Clash of the choirs

by Kamilah Cadogan

Queen's College choir.
Queen’s College choir.

This year’s fourth Schools’ Choir Competition, scheduled to take place Sunday, March 3 at the Wildey Gymnasium, promises to be a treat.

Started in 2009, this competition seeks to highlight the vocal talents of this island’s school children. Ten primary and four secondary schools have advanced to the finals.

The choir directors from the four secondary schools (Queen’s College, Lester Vaughan School, Deighton Griffith and Springer Memorial) spoke to Barbados TODAY to provide Barbadians with a glimpse of the hard work they have been putting in to prepare for this fantastic show.

Queen’s College alumnus, Ezra Hinds, only taught at his alma mater for a term while the substantive music teacher was on leave, but in that short time he revived the school choir; an act that is now responsible for them being in the finals of this competition. But although the choir is still fairly new, Hinds still had the challenge of cutting the choir down to the required 30 members.

Speaking about the performance itself, Hinds added that the choir only had about one week to prepare for the finals. For their preliminary performance, they sang to a backing track, but for the finals, the choir will be singing with live band accompaniment. This band will comprise Queen’s College students, which should bring a different dynamic to the performance.

Although Hinds is not teaching at the school this term, he still goes to help the choir with their preparation. In his absence, another teacher, Timothy Durant, has filled the shoes of choir director, and he will be the one on stage on Sunday with the choir, ensuring that each member sings to perfection.

Of the four secondary schools in the final, Lester Vaughan School is the only one with previous competition experience. At the last competition in 2011 the choir placed second to Christ Church Foundation School’s.

Choir director Kevin King said that the children were surprised but delighted that they had been successful in the preliminaries, not for lack of talent but this new choir only had two weeks to prepare before the preliminary performance.

King has only been on the staff at Lester Vaughan since last term and had challenges such as forming the choir, keeping them focussed during rehearsals and instilling discipline. But despite these challenges, King added that the choir, made up of mainly first form students, is very enthusiastic and excited to perform.

For their finals performance, the choir will be doing a Negro spiritual, and without giving away too much, he did say that the performance from the choir would be “dynamic”.

Dave Jackman, choir director of the Springer Memorial choir, said they almost did not enter the choir due to his busy schedule, but it was the girls who coerced him to go ahead with the entry. With only a week to prepare for the preliminaries and a hectic schedule keeping Jackman away from the school, the music portfolio had to rely on the other two music teachers, Ian Webster and Norma Bowen, for assistance, for which he is very thankful.

For the finals, the girls are powered up and ready to give their best on Sunday. Jackman has encouraged them to have positive attitudes and not worry about beating the other schools, but once they give of their best. Once they do this, he would be happy. This does not only apply to competition but any event at which the choir performs.

Cutting down the choir, which usually comprises of over 120 girls, ranging from first form up to upper fifth, proved to be a challenge. Jackman said he had a hard time choosing the 30 students required as all of the students love to perform and he wanted all of them to be exposed to the competition. But Jackman added that although it was tough he understood the rules.

For the finals the public should expect a great performance. Jackman will not be using and tricks or gimmicks to enhance the performance as he wants the voices to be most impactful.

The last secondary school through to the finals, Deighton Griffith, was delighted when they learnt that their preliminary performance took them through to the next round. Choir Director Toni Holder said that the students were jumping and screaming and she was so excited that she joined in. The reason for this exuberance? Two weeks before the preliminaries, Holder scrambled to round up children to enter the competition and compiled a choir made up of mainly junior students to add to the regular choir members.

One of the major challenges was finding the time to rehearse. Having after-school rehearsals has proven to be difficult, forcing the choir to practise at lunch time, which is also difficult. Due to the limited time available at lunch and the fact that some children have to buy lunch, it has been hard getting all of them to come consistently.

Despite this, Hunte has very high hopes for her choir in the finals. They are confident and are going into the finals with “all guns blazing”. The students are going to enjoy themselves, make the most of this experience and most importantly have fun. Hunte has lined up a “special guest appearance” for their performance, but she did not give a hint as to who it could be as she wants Barbadians to come and see for themselves.

The ten primary schools in the finals are Arthur Smith Primary, Cuthbert Moore Primary, Gordon Walters Primary, Hindsbury Primary, Ignatius Byer Primary, Mount Tabor Primary, Roland Edwards Primary, St. Luke’s Brighton Primary, St. Matthew’s Primary and St. Philip Primary.

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