Parang takes centre stage at Music Festival

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

St Stephen’s College choir during their performance at the Junior Parang Ensemble under-19 category during the at the TT Music Festival at the Naparima Bowl on March 8. – AYANNA KINSALE

ST Stephen’s College, Princes Town, brought verve and gusto to the Naparima Bowl stage in their portrayal of a lively Ave Oh Maria, Ave, in the under-19 parang class on Friday, but were edged by the more matured voices of the parang choir from Presentation College/St Joseph’s Convent (Prescon), San Fernando, in the south-central leg of the TT Music Festival.

Adjudicator Nubia Williams awarded Prescon 85 marks out of 100, and St Stephen’s 82 marks. Both choirs sung in Spanish.

Prescon’s performance began with an introduction by done by voices only, blending beautifully from their sections, all accompanied by elaborate co-ordinated hand movements. A tight performance indeed. The formality from the initial introduction carried over into their full performance, including its sectioned hand gestures. It had the formality of a theatre performance.

Williams said Prescon had “a good blend of voices.”

“Balance was not always achieved. Be careful in the orchestration of parts. Be careful with your breathing, especially coming to the end of faster passages in anticipation of those upcoming lines.

“This was a beautiful arrangement sung with very good intonation and pitching.

St Stephen’s, with many whoops of excitement and a less structured physical tightness of pupils’ motions, had more of a folk feel, more of a replication of the spontaneity of an everyday impromptu South American sing-song. Lead singer Bryanna Atwell, sporting a hibiscus in her hair and swaying vigorously from side to side, arm waving high in the air, added to the Latino flavour.

Presentation College and St Joseph’s Convent joint choir during their performance at the Junior Calypso Chorale under-19 category during the at the TT Music Festival at the Naparima Bowl. on March 8. – AYANNA KINSALE

Williams said St Stephen’s choir had a beautiful blend of voices. “Piece presented with attitude and emotion.”

She spoke about how accompanying vocalists should sing so as to support lead singers singing solos without amplification.

Sunday Newsday spoke to pupils from each choir.

Prescon’s Ahira-Marie Atkinson said, “In the parang, the dances were very energetic and very fun to learn.

“As soon as I walked onto the stage and we started to sing the parang, I felt goosebumps – it was so fun!”

Asked about the cause of goosebumps, she said, “It was from the music and from the excitement I felt before going on stage.”

Prescon’s Naima Gordon said, “For parang, it was really exciting because the minute we get on stage and to be with all of my friends.

“The minute the instruments started playing, a whole other person just came over me. It was so thrilling.”

Naparima Girls’ High School 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 on March 8. – AYANNA KINSALE

Prescon’s Darion Alexander said despite his nerves, the performance had gone well. Regarding scheduling between the two schools, he said, “We usually used to practise once a week, but last week and this week with competitions we had to do it a bit more often.”

Noting fewer boys than girls present, Newsday asked how to bring more boys into mixed-choir singing.

Atkinson told Newsday, “Bring friendships with them. Bring your friends. Encourage them to join the choir. They will be more likely to join because it is more like a friendship thing.

“We are friends with a lot of the boys in Presentation College.”

Prescon’s Darion Alexander said his schoolmate Jaydon Chin Chee Fat had encouraged him to get into choir.

Alexander said, “Usually the boys are willing to participate in our school, so it is only if it was something they had today and couldn’t make it here. But everyone else made the effort to come here.”

For St Stephen’s, Atwell was very happy with the parang choir’s performance.

“It went excellently for the most part. Something about parang really makes me want to dance.”

She said she was proud of her school’s lower forms.

“Forms one to three made up the majority of the choir, so I really applaud their excellence for that.”