Voices in the garden

The group was originally known as the Lewis Sisters. As infants in the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Lashana and Dacia Lewis were part of a singing trio, which about 11 years ago, formally adopted the current name, The Garden Girls.

That name came about when Romona Phillips and Tina Brathwaite joined their church friends at the The Garden Seventh Day Adventist Church in St. James.

“When we all came together and since we were based at The Garden church, we thought The Garden Girls would be a good name to have,” Romona told High Note.

Romona, who alternates between alto and tenor, said the group performs mainly within the Adventist Church fraternity, but has also sang for other denominations.

Perhaps the girls’ biggest public event was the annual Super Gospel Concerts produced by the Silvertones of Barbados.

“We did two Super Gospels. Last year was the second,” added Romona.

When they perform, The Garden Girls use pre-recorded sound tracks to accompany them, but sing a cappella as well.

“Personally, I like a cappella, but most of our songs are with backing tracks. We do our own arrangements, but we don’t write our songs as yet,” revealed Romona.

With regards to writing and recording their own music in the future, she said it was a matter being considered.

“Lashana is a budding song writer and Dacia is in Jamaica studying. She should be finished this year, so when she comes back, we could try something,” noted the talented singer.

She explained that the group’s primary genre of music was contemporary gospel, but they also do country and western and “oldies”.

“We do Negro spirituals as well,” continued Romona.

Asked about the possibility of performing other genres such as Caribbean rhythms as a bigger part of their repertoire, The Garden Girls “spokesperson” told this newspaper, while it was a matter they had not seriously discussed, she did not rule it out.

“Sometimes we do a Grace Thrillers track called Sunlight Jesus, which is reggaeish. I am a fan of the reggae concept,” she declared.

Romona also has her own views about the present state of gospel music in Barbados.

“Once we have the message of Christ,” she advised, “the genre is no problem. We bring what young people can sing. Gospel music is not dead.”

However, she has some reservations about the tendency by some to “blur” the message within the music.

“I don’t want to knock anybody’s music, but a lot of the music is not focussed on Christ. We hear a lot of rap. Sometimes when you look at the crowd, it is not what you would want to see from your message,” asserted Romona.

“You want to see people drawn to Christ,” she insisted.

Asked if she had a problem with rap, the young vocalist responded: “The focus must be on the message.”

I had the honoure to witness The Garden Girls for the first time, perform at last year’s Super Gospel Concert at the Coleridge and Parry School in St. Peter and their melodic voices and mesmerising harmonies are recommended listening. Trust me. emmanueljoseph@barbadostoday.bb††††

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