North Trinidad tops last day of TT Music Festival

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The Holy Name Convent choir won the Junior Contemporary Religious Choirs category with their performance of Total Praise at the Music Festival championships at Queen’s Hall, Port of Spain on March 14. – Photo by Roger Jacob

PERFORMERS from north Trinidad won the most categories at the TT Music Festival championships on March 14 at Queen’s Hall, Port of Spain, in a day of gospel vocals, instrumental solos and duets, and instrumental ensembles.

However, south Trinidad offered stunning performances by St Joseph’s Convent (SJC), San Fernando Blue Steel orchestra and gospel vocalist Gianna Griffith, while Tobago won two categories. North Trinidad performers won mainly as piano or string solos. North Trinidad won nine categories, South Trinidad two and Tobago four.

The final day of championships – ahead of the grand finale concert on March 16 – began with three classes of gospel.

Tobago’s Jayda George won the May Johnstone Trophy for under-15 religious solo, singing Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Crocker, Houston and Ligthelm, edging out South’s Hadassah Stephens (singing Open My Heart) and north Trinidad’s Sapphire Wong Chong-Achee (singing How Great Thou Art).

George sang very slow, deep, intense, soulful and moving. Beautifully backed by soothing piano accompaniment, George portrayed the intimacy and humility of a talk with her Creator.

South Trinidad’s Gianna Griffith won the Norah Grant Trophy for the 16-19 religious solos with For Your Glory by Mia Santai Booker. Griffith was outstanding, amid strong performances by Tobago’s Emiel Joseph (singing God and God Alone by Phil Mc Hugh) and north Trinidad’s Anya-Lee Bidassie’s sophisticated soprano notes in In The Name of the Lord (by Sandi Patty and others). Griffith started soft but grew in her projection amid near-perfect statecraft. Clad in all-white, at one point with arms outstretched, she evokes imagery of the crucifixion.

“For Your glory, I will do anything, Just to see You, To behold You as my King,” she sang, holding the last note.

Fists clasped to bosom, eyes shut, she powerfully implored, “I want to be where You are. I’ve got to be where You are!”

Adjudicator Dr Richard Tang Yuk Joseph’s praised Joseph’s accompanist for playing piano with passion.

Of Joseph’s well-formed vowels, he praised, “For young men, this is important because it helps you navigate from your middle register to your upper register quite easily.”

He praised Bidassie’s “very clear bright voice” and “easy technique”.

“You were just being you. If you are being sincere, it translates to the audience.”

Tang Yuk said Griffith had heeded judges’ previous remarks to greatly grow in the past fortnight.

“It was a strong performance. You have a beautiful voice with a very wide range.

“We were enjoying it going along, and then at the end you went way up there and I said, ‘Wow!’. That was great.”

Griffith told Newsday her final festival performance was nerve-racking but welcomed the judges’ suggestions.

She said she really loves to sing her chosen song.

“It really applied to my life as well. I listened to the song and it was like, ‘Yeah, this is exactly how I feel at this point in time and I will give God glory.’ He has done a lot for me in my life.

“Everything, I just gave it all to God. I am happy with my performance.”

Griffith supported Joseph and Bidaisee.

“My competitors, they were awesome as well. I sat there in awe of everything they did.”

The Holy Name Convent (HNC) choir was the sole junior religious choirs vying for the Arts Support Alliance Trophy, singing Total Praise by Richard Smallwood.

They gave a deeply moving performance. Then Tang Yuk went on stage, moved them forward, spaced them out and broke up the sections – alto, first soprano and second soprano – to disburse and mix all voices. He made them sing again. Afterwards, he said the changes had improved their tuning and sound, and the girls enjoyed it all.

Conductor Dianne White told Newsday, “It went very well for us. The girls did everything we practised.

Regarding Tank Yuk’s suggestions, she said, “It was a really wonderful experience.”

SJC Blue Steel played Valse (“Waltz”) Number 2 by Dmitri Shostakovich, edging the HNC guitar group playing Spanish Romance, to win the Hope Ross Cup for junior ensembles.

Blue Steel portrayed the light, flowery swirling of a waltz, but then in crept an underlying anxiety.

Arranger Jonathon Achaiba told Newsday they arrived at 7 am.”We set up, rehearsed, had breakfast, relaxed. So their overall mindset was one of focus, being in a place, ready to compete.

“It is in a waltz timing. I’ve heard it in Europe played many times as a song of unity.

“But it also has that minor key feel to it, emotional.” Achaiba said the song was “very testing” with its dynamic contrasts.

“There are very, very quick crescendos. Some parts have a poco crescendo, a very slow, gradual rise.”

He praised the pupils for polishing the song, even after scoring 96 marks days ago.Other ensemble winners were Tobago’s Montgomery ECCE playing recorders, to edge EMS

Ensemble playing Bach’s Minuet in G Major, winning the Francis Pau Trophy.

EMS was the top World Music Instrumental Ensemble, as the sole entrant, to win the Rowena Wattley Trophy.