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‘We 50!’ Kudos to Starlift


What a way to end a 50th anniversary celebration! Starlift had set the pace in 2009 with a Christmas spectacular on its 42nd anniversary, when it had transformed the front of the Michael Findlay Pavilion into a virtual concert stage. Following the show, I wrote, “Christmas began for me last Friday with Starlift’s ‘grand’ spectacular. What an excellent show!” Eight years later as it reached the climax of its 50-year milestone, I feel the same way. In fact, I look forward at this time of year to performances by either Starlift or The New Kingstown Chorale, our over-50s, to give us that spirit to greet the new year. The Chorale was there, lending its voices to a really “fanpantastic” show; after all, Oris Robinson in the Vincentian had described that of 2009 as “pantastic”. With these two groups, we can always expect a high level of professionalism.

Saturday night’s show started on time, giving a lie to that absurd talk about ‘Vincy time,’ which many of us seem to have internalized. The physical setting, which befitted the season and the 50th milestone, created an atmosphere that prepared the way for outstanding performances. The outfits worn by the Starlift players made us even more conscious of what that special night meant to them. The opening number set the tone for what was to follow. It was “The Lord’s My Shepherd,” featuring Starlift Seniors, The New Kingstown Chorale and Cantemus, with Sean Sutherland on piano. We really had the best of SVG beginning the night’s musical journey, in what was an opening prayer, having preceded the National Anthem.

And then we became totally hooked and why not, with that kind of ambience and the performances that followed. The range of pieces stood out, from classical, the engineering work of Sean Sutherland manifesting itself. I remember his posting on Facebook expressing pleasure with how the youngsters were responding. They seemed much more confident and relaxed. I say this because in 2009, some of them were reluctant to tackle the classical pieces. Sparrow’s “Sa Sa Yea” was featured, as was Becket’s “Teaser” that brought together again the Chorale, Cantemus and Starlift Seniors. Skinny Fabulous’s “This Island is Mine”, along with older pieces, “The Hills are Alive” from Sound of Music, “Ben”, “Green, Green Grass of Home” and other familiar pieces.

Pennola Ross rendering “Love is a Many Splendored Thing” had the audience gasping for more and reminded us of her incredible talent. One person expressed disappointment in not having more of Sean Sutherland out front, but his work with preparing and accompanying the band was very evident. His combination with Hero on “Killing Me Softly” spoke for itself. The Saeed Bowman-Geron Maule combination has been thrilling audiences here and they did not disappoint. Trinidad arranger Duvonne threatened to steal the night with his piece, accompanied by the Seniors, but it was difficult to do since the performances were all top class. I even heard someone shout, “Hear the pan talk!” The Arabesque Dancers were as usual delightful and did a fantastic performance, with Starlift Seniors in a tribute to Dan Simon with his Mezumbe, Mezumbe. Nzimbu drummers made a brief appearance, but used their drumming later to escort the audience out.  The Christmas pieces, including a Parang Medley, added to a night of high quality.   

Vernon Coombs, one of the original arrangers, was here again conducting with Hero the pan pieces. Then, there was Donna Clarke, who held charge of the Chorale and Cantemus and as expected, did a wonderful job. Tributes were once more paid to the founding fathers and older members who still give full support. Roddy Dowers and Errol Sutherland’s contribution to the growth and longevity of Starlift spoke volumes on a spectacular night. Starlift, in recapturing this year’s Panorama title, was at its very best and continued where they had left off with vintage pan in grand style!

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian