Last Easter Sunday’s Playing To Inspire 2 orchestral performance held at the St. John’s Pentecostal House of Restoration on Lauchland Benjamin Drive, has been received as a grand success by event goers, the organizers, performers and donors alike.
“I went to the last concert at Spring Gardens and I thought they were fantastic then,” said one event attendee, “but they exceeded my expectations this time around.”
“They just keep getting better and better,” said another orchestra attendee.
“Was great exposure for our school children here. How they all came together and put on that performance in just a week is beyond me.”
“My daughter was one of the singers from High School and this is all she could talk about this week. I know it was a great experience for her and her schoolmates,” beamed one parent.
The Kanneh-Masons thrilled the Antigua audience last year in their inaugural orchestral performance, Playing to Inspire. This year’s performance sought to showcase not only the musical talents of the ‘most talented family in the world’ (Simon Cowell), but also that of the local youth in Antigua and Barbuda.
A mass youth choir comprising voices from several schools and organizations across the island and abroad: the Antigua Girls High, Antigua Grammar, Clare Hall Secondary, Jennings Secondary, National Youth Choir, Potters SDA Youth Choir and the Chorus of Dissent (UK), sang with angelic tones, passion and perfect harmony.
The choir of approximately 100 voices was ably accompanied by the orchestra which comprised the Kanneh-Mason’s; Europe’s first professional black orchestra (Chineke!) director Chi-chi Nwanuko; and approximately thirty Antiguan youths, many of whom were inspired to play or improve on their instruments at last years’ concert.
From the National Anthem to Vivaldi’s Gloria to the Hallelujah Chorus and all pieces in between, the choir and orchestra held the audience captive with their melodic sounds.
The Playing to Inspire initiative was birthed from a vision held by Antigua and Barbuda High Commissioner to Britain and ABYSO vice chairman, Her Excellency Karen-Mae Hill.
“Music,” she said, “knows no boundaries and our youth can be transformed once given the opportunity to be involved in wholesome music.”
“It will take some time, but we have a cadre of persons internationally who are interested in supporting with the capacity building and so I know in about three to five years we will have [the Antiguan Youth Orchestra] playing like Kanneh-Masons.”
The evening of excellence also saw the resurgence of the Antigua Barbuda Youth Symphony Orchestra (ABYSO). Chairperson for the recently formed ABYSO board, Mrs. Marion Byron thanked the patrons, Their Excellencies Sir Rodney Williams and Lady Sandra Williams for having pledged their unwavering support to the organization. Several instruments have already been sourced and donated by the patrons and were officially handed over to the ABYSO during the concert.
Other board members consist of: Dr Jillia Bird, Claudine Benjamin, Dr Lester Simon, Dr George Roberts, Vernon Jeffers, Marion Byron, Tiffany Smith, Roberto Falangola, Josie-Ann Hampson (treasurer), and Lisa Hixon (secretary).
The Minister of Culture E.P. Chet Greene also commended the efforts of the ABYSO board saying that, “the inaugural programme in 2017 was not as extravagant as this one, so it tells me that already this initiative is growing”
Many of the local teachers also gave a tremendous help to this effort: Renee Smith of the National Youth Choir; Joelle Michael of the Clare Hall Secondary; Quincy Etinoff of the Antigua Grammar; Caryl Edwards Lewis of the Antigua Girls’ High; Camelia Thomas of the Jennings Secondary; Claudine Benjamin and Clarita Thomas of the Potters SDA Church Youth Choir; along with Tiffany Smith and Keith Deshong who toiled tirelessly from January to the present preparing our local musicians for the arrival of the visitors.