Music Festival in review: Students make magic

Bishop's High's Folk Choir perform Hold Em Joe in the Junior Folk Song choirs category during the TT Music Festival at Queen's Hall, Port of Spain. - Photo by Ayanna Kinsale
Bishop's High's Folk Choir perform Hold Em Joe in the Junior Folk Song choirs category during the TT Music Festival at Queen's Hall, Port of Spain. - Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

Many students from around Trinidad and Tobago made magic at the junior part of the recent 2024 TT Music Festival, setting the stage for the country to be blessed by their light for years to come.

In solos, Gianna Griffith of St Joseph's Convent, San Fernando, and Klavier Simpson of Bishop's High School, Tobago, emerged as shining stars, each sparkling in a wide array of vocal genres.

Griffith knocked the ball out of the park, singing the very touching If There Were Dreams To Sell (by Thomas Beddoes) – sometimes soft, sometimes forceful – ahead of Simpson as best 16-19 girl solo vocalist. However Simpson with Nadira Shanghie, previously edged Griffith and Za'ariah Balkissoon, as best girls vocal duet, with Pie Jesu (by Andrew Lloyd Webber), even as the self-control in Griffith's voice seemed to still and stay time and space.

Griffith looked like a future "big stage" contender as she won best calypso solo with Garfield "Ras Shorty I" Blackman's Watch Out My Children.

Simpson was best folk soloist with her zany interpretation of Jamaican favourite, Linstead Market.

Griffith won best religious solo singing a very worshipful For Your Glory, ahead of moving performances by Anya-Lee Bidaisee and Emiel Joseph, whose renditions she lauded to Newsday.

Simpson "accidentally" stumbled on-stage and burst into song – I Feel Pretty – to be the best 16-19 musical theatre solo vocalist.

Gianna Griffith performs If There Were Dreams to Sell to win the Junior girls' vocal solo category at the recent TT Music Festival at Queen's Hall, Port of Spain. - Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

Griffith sang in her school choir, while Simpson conducted the Bishops Tobago folk choir.

The rich voice of Tobago's Jayda George deservedly won her best under-15 religious solo for Oceans, Where Feet May Fail (by Crocker, Houson and Ligthelm.)

Kiyoshi Lawrence-Marshall's dramatics and fisherman's attire won the seven-ten boy vocalist class with the nonsense song, Fishing by Shena Fraser.

Bishop Anstey High School performs Ella Andall's Black Woman in the Calypso Chorale class at the TT Music Festival at Naparima Bowl, San Fernando. - Photo by Lincoln Holder

Melody Nicholas was best seven-ten girls solo singing The Cupboard by Walter de la Mare. Josiah Ferrier the best 16-19 boys solo singing Gifts by James Thompson.

The 11-12 girls vocal solos saw very keen competition among north Trinidad's Sienna Tang, south-central's Ziara Ali and Tobago's Jinaliah Beckles, with Ali winning with projection and diction.

Best buddies Mac Kenzie Roberts and Arianna Reefer won the 13-15 girls duet on the humour and pathos of life's missed opportunities in The Lazy Man Song.

Golden Hands Junior Ensemble perform in the Junior Pan Ensemble under 19 category during the at the TT Music Festival at the Naparima Bowl. - Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

Belmont St Francis RC School duo Ebony Cudjoe and Cherron Lynch edged the St Gabriel's RC duo – cousins Makaylah Roberts and Melody Nicholas – as best under 12 girls vocal duet.

Among the instrumental soloists, the silver-fingered Aaron Wheeler of Bishop's, Tobago was outstanding in the under-15 piano solos playing Fountain In The Rain (by William Gillock).

Beyond a mere portrayal of a watery flow, he himself seemed to become a bubbling brook, splaying out quick and light splashes of water bouncing off of rounded rocks and cascading along, soft and sweet. Oh, the magical realism of music!

Naparima Girls' High Scool Calypso Chorale perform Ella Andall's Rhythm of A People during the Junior Calypso Chorale under 19 category during the at the TT Music Festival at the Naparima Bowl. - Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

The festival saw a keen competition among steelband ensembles. SJC San Fernando's Blue Steel played an impassioned Sophalina, a romantic tribute to Sophia, the wife of arranger Jonathon Achaiba portraying the dares and lulls of love. They were edged by Golden Hands Junior Ensemble's incredible performance of The Impossible Dream (by Mitch Leigh) with champion soloist Jeremy Greene crouched over his tenor pan like a jaguar ready to pounce upon the conduct's signal.

