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CREATIVE SPACE #19 OF 2018 – MY FAVOURITE THINGS
Wednesday 12th December 2018

By Joanne C. Hillhouse

Christmas is like Carnival in one significant way. Either you’re feeling the spirit or you’re not. Another point of intersection, both seasons lead with music - a song here, a song there, until you’re drowning or swimming in it, depending on your mood; the tinsel and glitter of Carnival are the twinkling lights and other dusted off decorations of Christmas. Both are inescapable. They are significantly alike in this other way, the feeling of the spirit catching you – finally – is like the turning of a page in sudden wind, the opening of a flower come morning – sudden and dewlike. If you’re fortunate.

That moment may – emphasis on may – have come for me on December 10th 2018 in the Methodist concert hall on St. Mary’s Street (above the Methodist Bookshop) where the Le Chateau d’Or was holding its first recital of the season – there were other performances featuring other sections of the multi-instrument music academy planned for in the week.

This Monday night, incidentally Heroes Day/V.C. Bird Day, event was about the percussive instruments – the pan and drums. I’ve been covering Le Chateau d’Or almost since its earliest days, when it was started by Anthony Hampson in his home in New Winthorpes in the 1990s. Actually, the school started in 1992 when I would have just started university but the point is I’ve been covering it long enough to see its growth from pan school to the multitude of instruments (pan, drums, sax, violin, guitar, voice et al) it continues to offer and the way it has served as a feeder group which can claim some credit for the youth-driven resurgence of pan in recent years. Le Chateau d’Or in fact is currently led by two of the youthful sparks in contemporary Antiguan-Barbudan instrumentation, Hampson’s daughter Cleo-Antoinette and her husband, master musician/multi-panorama winning arranger, Khan Cordice.


Le Chateau d’Or strings practice, about 2011

The programme meticulously worked its way up from the very little, very green students to the more schooled ones to the ones who play with the ease and looseness of experience and confidence. Through each song – the barely recognizable to the melodiously familiar – my resistance to the season I’m not quite feeling this year gave a little bit more. From That’s What Christmas Means to Me – the theme of the event (complemented at two breaks in the evening by video presentations of the children declaring food, presents, time with family, and Jesus is what Christmas means to them), they ran through all the seasonal favourites before an audience of family, and neighbours, and others happy to applaud their progress: Little Drummer Boy, Jingle Bells, Deck the Halls, Silent Night, Carol of the Bells, and, others, including, of course, Merry Christmas.

I have two favourite performances. The babies who did one of the drum displays. It seemed set to be one of those performances only parents could truly enjoy as they took their time circling around the drums, sticks in hands. They didn’t play anything recognizable to me as a Christmas song but they kept time and mixed it up in a delightfully surprising way that showed me, certainly, that they may not be able to carry a tune yet but they’ve got rhythm. The audience agreed. My other favourite – the audience agreed here as well as they earned themselves an encore – was the section, including one of my nephews, that performed My Favourite Things.

I find myself thinking, in the wake of this performance how tone more than anything can change the entire meaning of a work of art. It’s something I explore in my writing workshops, how the same words can be affected by the attitude, the tone, of the writing. And in this case, of the playing. We all know Julie Andrews’ effervescent rendition from The Sound of Music – the Julie Andrews classic that you grew up on if you grew up in Antigua in my time of growing up (late 70s and through the 80s); it played on TV every holiday and there weren’t a lot of, or pre-cable in the early 80s, any alternative channel options. So, we grew up singing it as they did in the movie.

Then, there is the slower but not melancholy elegance of the Streisand version.

Then, new favourite, the stripped down and reimagined dark, quietly-rage-filled Lauryn Hill version. Which has a polar opposite effect of the original not just because the lyrics have been swapped out for ones with more urgent social commentary but also because of the tone – there is no joy to be found there.

The one the children performed (and, alas, I have no video of that) – not without nerves, but also with enthusiasm and competence – had…bounce. It made you feel like dancing and though we remained respectably seated, I knew that the Christmas spirit had somehow managed to grab me by the hand and give me a whirl.

This Le Chateau d’Or coverage originally ran on Joanne C. Hillhouse’s Jhohadli blog as part of her CREATIVE SPACE series. If you wish to see this CREATIVE SPACE series continue, sponsor a future post. To find out how, contact jhohadli@gmail.com  All Rights Reserved.


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