Schools ready for showdown

by Kamilah Cadogan

choirgordonwaltersIt will be a battle royale this Sunday, March 3 at the Wildey Gymnasium as 10 talented primary school choirs take to the stage at the Schools Choir Competition.

Four secondary schools will also be competing at the event. Yesterday, we brought information on five of the 10 primary schools, and today we bring you the other five.

This year is Gordon Walters’ first time entering the competition, and as expected they were extremely happy at the news that they had made it to the finals. Music and information technology teacher Rommel Hall, who has been teaching at the school for six years, said he knew that result meant that their song had to be of a high calibre because there were lots of schools that were not new to the competition and they made it through.

In the days leading up to Sunday’s final, Hall has been encouraging the students to put their best foot forward and make sure they give their best performance on the night. He also said that the children are not nervous, but rather excited, a feeling that he hopes does not change.

The choir, although new to the competition, is not new to the stage. They have performed at NIFCA where they received a bronze award.

On Sunday, they will be singing an original Barbadian song written by Lesley Griffith and David Rowe and sung by Mya Daniel entitled Part of You and Me. Hall has not tweaked the song much, just some parts of the arrangement. He thinks that because it is a different song and is not very well known, this could work to their advantage.

In 2011, St. Philip Primary entered the choir competition and placed sixth overall. This time, choir director Kwame Edwards has put measures in place to ensure that does not happen again. For this year’s competition, he has given the choir a more challenging song with a three-part harmony and the solo part is more dynamic. The choir has been practising since December in preparation for this competition.

The children in the choir were ecstatic when they found out they had made the finals, however, they are a bit nervous as Sunday draws closer. Edwards tries to reassure them that they have nothing to be nervous about.

“Just look at me and don’t look at anyone else. Forget about everyone else and focus on me,” he repeats to them.

The school choir is a very hard working and diligent one. They entered NIFCA last year and got the points to qualify for the finals but they were left out because, according to Edwards, the quota for the finals had been reached. In December they held a Christmas concert and also produced a Christmas CD.

One of the major challenges encountered comes from the small roll at the school. Because of this, the same children are involved in numerous activities and finding time to rehearse that does not clash with another activity has proven to be difficult. As a result, Edwards has kept the choir quiet for most of the year so they would not be pressured.

As a bit of a warm up for Sunday, the choir performed at a service at Sanctuary Empowerment Centre today.

First-timers Roland Edwards may be new to this competition, but they certainly are not new to winning competitions. Last November, they were victorious in the Northern Schools Choir Competition with an original song. Principal Michael Watson realised that the other schools that were winning had original songs so he requested that they did the same. So teacher Khwamlisa Springer put pen to paper and wrote the winning song.

She does not take all the credit for the choir’s outstanding performances. She is ably assisted by a team made up of teachers and parents.

“It is truly a community effort,” Springer said.

Parent volunteer Dwight Bishop was the one responsible for the musical arrangement of the song. But his contribution does not end there. He also plays the keyboard on mornings for the school’s assembly. Teacher Paulina Hinds, who has directed and led the choir before continues to help out and outstanding singer and teacher at the school Kimberley Demendon√a plays the role of vocal coach for the choir.

Apart from the scheduled slot on the timetable for choir practice, they also rehearse every day at lunch, which speaks to a level of determination that the students from class three and four possess.

These children are ready and rearing to go for Sunday’s final. Springer tells them that there is nothing that can compare to the feeling of being on a stage and everyone hanging in every note they sing. She expects her choir to win based on the fact that they have a great song, happy children and a superb team.

Another school that is certainly not new to the stage but new to this competition is the Ignatius Byer school choir. Under the direction of music and visual arts teacher Hugh Griffith, this choir will be entering Sunday’s final thoroughly mentally prepared, as that is Griffith’s main focus. Initially, he was not too keen on the competition but he decided to let them try their best and see what happened.

The song they will be performing, entitled Our Environment, won silver at last year’s NIFCA, was also performed at the gala and the choir received the Most Promising Performance by a Primary School award. Griffith was awarded the LIME Creators Prize for the second time, the first time being in 2010.

Between 2006 to 2011, the choir has taken part in 10 competitions, such as Sing Your Heart Out competition and the Northern Primary Schools Choir Competition, and have been very successful on each occasion. They placed second on four occasions and won five times.

Griffith joined the staff of the school in 2004 and from 2006 the choir began to develop. For the finals, he is ensuring that the students understand and internalise the song, because once they do, they would be able to sing the song with purpose and give a better performance.

St. Luke’s Brighton is the only school where the director is not a teacher at the school. On contract with the National Cultural Foundation, Ronald Bullen’s task is to go to various schools and revive the music departments. Some of the schools he is reponsible for are Charles F. Broome Memorial, St. Giles and Sharon Primary, who were the competition winners in 2011.

The students will be performing a song entitled Angelina, which was penned by Irving Burgie and sung by Harry Belafonte. To make it different, he added a dialogue at the beginning.

Although the choir is a relatively new choir, just about a year old, Bullen and the children are confident of their chances at Sunday’s final. They were in the NIFCA semifinals last year and like St. Philip’s Primary, made the grade for the finals but the quota had been met.

Bullen is pleased with the progress the children have made and reported no major challenges.

“They are a bit restless but they learn quickly and they are a happy bunch.”

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