by Kimberley Cummins
The Myriad Singers of Barbados recently returned from touring the United States and from all accounts they “tore down” the place.
Known as one of Barbados’ premier choral groups they toured New York and South Carolina from August 10 to 20. Business Manager Norton Brewster, told Barbados TODAY that while the schedule was strenuous, the performances were great and well received.
After each performance, he said, many people raved that they never anticipated the quality music rendered to come out of Barbados — “they said the quality of music was outstanding”.
“We only spent four days and we had four performances and we had to cancel some. The Cathedral of St. John the Devine is the length of two American football fields with a height of 150 feet. It has five chapels and two additional organs. Choirs perform at this famous and prestigious venue by invitation only, which is based primarily on the standard of the musicality of the invited choirs and who are usually required to pay a fee for being allowed such privilege.
“The Cathedral can be compared to West Minster Abbey in England and we were specially invited to perform,” Brewster said.
The choir was formed in 2004 and the first set of tours kicked off in New York where they performed three renditions of I Was Glad by C H Parry, Ave Maria by Franz Beibl’s and R Vaughn Williams’ Old Hundredth Psalm Tune to a rapturous applause.
In addition to performances at different locations, they performed a recital at the St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church and were well received with people expressing surprise at the choir’s musical competence, according to Brewster.
The New York segment of the tour was rounded off with a concert at the Church of Intercession, where the repertoire included John Rutter’s royal anthem This Is The Day.
In South Carolina, the concert was held at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Proof that music is universal was demonstrated when for the first time meeting, accompanist Lee Kohlenberg and the choir performed and were overwhelmingly received. It was said that they even received a prolonged standing ovation.
The MSB held their first secular concert at the Winyah auditorium in the city of Georgetown. They performed Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, West Side Story medley by Leonard Bernstein and Negro spirituals that included Elijah Rock and Old Time Religion medley.
The tour was conceptualised to showcase the musicality of the Barbadian choir as well as a vehicle to promote the Barbados tourism product; but while the members were able to gain a greater musical experience, it was also a chance for them to learn more of their connection to the US, particularly South Carolina.
They visited the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens; it was said to be the original ancestral home of the Drayton family since 1676 and today is home to the eleventh generation of Draytons. The original Drayton family travelled to South Carolina from Barbados with their slaves and helped to establish that colony there.
They also visited the Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site, which is said to be the birth place of South Carolina, where in 1670; the English settlers from Barbados established the first permanent European colony in the Carolinas.
One of the most rewarding and self-satisfying days of the tour, Brewster said, was on August 15 when the group visited the Carolina Youth Development Centre. The CYDC is an independent non-profit organisation that serves children through nine residential outreach programmes. It offers an educational journey connecting young people in Charleston to their Barbados cultural heritage.
“This experience had nothing to do with the choir’s concert performances but being able to interact with a group of youngster, who are part of a rehabilitative programme… There, members of MSB conducted a music workshop for 20 of the young people of the facility. A great time was had by all as the children were taught the basic principles of singing. This was followed by a singing exercise.
“The music workshop and the gift of two cook books on Barbadian recipes and cooking was the Myriad Singers’ way of bonding with these less fortunate youngsters of the South Carolina community and making a meaningful contribution to a community with definite, traceable links to Barbados. One such youngster boastfully announced that his uncle was Barbadian,” he said.
Brewster said that the group aimed to tour again next year but was hoping because of the results from this tour they would get some financial assistance. While the Ministry of Finance did contribute a grant, he added that they had to foot most of the bill, having paid for airfare, accommodation and since the transportation in South Carolina fell through, they ended up renting vehicles to take them to and from events.
“Our main thing was to promote Barbados as a tourist destination. I am hoping that the report gets through to the people in authority. We got a lot of static from tourism-related people and that is why we ended doing this on our own. Having set that initial stage, hopefully people will follow through.”