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Bishop’s girls channel ‘Grandmaster’

By ANGELA PIDDUCK Monday, February 4 2013

“Refreshingly different” was the calypso medley of the late Lord Kitchener’s (Aldwyn Roberts) road marches sang by the Bishop Anstey High School Choir, under the direction of choir mistress Lorraine Granderson, at the recent Awards Ceremony in Queen’s Hall.

With her usual foresight, Granderson, who has led this 70-year-old choir to exciting new heights with a repertoire which includes classical, contemporary and gospel music as well as African, West Indian folk and calypso, at the local biennial Music Festival and overseas performances, saw the relevance here as it related to the current Carnival season.

And what a wonderful performance, whether Kitch’s music was your favourite or not, the mix of “The Road,” “Miss Tourist,” “Flag Woman” and “Mas in May” was scintillating. As the youngsters, in their school uniforms, swayed gently and sang melodically, the audience felt a need to get up and chip along the aisles of the Hall.

The quiet and most lovable music mistress thought of the Kitchener medley when she was looking for something that would have been relevant to an earlier performance at the 50th anniversary of Independence, at the Diplomatic Center, because: “I wanted something that would reflect our culture and again you always have to think of songs suitable for children; and saw Kitchener with some of his road marches as an education for the children through this wonderful music they were not exposed to, and to learn songs they would not normally hear. With all this Facebook they are not meeting them anywhere. It was so interesting when I decided to do this, I directed them to YouT ube and let them listen to all of these songs which capture moments in our history. They were fascinated and thoroughly enjoyed the music.

She continued, “They got involved in the choreography and creating some of the harmonies, and making suggestions generally. It was really a fun experience. Actually for the past few years Valerie Taylor (a past principal) and I have been saying we should really do a vintage with the choir for Carnival but the timing with mock exams in April was off. Yet, when I saw how readily the girls took to learning this music, and there is such a wealth of music out there telling our stories, such as, Shadow’s “Bass Man,” and even further back to “Roaring Lion” and “Atilla the Hun,” also you could do a whole show with Spoiler’s music; I realised it is really a shame that as a national community we do not value and treasure this music that captures so much of our history, and is so much a part of who we are and our young people are just growing up not knowing any of these things.

“Normally the girls look forward to what I am going to teach them and they let me know in no uncertain terms if it is too boring through sharing, discuccsion and negotiation. I was starting to teach them “You’ll never walk alone” it was so relevant to the Awards Ceremony but the response was: Miss that sounds like a funeral -and they came up with the suggestion to redo the Medley. Then I came into the music room and they were teaching it to some other children – I had forgotten completely. But I listen to them because they are the ones who have to perform the music.”

Granderson actually lived through the experience of “Mas In May”. “It brought back a lot of memories for me so I could pass on the story. That was the year I played in Hot Pants Extravaganza in Starlift, and the rain really came. The mas had been postponed to May because of a polio scare.

The calypso teaches stories, through song, of events that really happened. There is so much material that we can teach our young people through the cultures that they need to know. Where they fit in and what life was like. They will listen because the music belongs to us. At first they were not too sure but the music came alive for them and they started getting into the stories and really enjoying it. We have to take that sense of drama and tell the story.”

Said Granderson, “Every Carnival Friday we have a Vintage competition, they must sing something from 1980 back. They have to do their research and come up with it. An original composition and Midnight Robber speech by each house. We are still struggling to get an old mas competition alive but the girls do not think old mas except for J’ouvert.”

As plans progress for the choir’s upcoming South African tour, later this year, the repertoire will include calypso, East Indian music, some classical, and folk, accompanied by the steel ensemble, which will also play on its own.

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