Previously, in the north zone segment St Mary's College Steelband had vividly told a story of swashbuckling Pirates of the Caribbean, only to be edged by BP Junior Pan Ensemble's intricate, melodious and breakneck-paced version of Vivaldi's Four Seasons – Summer.

St Joseph's Convent San Fernando Gianna Griffith, and Za'ariah Balksisoon perform Pie Jesu in the JR-B5 girls vocal duet during the 35th Biennial Music Festival at Naparima Bowl, San Fernando. - Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

Magic was made by the drumming of Tobago's Y'Aim African Drumming Ensemble and the Fatima College Rhythms of Blue and Gold Drumming Ensemble.

Listeners felt spirited away to another time and place by the power, the bigness, and the energy of the frenzied drum beats. Superb!

Many choirs tugged at the heartstrings.

The Prescon choir – SJC, San Fernando, and Presentation College, San Fernando – under Samantha Joseph, relayed a parent's sweet sorrow at how fast the years fly as they watch their child.

It began with the protectiveness of strong male voices, "Where are you going my little one, little one? Where are you going, my baby, my own?" Soft feminine voices then blended in with the boys, "Turn around and you're two, Turn around and you're four. Turn around and you're a young girl going out of my door!"

The young, fresh voices of the girls of Belmont St Francis RC Primary School blended beautifully to sing The World Is A Rainbow to become north champs, although edged in the finals by more mature voices from Naparima Girls School Choir B. St Francis was led by teacher Mariam Jones-Sprott.

Under teacher Reanna Edwards-Paul, Naps Girls also edged SJC, Port of Spain, as best junior choir (upper voices) for the deftness and precision of their staccato notes in Pretty Pollie Pillicote.

In the calypso choir class, both Naps and SJC POS, along with Bishop Anstey High School, each gave outstanding performances, while the judge's nod went to Tobago's Scarborough High School, with David Rudder's Ganges Meets The Nile.

TOBAGO'S Y'Aim African Drumming Ensemble perform in the Junior Drumming Ensemble category at the recent TT Music Festival at Queen's Hall, Port of Spain. - Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

The Bishops (BAHS) choir under Adafih Padmore heaved in and out as if one living being to superbly sing Ella Andall's rallying cry, Black Woman.

SJC POS, under John Thomas, offered layers upon layers of vocals for Richard "Nappy" Mayers' Bring Back The Old Time Days. Singing Ella Andall's Rhythm of a People, Naps Girls pupils interlinked their arms and swayed together in a touching performance, singing, "People hear the call, a call for unity. Together none will fall, shape our destiny!"

Likewise, a very high standard of songs came from secondary school folk choirs. Bishop's High School, Tobago, won with Hold em Joe and Day-O. However, Signal Hill Secondary School, SJC Port of Spain and Naps Girls each also gave superb performances, each school blending song, dance, skit and costuming. Primary school folk choirs showed similar enthusiasm, where Scarborough Methodist, singing Buddy Lindo, edged Anstey Memorial Girls Anglican, Roxborough Anglican Primary and Hope Anglican Primary School.

The school parang competition was won by BAHS's Armonias Divina (led by Kaeija Wilson) singing song, El Salvador, ahead of Prescon's O, Maria, Ave.

For best choir (lower voices), Fatima College's senior choir was sole entrant singing Michael Row The Boat Ashore, looking as if they had stepped out of an episode of Glee or Pitch Perfect.

Likewise Holy Name Convent as best religious choir performed Total Praise. While Fatima and Holy Name each sounded superb, adjudicator Dr Richard Tang Yuk respectively rearranged each choir and had them sing again, to even greater effect!

St Joseph's Convent, Port of Spain folk choir performs Evening Time in the Junior Folk Song choirs category during the TT Music Festival at Queen's Hall, Port of Spain. - Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

In the south-central segment, St Stephen's College and Holy Faith Convent, Penal, did not win but as newcomers showed great verve in their parang and calypso choirs' portrayals respectively.

The ranks and ranks of small children of Maria Regina Grade School surely felt they were making magic in rendering The Chimpanzee (by Peter Jennings) to be best primary school choir.

Each child who sang or played an instrument at Queen's Hall or Naparima Bowl will treasure these memories in their hearts for years, sharing rays of positivity onto those around them.

Each participant was a winner, in line with the festival's focus not on victory or defeat but pacing each other on the road to excellence. The young boy who had a panic attack on-stage but persevered to sing until the end, and the little girl who stood with her body twisted uncomfortably but sang her duet fully, both have these achievements under their belt, with enduring memories of having been part of the magic.

The Music Festival Association will present Champions in Concert at SAPA, San Fernando, on April 27 at 6 pm.


"Music Festival in review: Students make magic"

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