St Joseph Convent, St Francis RC top duets at Music Festival

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Sierra Smith and Anya-Lee Bidaisee of St Joseph Convent Port of Spain, perform their test piece, Pie Jesu by Andrew Lloyd Webber, in the category, Girls’ Vocal Duet 16 to 19 Years, putting them in first place in their category at the 35th Biennial Music Festival held at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s on Monday. – Faith Ayoung

THE best girl vocal duet in the country came from St Joseph Convent (SJC), Port of Spain (16-19 years old) and Belmont St Francis Girls’ RC School (12 and under), according to the results of Monday’s morning session of the 2024 Trinidad and Tobago Music Festival held at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s.

Attended by about 100 people, the event was held under the theme, “Make music, transform communities.”

The convent’s Anya-Lee Bidaisee and Sierra Smith won the finals of their class (16-19), ahead of Jaden Lewis and Semirah Pampille from Bishop Anstey High School (Port of Spain) in second place.

Bishop’s Stanisha Madeira and Faith Chandler plus SJC’s Khayann Telfer and Melanie Garcia tied for third place.

In a field of six duets, each sang the test piece, Pie Jesu by Andrew Lloyd Webber, made popular by Jackie Evancho, Sarah Brightman and Charlotte Church.

The performances were very moving, with a lovely blending of voices by each pair of pupils, with their voices mature and masterful. Bidaisee is certainly going places!

Newsday spoke to two girls about how they had found the experience of their performance.

Bidaisee said, “I was quite nervous but I knew that I and my partner had worked really hard. Before the performance, we just gave each other a big hug.

Jaden Lewis and Semirah Pamphille of Bishop Anstey High School East perform their test piece, Pie Jesu by Andrew Lloyd Webber, in their category, Girls’ Vocal Duet 16 to 19 Years, putting them in second place in their category at the 35th Biennial Music Festival held at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s on Monday. – Faith Ayoung

“We went on and we just did our best, and yeah, that’s what it is all about, just doing your best and trying.”

Speaking before the results had been announced, Newsday asked how she thought her duet had done.

Bidaisee replied, “I think that we did a really, really good job. So I felt, you know, happy.

“I am proud of my partner, I was proud of myself, as well that we did a good job.”

Newsday asked how long she had been singing.

“I used to be in choirs when I was a child. I never really took it that seriously. It is something I did for fun.

“Only last year I realised I had a talent and I loved it and I would do it.”

Newsday spoke to Chandler, who herself has a really great voice, before results were announced and asked how she felt her duet had gone.

“I think it went pretty well. I was together with her (Madeira) for the first time but I think during rehearsals we built a connection. We were able to develop that on-stage.”

She said she would encourage other youngsters to get into singing.

Newsday asked about some parents’ fears that musical training was a distraction from exam preparation.

Chandler, who is in Lower Sixth form, replied, “To me, music is a relaxer. It was not much stress to do this.”

The best girl vocal duet for the 12 and under finals was Ebony Cudjoe and Cherron Lynch of St Francis Girls’, followed by Aria Chin and Ariah St Hilaire of Archer’s Academy in second place, and Samara Jack and Naomi Oliver of Moulton Hall Methodist School in third place.

Unlike the low volume of many under-12 duets, the winning duets tended to be those that were audible to the audience.

Jack and Oliver smiled and swayed to project confidence and set the audience at ease. While there was doubtless some nerves, they displayed some enjoyment.

Chin and St Hilaire won the crowd’s oo’s and ahh’s, looking splendid in their white outfits. Despite being small, they were audible and also won over the audience with vivid hand motions to illustrate wave motion, in line with the test-piece song Ride with the Tide by Jay Althouse.

Cudjoe confidently led her duet with Lynch to become a clear crowd favourite.

Their music teacher Mariam Jones-Sprott from St Francis told Newsday, “I encouraged them to enjoy it. Because it is a duet, I told them they are having a conversation with each other, so make sure you communicate with your partner so there will be harmony and synchronism.”

Music teacher Noelle Archer spoke to Newsday before the results came out. She said Chin and St Hilaire were still young and had a lot to learn and to grow but was pleased with their performance.

“They did what they had to do, what they had practised, and no more. Some children reach on stage and change up everything but they did not do that. They stuck to the script.”

She praised the parents of all her pupils present, who had collaborated to outfit them in beautiful white dresses.

Archer said she had taught her pupils in person and via online lessons, including singing duets.

“Teaching online is very difficult. Eventually, you still have to meet up face-to-face.”