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As we say goodbye to 2011

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There was no better way for me to have ushered in the Christmas Season than to have taken in the New Kingstown Chorale’s 2011 Christmas special “Let Heaven and Nature Sing.” As was to be expected the Chorale did not disappoint. They were up to their usual high standard, with some persons suggesting that this year’s performance would have rated among their best. They were graced again this year with Sean Sutherland, who came back for the occasion.{{more}} Sean, apart from joining Donna Clarke with the accompaniment, did some piano selections with his usual grace and finesse, making the piano do the talking. Addison Stoddard and Andrea Gaymes, who were both overseas, came home to lend their voices to the Chorale’s spectacular. In fact, Andrea came in just a day or two before after having written her last University exam. Their vocal duet was well received as their voices blended beautifully. The La Gracia dancers are always a joy to look at as they continue to be refreshing. Steelpan was part of the evening’s programme, with representatives of Starlift doing a Kingsley ‘Hero’ Roberts’ arrangement. The Chorale has also continued to give exposure to the youth with Dynamic Choral Voices doing two pieces, including Parang Medley, with CP Hall’s ‘Give a little something/Ah love me Christmas’. Shurneil Cruickshank, who is a new voice to the Chorale, was splendid; solos by Crystal Allen, Dominic Adams and John Horne added their part to an enjoyable evening. Of course, the familiar faces were there, with everything being put together by the aplomb, skill and professionalism of Musical Director Jeanne Horne. I left Peace Mo feeling that the Christmas Season had begun.(By the way, something needs to be done about the exit from the Peace Memorial Hall. Patrons attending shows there feel almost trapped as they slowly make their way out of the lone usable exit, hoping that there will be nothing that will cause a stampede.)

The good old days

I made my way from Kingstown to Barrouallie at about 5:00 pm on Christmas Day and was struck by the empty streets. In the past, particularly in the country areas, after enjoying their Christmas dinner and family companionship, it was usual to see persons gathering on the streets, some of them admittedly inebriated. There were few vehicles on the road at that time, this year, at least between Kingstown and Barrouallie. These are different times, and with television at home to look at, and with the economic situation becoming a state of worry to many people, it is understandable if we see changes in the manner in which people spend their Christmas.

There are some of us who hold on to the concept of the good, old days which we fail to realise might have been good only for some. In any event, as the years go by, one can expect changes as persons respond to different stimuli in the physical and social environment. Very often, we hold on to things which we consider to be part of our cultural heritage, forgetting that some of the things which we did in the past and continue to do today came about because of certain features in the environment. Once those features change, our practices also change as they adapt to new influences. We have also to realise that we did things in the past which today we need to reject because of their detrimental impact on the environment or on our health or because they are out of place in today’s environment. On another note, which has to do with the revival of cultural practices and maintaining aspects of our cultural and historical legacies, there is a particular matter that I must take this opportunity to comment on. This has to do with the revival of the Garifuna language. Some people have been calling for the revival of the language which our original inhabitants used and which is now lost to us as Vincentians. If persons want to learn the language out of curiosity, there is nothing wrong with that, but to make an attempt to get it into schools as some persons were suggesting is bordering on the absurd. Language is a living thing and its attraction will depend on our ability to use it to communicate. If we were to bring persons from Central America where descendants of the Garifuna people live to begin to teach the language to Vincentians they are not going to be teaching the language as it was spoken here. It would have undergone a number of changes having blended with the other languages spoken in that area. My main point, however, is that there is little to make it attractive to young persons in an environment where we have completely lost that original language.

The Christian Council’s Message

The Christian Council in this year’s Christmas Message has once more placed some emphasis on the divisions within our society. It states: “As a society, we have tolerated division; some of us have promoted it actively… This national pastime is destroying our nation. We have serious challenges facing us that require all of us working together…” It identifies some of the scourges that are destroying our country. This is something that certainly needs to be emphasized. The question is how do we begin to overcome this problem? It is my view that changes to our political culture and environment are necessary and that this is where the Christian Council needs to focus its effort. Just speaking about it is not going to get it resolved. Some action is needed or the Council will be repeating this again next year.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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