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New Kingstown Chorale continues to set the pace

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The date was Friday, May 22, 2015 and the venue was the Kingstown Methodist Church. The Chorale’s “Our God for All Seasons” was scheduled to start at 8 p.m. and it did so; maybe a few seconds or even a minute or two after. By 10 p.m., we were ready to leave the church. The two hours went smoothly, with only slight interruptions to highlight the dedication of a section of the programme to the victims and families of the Rock Gutter tragedy and to victims of domestic abuse and violence; {{more}}the involvement of the audience in singing Happy Birthday for long-standing member and cultural icon John Horne and faithful fan Roslyn Maule. Then, thanks were given as usual by the group’s business manager Gillian John; singling out Addison Stoddard and Sean Sutherland, who had returned home specifically for the occasion, both, I believe, paying their own passages; then soliciting the audience’s participation in singing the last verses of two of their hymns/songs. The dedication of a section of the programme to the victims and families of those who suffered at the Rock Gutter tragedy has to be commended. It is always good to empathize with those who have suffered tragedy, like the one at Fancy, without seeking any gains in return, political or otherwise. Additionally, we have to use all kinds of media to highlight the vexing problem of domestic abuse and violence. The arts are more than mere entertainment. They must be used creatively in the interest of the all-round development of SVG.

I am a stickler for time and the Chorale’s prompt start to their shows, added to their general professionalism, undoubted dedication and love for what they are doing and for maintaining the high standard that we have come to expect from them will always appeal to me. They have long discarded this notion of Vincentian or West Indian time. I must say that generally, Vincentian artistes have become more conscious of this and although it still continues, it is not as bad as it used to be. I remember last year going to one of the Calypso Tents and long after the show was scheduled to start, asking a member of the cast about the time the show was likely to start. He indicated to me that they were ready, but were not going to start without their patrons. So, the problem quite often rests with members of the audience, some of whom live by the code that anything goes.

The programme “Our God for All Seasons” was dedicated to former Chorale member, Noll Patterson, who left us in 2013. The name and venue would automatically have indicated the type of show that was to be presented. As I had written about the Chorale some time ago, it is like old wine; the taste grows better with age. It is always good to see some of the old faces and to listen to them. At the same time, they have been nurturing the young ones, giving them the exposure to ensure the group’s continued excellence.

The quality of the Chorale’s performances is well known, hence the presence always of devout fans, who always get what they came to expect. Despite the limitations of the church, it was really vintage Chorale. Solos by Roxanne Dalrymple and Addison Stoddard stood out. Sean Sutherland’s piano solos, ‘My Tribute’ (Andre Couch) and Chopin’s Prelude No. 16 showed Sean at his best, particularly with his rendition of Prelude No. 16. The Chorale has blended beautifully the old voices with the not so old and young. Jeanne Horne has continued to be a splendid replacement for founding father, Pat Prescod. Her energy and dedication in performing her role as conductor helps to lift the Chorale a notch or two. Donna Clarke and Calma Balcombe’s work with the young voices of the Dynamic Chorale augurs well for the future. There is always the evergreen Clifford Edwards, who we are told assumes the role of the Chorale’s ‘anchor’. The trumpet solo, ‘Because He Lives,’ by guest artiste Linton Squires, was something of an addition and fitted in appropriately with the rest of the programme.

I was impressed with the smoothness with which the show flowed, the only real delay having to do with them having to make accommodation to the space available for performing at the church. They kicked things off with the popular ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’(JS Bach). One item that seemed to have generated tremendous applause was ‘Bright Soul’, a Jamaican Revival song, arranged by Noel Dexter, who we would remember teamed up with Pat Prescod to give us ‘The Right Hand of God’.

The show ended with the singing of ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’, with the audience allowed to involve themselves in singing the final verse as they also did with the hymn ‘Come Christians Join to Sing’. The faces of patrons as they vacated the Methodist Church reflected their satisfaction with the manner in which they had spent the last two hours.

The Chorale, by bringing in young voices, is perhaps ensuring that the word ‘New’ is not misplaced. The Chorale had its beginning in April of 1956. This means that next year, 2016, will be their 60th anniversary, which they appear determined to celebrate in style. Patrons could therefore expect something special, with the Chorale attempting to outdo itself. The thought of a Christmas show the business manager warned us is not on the cards. With their big year next year and the amount of work and dedication normally involved in preparation for all of their shows, we fully understand. So, we look forward to 2016 for a celebration never to be forgotten!

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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