IN a career spanning almost four decades, the award-winning Signal Hill Alumni Choir (SHAC) has entertained audiences both at home and abroad. And last Sunday, patrons were treated to songs from its extensive repertoire with a Yuletide flavour at the concert, Christmas Again: Songs We Sing.
The concert was held at Daaga Auditorium, University of the West Indies, St Augustine. Initially, the choir advertised two shows (Saturday and Sunday) but the Saturday show had been cancelled.
SHAC musical director John Arnold in remarks, reported the choir will be celebrating 40 years in March and had seven albums under its belt. At the start of the concert the choir took the stage looking very folksy in its white-and-powder blue outfits which were done by Neave Mc Kenzie. The group performed in front of a large screen which displayed images relating to the songs. The production ran like a well-oiled machine, with very few audio issues and mostly smooth transitions.
During the concert the choir launched into a set of original SHAC compositions that Arnold stressed were all done by Tobagonians. The choir began with Always Remember composed by Arnold and then followed this up with the catchy Celebrate Christmas by Arnold and G O’Connor. The last two songs were compositions by the late founding member, Michael “Mike” Duncan, who passed away August last year after a brief illness. The first was Message to the People which had audience members laughing out loud with its clever call for fiscal responsibility and warnings about overspending during the Christmas season. The second, and arguably SHAC's most well-known song, was Christmas Coming with its gloriously infectious melody and refrain that had the patrons dancing along.
After this set Arnold accompanied the choir on piano together with Curtis Collins on keyboard, Shervlon Forbes on percussion and Richard Joseph on drums.
The concert kicked off with a jazzy version of O Come, All Ye Faithful. Then the strong male voices and the rich African drums stood out during the Nigerian carol, Betelehemu, by Babatunde Olatunji. This was followed by Kirk Franklin's version of Mary, Did You Know? which featured delightful transitions from soprano to alto and then to tenor and bass of the male section.
The choir then went into a vibes-filled rendition of The First Noel, Silent Night, Rejoice Emmanuel with some heavy percussion, and a reggae version of We Three Kings that had attendees' heads bobbing. It closed off this section with the church-clapping Jesus What a Wonderful Child which had a couple of patrons clapping along, and the enchanting highs and lows of Handel's Hallelujah chorus which received rousing applause.
The choir also sang happy birthday for one of the attendees, an elderly woman named "Patsy." Also in attendance was Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary Farley Augustine and Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly.
The concert featured a few guest performers, including pannist and vocalist Kern Sumerville. He delighted the audience with his playing of Baron's Come Go, soulful singing of Donny Hathaway’s This Christmas and Kelwyn Hutcheon’s Kiss Me for Christmas, and a bit of humour.
Also performing was legendary parang band Los Alumnos De San Juan with lead singer Alicia Jaggasar. In a high-energy performance with lots of dancing and exuberant musical accompaniment, the band thrilled audiences with renditions of 1950's hit La Bamba, its original parang Cantando Gloria, Christmas classic God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, a medley tribute to Lord Relator and a Trini Christmas reworking of 2017 megahit Despacito that had patrons dancing in their seats.
Things then quieted down with the relaxing sounds of a Christmas medley by violinist Caryll Warner.
SHAC also performed a set of Trinbago Christmas Classics and delivered vibrant performances of Relator's Christmas is Yours, Susan Macio's Trini Christmas, Chalkdust's Something Salt and Baron's Spanish Woman before ending on a Scrunter medley including Piece of Pork, Anita, Homemade Wine and Merry Christmas.
The audience was then treated to the sweet voice of soprano Gilda Williams who led the choir in a rendition of Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas Is You.
The concert ended with a “gribbidy/lagniappe” (a bonus) of a soca/yuletide fusion of Olatunji Yearwood’s 2022 soca hit Engine Room.
"It's Christmas in the engine room," the choir sang before dancing off the stage.
The choir members then shook the hands of the patrons and thanked them for their attendance. Arnold announced there would be many SHAC concerts next year in celebration of the choir's upcoming 40th anniversary.