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This year, Lydians playing in Hearts
One Wednesday afternoon in 1957, when I was a 15-year-old Form Five student, Mother Helen, choir mistress, St Joseph’s Convent, Port-of-Spain, expelled me from the senior choir. I had repeatedly disobeyed this rule: After school, go home, bathe and change into ordinary clothes and return to choir practice. I didn’t go home. At home ordinary clothes were outgrown school overalls and pipe borne water, a rarity. A situation beyond the boundary of the Convent imagination at that time. On a Monday night, 40 years later, I entered Bishop Anstey High School Hall and the choir mistress asked my name. When I gave it, Pat Bishop said, “You sound like a soprano.” Then: “Joanne, share your music. Show her what to do.” I became a Lydian on the strength of my walking into a Lydians rehearsal, perhaps to sing.
Those two memories surfaced when, after a long lapse, I returned as prodigal to Lydians choir practice last Sunday afternoon. Only the fatted calf was missing. I felt I had come home.
After rehearsal, I asked Lydians’ manager Patrick Bertrand about what’s happening with The Lydians since Pat’s death two years ago. He pointed out the ways in which The Lydians have transitioned and grown while standing on the shoulders of Pat’s immense legacy of innovation and inclusiveness. I was excited to learn that Candice Caton is bringing her young men of the QRC Chorale, and there’s the Freetown Collective and the Little Carib Dance Co. Astra Noel of Lydian Steel debuts two of her compositions and there are new, younger parang soloists. An old-stager like me was relieved to learn that there’s a lot that’s familiar.
Eddie Cumberbatch is giving a mini-recital, Alison Seepaul and Adele Bynoe are training the choir in movement, Gillian Bishop designed some of the dancers’ costumes. The programme includes Lydian Steel, Malick Tassa drummers and African drummers and many old favourites among the songs. Co-artistic director André Largen brings eight of his dancers of the Little Carib Dance Co to perform. Responsible for choreography, staging and stage direction, Largen is “delighted to be working with the Lydians again after the August Jubilee Concerts.” He reminded me that the Little Carib Theatre is also part of Pat’s legacy. Sunday Arts Section writer Janine Charles-Farray, co-artistic director of the 2013 Christmas concert series, Christmas—A Season of Love, shared with me her concept of The Four Hearts that shapes the programme.
The Broken Heart asserts that the power of music and togetherness can transform a broken heart and rekindle love. The Holy Heart pays tribute to Mary, mother of Jesus, in Marian-themed music. In The Festive Heart, local music includes a rousing sequence of parang choruses, a John Jacob arrangement of Lord Relator’s Make a Friend for Christmas and Everard Leon’s At Christmas Your Heart Goes Home. At the end of the journey, The Joyful Heart symbolises love through the joy of music and this is where T&T’s finest tenor, Eddie Cumberbatch will feature.
Pat Bishop would quote to us Lydians, “Until all have crossed, none have crossed, and some we have to carry.” It was her way of reminding Lydians of one of the key tenets of Christianity, and indeed of humanity: Love one another; you are your brother’s keeper. The programme of music for Christmas—A Season of Love, is a journey that the Lydians make with the audience and the wider national community. The journey takes us from our unhappiness at all that is going wrong in our lives, our communities and our nation, through expressions of faith and hope, then to a place of transformative healing with music and love. I left choir practice with much joy in my heart, singing, “Make a new friend for the Christmas this year, you hear…” all the way home.
• Barbara Jenkins is the 2013 winner of the Hollick Arvon Prize and the author of Sic Transit Wagon (Peepal Tree, 2013).
The Lydians will stage Christmas—A Season of Love at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s, December 12-14, at 7.30 pm nightly, and December 15 at 6.30 pm.
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