir) came on, singing along to the choir’s De Band Coming and the mic died, a stage hand simply jumped along with the band as they moved on stage and handed him a replacement mic, without missing a beat. Winchester also took the time to release his 2018 power soca contender at the show called, Celebrate Life.