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The Kingstown Chorale and the Joy of Christmas

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Christmas is never the same for me without the sound of the Kingstown Chorale. I look forward to their annual performances to get me in the mood and for a signal that Christmas is truly on. They did not disappoint. Saturday night at the Peace Memorial Hall was just a splendid evening.

Most of the faces and voices we have come to know over the years were there in full glory. In fact, manager Gillian John, in speaking about their 60th anniversary, had to remind us that none of the foundation members is around. It was good to see a few new faces, particularly through the Dynamic Chorale Voices.{{more}} Naturally they serve as a nursery for the Chorale, for although they have beaten the odds in SVG and lasted for sixty years, it is our hope that the young blood will eventually take over and exercise the same discipline and commitment. Mrs John did also remind us that we have been reported to have mashed up a circus. So, kudos to them! Today, more than ever we have become a ‘mashed up society’. It is good to see the commitment of Sean Sutherland and Addison Stoddard who have obviously been keeping an open space on their calendars for this event, to continue to lend their talent to the Chorale’s celebrated performances. Addison even brought his daughter with him and their duet was one of the highlights of the evening.

I particularly liked the Chorale’s ‘African Alleluia’ and ‘Calypso Lullaby’. I am not sure why they captioned Noel Dexter’s ‘Holy, Holy’ (West Indian Carol) and ‘The Twelve Days After Christmas’ as “In Lighter Vein’. They have always been known to have this feature as an essential part of their performances and we always look forward to it. Saheed Bowman on pan, accompanied by the also talented Geran Maule, reminds us of the incredible young talent that just needs to be nursed and hopefully would not fall victim to a society gone astray where some aspects of our culture have become gross, distorted, and even trivialized. There is little that needs to be said about the ‘old’ dudes, Clifford, Trevor, John Horne and Calma Balcombe (Sorry, Calma, for the label, but you are known by the company you keep!). I have only singled them out because they were featured on the programme. A high standard is what we have come to expect from the Chorale. I cannot end without recognizing the outstanding performance of Nigerian medical student Samuel Toka, with his violin solo. And, of course, Jeanne Horne, who brings it all together and keeps the members on their toes.

That was the pleasant, joyful side of the season and we really needed it, for this has been a depressing and trying year. Crime has run rampant, about 35 murders, I believe. Heavy rains and storms came almost as if with a vengeance, damaging our aging physical infrastructure and dislocating some people. Then, there was tension between the owners/management of the resort and people of Canouan. Ottley Hall’s drama continues to play itself out and more recently the plight of workers at what was once labelled a five-star hotel. Workers at Buccament are, I believe, still unpaid. They have really had to put up with a lot and seem to be battling on their own, that is, apart from their well-wishers. No unions to their rescue, for unions in SVG are a waste of time. We seem never to be sure whose side they are on. Early in the year, I gave a ride to one of the workers of the resort. She told me that last year, she was not paid before Christmas and said something that was just totally shocking to me, although I am not sure why I was shocked. She said that they were told around the time of the elections, not to vote for the NDP or they would lose their jobs. I was so taken back with her plight that I did not seek an explanation of what was meant by them possibly losing their jobs if they voted for the NDP.

Something is fundamentally wrong with the way we go about attracting foreign visitors and the types we seem to attract. On any large project, it is important that residents ‘buy’ into it. Simply to concentrate on the number of jobs that, hopefully, will be created is a recipe for disaster. What in any event, are the fine prints? Canouan, for example, is a small island and any major project will present challenges to the people. This needs to be understood and taken into the calculations. Let us be forewarned and look carefully at Walliabou-Peter’s Hope. The beaches in these areas, particularly Mount Wynne, are fully utilized by people throughout the state. How are we going to be affected with the project that is contemplated? What are going to be the limitations? What are the expectations of the investors? Certainly, we need to reserve some of our prime property for our own use. We need more recreation space. Perhaps we can even think of building an amusement park there! The point I want to make here is that the Vincentian people must never be regarded as an afterthought. So, in this bizarre atmosphere the Chorale really needed to spread some joy.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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