ROBERT SCHUMANN’S Symphony No. 3 vibrated through Port of Spain. It signalled the start of not only the National Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance but also the start of this year’s Brown Bag Series. The first in the series began on June 12 at the National Library and Information Systems Authority, corner Abercromby and Hart Streets, Port of Spain.
The series–which runs throughout June–will feature performances by the National Performing Arts Entities. The philharmonic orchestra along with the National Theatre Arts Company and the National Steel Symphony Orchestra make up the National Performing Arts Entities.
As the orchestra played from 12 pm to 1 pm curious passers-by wondered what was happening. The orchestra played eight pieces including arrangements of David Rudder’s Dedication and Brother Valentino’s Stay Up Zimbabwe.
Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts attended the National Philharmonic Orchestra’s concert on Tuesday.
Speaking to Newsday about the lunchtime concert, she said, “The Brown Bag Series is a series that has been going on for at least five years. It is headlined by the national performing entities which would involve the Philharmonic that is here today; the Theatre Arts Company and the National Steel Symphony Orchestra. These are actually employees of the ministry. The Philharmonic are the only part-time employees. Therefore, all of the others are employees of the ministry and what we do through this series is a give-back to the national community.”
Gadbsy-Dolly said the entities also have other productions that people can attend for free. She said while the series’ intent is to showcase the work of its employees it also seeks to demonstrate to youth that there could be a career in music.
“If you look at the composition of this group and the other groups, you will see mainly young people. We want to ensure that the young people see there is an opportunity for them to be musicians and really immerse themselves in that even if for a short time.”
Dr Roger J Henry, the Philharmonic orchestra’s conductor when asked about the series said, “Our mission is to find a voice for music that is created, performed, produced here in Trinidad and Tobago for these instruments.”
He added that many people in TT assume that the only kind of music you can play on an orchestra is European, Western Classical music. The orchestra, he added, has tried to change that. “Music is music. Instruments are instruments. And if there is no local music for orchestra being played, it is because it has not been composed,” Henry said.
“We are in the business of composing and producing music for our voice here in Trinidad and Tobago. That does not mean we are not going to play a bunch a music that has already been composed for this instrument. We are going to do that but we are also going to do new music,” he said.
The Brown Bag Series continues on June 20 and 21 with the National Theatre Arts Company directed by Belinda Barnes. Then it closes on June 26 and 28 with the National Steel Symphony Orchestra conducted by Akua Leith.