Singers evoke deep emotion at Naparima Bowl

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Gianna Griffith, left, and Za’ariah Balkissoon of St Joseph’s Convent, San Fernando, sing Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Pie Jesu at the TT Music Festival, Naparima Bowl, San Fernando, on March 12. – Photo by Lincoln Holder

GIRLS and boys deeply tugged at the heartstrings of audience members with three songs sung on March 12 at the championships of the Trinidad and Tobago Music Festival at Naparima Bowl, San Fernando.

The girls of St Joseph Convent (SJC), San Fernando, supported by boys from Presentation College in the Prescon choir, gave a tear-jerking rendition of a song about loss, Turn Around by Alan Greene, Harry Belafonte and Malvina Reynolds. They edged Bishop’s High School, Tobago.

Prescon began with strong comforting male voices, followed by lighter feminine voices, a sweet soulfulness, evoking a parent’s pain and wonderment at the passage of time.

“Where are you going my little one, little one? Where are you going, my baby, my own?

“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.”

Sierra Smith sings Sammy Dead in the folk song solo category at the TT Music Festival, Naparima Bowl, San Fernando, on March 12. – Photo by Lincoln Holder

Initially adjudicator Dr Richard Tang Yuk summoned Prescon back on stage, saying he would like to hear it done again, without stage-front microphones which he feared could distort sounds. Pupils lined up again on stage, but streamed off, not having to repeat their performance.

Adjudicator Nadine Gonzales said the song was “beautifully done” by the choirs, while other suggestions to improve.

Convent music teacher Samantha Joseph told Newsday Turn Around was a Prescon choir favourite.

“The children really enjoyed singing that one. Every rehearsal we did, they wanted to sing Turn Around. If we had a rehearsal and didn’t do it, they would ask, ‘Miss, what about Turn Around?’

“They were really excited about that one and they worked really hard and drilled quite a lot.”

She was very proud of the result.

Newsday asked how the choir had achieved such sweetness in their blend, in this song. Joseph replied, “What it is, in looking at the story, looking at the text and what it is talking about. It is you as a parent are looking at your child and wondering where the time went.

“‘Turn Around.’ You were a baby, you were a child, now you have children of your own. That is what we really wanted to capture. It is a story.”

Newsday asked how sections in the choir had combined so beautifully. Joseph said, “We were working with SAB – soprano, alto, baritone. The voices naturally blend well together so we did not have to do a lot of work on that.

“They have really powerful voices and it was really just then getting them to balance their parts. That was our main challenge as opposed to getting the blend which is already there.”

Newsday asked if the singers themselves felt the deep emotions they had conveyed in this song. She said yes.

“That is always separates a piece you just sing from a piece you are involved in. When you are involved not just in the notes, the parts, but involved emotionally, you get that kind of moving performance.”

SJC pupil Gianna Griffith agreed. “Turn Around is one of the choir’s favourite songs. Every practice we make them sing it. It’s a very nostalgic song. It is about watching this young one that you made grow up and when you turn around they are four. We really tried to capture the essence of it.

“We got soft on some parts just to be more dramatic. We exploded on some parts because growing up is a crazy thing. In the song, within the dynamics of it, when the boys sing that low part, everything just came together and it made a mark, in my opinions.

Tobago’s Klavier Simpson sings Linstead Market on her way to copping first place in the folk song solo category at the TT Music Festival, Naparima Bowl, San Fernando, on March 12. – Photo by Lincoln Holder

Also on March 12, the audience was deeply touched by the rendering of the Andrew Lloyd Webber requiem song, Pie Jesu. It was beautifully performed by the convent duo of Gianna Griffith and Za’ariah Balkissoon, clasping each other’s hands supportively. However, the 16-19 girls vocal duet class was won by Tobago’s Nadira Shangie and Klavier Simpson, who had excellent projection.

Griffith had oozed a soothing stillness in singing her part. She was perfection – projection, diction, rounded notes and legato (or long-held notes).

Griffith told Newsday, “This is a very solemn song and Za’ariah and I really tried to bring that out. It meant ‘Merciful Jesus’ and we really wanted to show that.”

Audience members were also deeply touched by performances of The World Is A Rainbow, by Greg Sclesa, sung by Naparima Girls High School choir B, edging Belmont St Francis RC School (under Mariam Jones-Sprott), to win the under-15 TT Music Festival Association Trophy Mixed Voice Choirs Trophy.

Such purity and freshness from the St Francis girls! Despite being just primary school pupils competing against secondary pupils, St Francis touched hearts with their beautifully blended voices singing, “You be you and I’ll be me.” Directed by teacher Reanna Edwards-Paul, Naps Girls gave a very polished performance, their experienced and developed voices producing a very rounded sound. Very touching, all around!

Choirs on Tuesday also evoked other emotions.

The adaptations in the calypso chorale class were very rousing, including Scarborough Secondary School winning with David Rudder’s Ganges Meets The Nile.

Arianna Reefer and Mac Kenzie Roberts perform The Lazy Man’s Song to top the girls vocal duet 13-15 category at the TT Music Festival, San Fernando, on March 12. – Photo by Lincoln Holder

Arianna Reefer and Mac Kenzie Roberts offered an unusual blend of humour and pathos by way of missed life-chances in The Lazy Man’s Song as best girls vocal duet 13-15.

Tobago’s Klavier Simpson was a whole show in herself, in her animated, slapstick performance of Jamaican favourite, Linstead Market, edging Sierra Smith’s Sammy Dead to win the folk song solo class. Gianna Griffith offered sincerity and concern in offering Garfield “Ras Shorty I” Blackman’s anthemic Watch Out My Children, to win the calypso solo class.

Bishop’s Anstey High School parang choir, Armonias Divina, sang an exciting El Salvador to be best best junior parang ensemble ahead of the Presentation-St Joseph’s Convent San Fernando (Prescon) choir offering Ave, O Maria, Ave. Discipline, control and precision led Naps Girls to edge SJC, Port of Spain in the test piece Pretty Pollie Pillicote, for female upper voice choir.