Holy Faith lifts Nah Leavin’ at Music Festival

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Members of the Holy Faith Convent Penal calypso choir perform Denyse Plummer’s Nah Leaving at the TT Music Festival at Naparima Bowl, San Fernando on Friday. Holy Faith placed third in the competition, with 81 points. – AYANNA KINSALE

HOLY Faith Convent Penal (HLCP) calypso choir breathed new life into the late Denyse Plummer’s Nah Leavin’ in a very pacey performance to make their mark at the south-central leg of the TT Music Festival at Naparima Bowl, San Fernando, on Friday. Plummer won the 2001 calypso monarch with this song, and Heroes.

The Holy Faith pupils placed third (81 marks), behind Naparima Girls High School (first, 89 marks) and St Joseph’s Convent, San Fernando (second, 87 marks).

All presentations had a folk flavour. While Holy Faith kept about the same paciness as Plummer’s original, pupils sang with a slight staccato to add a rapso mood to the piece.

Singing at different pitches, the girls created wonderful blends, at times framed by backing vocals undulating in a deeper register (range of pitches).

Midway through, they suddenly took the song to a slow walking pace, to great effect.

Their words were merely those of everyday speech, yet the suddenly slowed pace strangely gave it an almost gospel-music-like mood.

“I wake up one morning and before I stretch, Is fry bake, doubles, meh nostril done ketch.”

The words then became introspective to match the mood of the melody. “And there for my view, an ocean so blue. I’m going no where, No where.”

The verve of the young, fresh voices really gave a new impetus to the very well-known song.

Holy Faith music teacher Kwasida Smith told Newsday that it had been easy to select the song for the class because pupils were already familiar with it.

“They were like, ‘Okay, Miss. We like this one.’

“We tried something a little different from the other choirs. Normally they would have accompaniment, but we just chose guitar and drum, so that the voices could be heard more.

“It worked for us, at least for the most part. The students enjoyed it, which is what I am glad about.”

Smith said pupils had included a choreography. “Not everyone has all the rhythm but they came together and they were helping each other as well during rehearsals.”

Everyone was glad with the experience, which had been those pupils first time at music festival.

“So to be competing against Naps and Prescon which are very seasoned choirs, you know.

“They were a bit intimidated but they still enjoyed the competition and they really are encouraged to come again. We are looking forward for another opportunity to perform.”

Newsday asked about the choirs sectioning. “We had altos and sopranos and some of the girls even sang tenor, those with some deeper voices. It was just a few but they were strong.”

Smith said she had arranged the piece.

Newsday noted the freshness of her pupils’ young voices, the gusto of the novice.

Smith said, “They are very excited. The younger ones. They are eager.

“For most of the choir it is a lot of form ones and a lot of form twos because they are excited to be involved and to take part.”

She said younger pupils were so keen they would attend music practice every day, even as older pupils might need reminding to attend.

“We also had support from other teachers. The Theatre Arts teacher helped us with some of the movements. They would come and observe and talk to me, ‘Yes, I think they should raise their hands, bend down.’ So we had plenty of teamwork and stuff.”

Adjudicator Nubia Williams said, “Good start. All the lyrics were heard throughout.

“A mix of fine thinner voices and warmer voices heard and utilised in the answering part.” She advised care in harmonic choices and articulation.

“The change in tempo certainly added that nostalgic feel for Trinidad and Tobago that speaks of not wanting to leave.

“More variation could be added in terms of volume and intensity, to heighten the meaning and interpretation of this piece.”

Naparima Girls sang Ella Andell’s Rhythm of a People, while the Prescon choir sang Robert “Mighty Trini” Elias’ Sailing.

Naps turned the calypso into a folk performance, leaning forward with their rallying cry, “Are you ready?”

They then rocked back with two hands flung up to shoulder height, palms forward inquiringly.

Throughout the song, musicality was reflected by bodily motions. This was truly a profession-level of performance.

Williams praised Naps Girls. “A strong rhythmic start. A perfectly balanced performance. An interesting arrangement, modulating between the brighter major keys and soulful minors.

“Very good expression with voice used to effectively contrast with tone colour, texture and volume.

“The orchestration presented a fresh take on Rhythm of a People.”

Naps pupil Elizabeth Singh told Newsday, “I think it went really well. All the hard work paid off. We have been training for a while, a lot of practices.”

She said Naps pupils had trained in the calypso and folk choirs, both classes which they had won that week.

Singh liked the arrangement for the calypso chorale. “The minor key brought a twist to the song. Without the minor key it would have been less interesting.”

She said the choir had different sections – soprano, mezzo soprano (middle), and alto – to be sung at different parts of the song.

“Everyone is very excited, where we are getting ready to go onto next week’s championship.”

Naps pupil Abrianna Cinnie said, “Honesty I am shocked that we have managed to achieve such an amazing achievement. I think we worked really hard.”

She deeply thanked her teachers.

Naps pupil Jxaihon (“Zion”) Taylor told Newsday, “The experience was wonderful. For a moment there we were all sitting down and we were all like, ‘Oh my gosh, can we beat the boys?’ And we did (referring to Presentation College boys singing with the Prescon choir). On International Women’s Day too! I think we are amazing. I am really proud of us.”

The Prescon calypso choir had oozed confidence and effortless ease on stage. This was a group of friends having fun, the fruits of their their sophistication, experience and maturity.

Likening TT to a ship, they sang, “I sailing with de boat, sink or float, I sailing with de boat!”

Williams remarked, “A vibrant, energetic entrance. Nice blend of colours. All lyrics were heard clearly throughout. Nice idea, moving into the minor section.

“But be careful with the transition, regarding the rhythmic change.” She hailed Prescon’s interesting arrangement. “Parts were well thought out and nicely distributed.”

She advised them to be careful with accurate pitching at a certain point. “Very sensitive ending.”

Prescon’s Naima Gordon said, “For the calypso, we told a story with this song. This was the best we ever performed. Congratulations to Naps, but I feel we really outdid ourselves with this.”

Prescon’s Cameron Cadogan said, “I say it was a really, really good experience. I learnt a lot from it. I had an amazing time. I congratulate Naps Girls on first place in the calypso category.”