'Joy cometh in the morning', a commendable concert by 4 conductors

Quianna Mahabir played the drums at the concert Joy Cometh in the Morning. - Marvin Hamilton
Quianna Mahabir played the drums at the concert Joy Cometh in the Morning. - Marvin Hamilton

Dr Richard L TangYuk

Last Sunday, MW Productions presented a concert at the Assumption Church, Maraval titled, Joy cometh in the morning. Founded by Kory Mendez and Anton Williams in 2021, this young company’s mission is, in part, to “cultivate the untapped potential of Trinbagonian youth.”

The concert featured four young conductors, Kadesh Clouden, Joshua Joseph, Shaquille Rose and Anton Williams, as well as a host of young talented singers and a steel orchestra.

Conducting a choir or instrumental ensemble is much more difficult than it looks. It is also a mystifying art. The conductor does not sing or play a single note in a performance, yet they profoundly influence how the music sounds with their aural vision, technique, personality and behind-the-scenes rehearsal process. The only way to become very good at it (in addition to studying conducting) is to do it. MW Productions provided a platform for these young men to do just that. Most of them did a commendable job.

What was impressive about the performance was the string of vocal soloists. Within this group of very fine singers there were a few that stood out. One was Ms Patrice Richardson, who not only has a gorgeous voice, but is refined in her performance craft. I must also mention Ms Jaydelle Baird. The fervour she brought to her performance of "Take me to the King" was exemplary of what music is all about, emotionally connecting with the listener. One had the impression that she wasn’t even trying or thinking about how to accomplish this.

Conductors Joshua Joseph, from left, Shaquille Rose, Anton Williams, Kadesh Clouden. Photo by Owen James. -

The choir demonstrated excellent ensemble, good intonation and occasionally good diction. A few members of the choral ensemble provided a stylish back up for the jazz and gospel selections which they obviously enjoyed.

The criticism offered next is intended to help guide this younger generation of musicians to improve and become more discerning in their craft.

Some genres of music lend themselves to amplification – choral music does not. The challenge for the producers here was a programme that strode two soundscapes: the choir and pan idiom on the more formal pieces, and the solo vocal jazz/gospel idiom. It is impossible to have everything work successfully if you mix these two soundscapes on the same concert. The amplification that is appropriate for the jazz/blues idiom does not work for the choir and pan combination. Why even amplify the steelpan? It is already capable of a very loud dynamic. Also, amplification of pan and choir does not help clarity. It actually does the opposite, with the result that textures lose their definition and diction is obscured.

The choice of venue and its inherent acoustic thus plays a major role in the outcome of your concert. Conductors and producers should place more importance on where they perform. Ideally, you want the acoustic to enhance your performance, rather than trying to mitigate it.

On orchestration: if you have a steelpan ensemble, avoid doubling exactly the same thing on the electric keyboard/s. It’s not necessary, and both instruments are fixed-pitched, meaning the performers cannot make micro adjustments to pitch as one might on a wind or string instrument. The steelpan tuning is affected by usage, temperature, and every note is not affected equally. The tuning on an electric keyboard however is stubbornly consistent. This inevitably causes some discrepancy in the tuning if doubled. Appropriate orchestration of parts would help this. The more successful works were the ones where either only the steel ensemble or only the keyboard was accompanying.

Patrice Richardson has a "gorgeous voice" says Dr Richard L Tang Yuk. - Angelo Marcelle

Among the instrumentalists, Lemuel Patterson (keyboard), Sekou McGregor (bass guitar), Quianna Mahabir (drums) and Louise Clarke (percussion) deserve praise for their rhythmic integrity and sensitivity to balance.

More so, the regular outpouring of emotion and passion on many of the selections was wonderful. I have already mentioned two of the soloists. Then came Mr Quinton Neckles (tenor), an outstanding performer who brought the house down. This should have been the finale. The choice of following Mr Neckles’ rousing "Joyful, joyful" with "Lift every voice and sing" was a small anti-climax. Of course, everyone should be in the finale, and this is where programme design comes in. Programming is an art in itself and the concert sequence is an integral part of this design.

It is gratifying to see young musicians as entrepreneurs in the performing arts. MW Productions’ stated goals are admirable and the evening definitely succeeded in cultivating our youth. This young company is well worth watching. I am looking forward to their choral event in July (without amplification please)!

Dr Richard L Tang Yuk is a former music/artistic director at the Princeton and Indiana universities.


"‘Joy cometh in the morning’, a commendable concert by 4 conductors"

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