Dr. Fraser- Point of View
December 23, 2009

STARLIFT ‘S Christmas Spectacular

CHRISTMAS began for me last Friday with Starlift’s ‘grand’ spectacular dubbed “Celebrate with Starlift and Friends”. What an excellent show! It is one of the best shows I have seen in SVG for some time. The audience wrapped it up and clearly enjoyed every bit of it as was evident from the continuous applause, comments and even occasional bits of humour thrown around that showed the kind of mood that was being set up.{{more}} When MC Bernard John stole a short commercial break to report that a watch was lost somewhere around the President Box, Lie-Za whispered to Bassie that she thought that went out on November 25. The audience was happy, appreciating the fact that this country has talent. But it was even more. This was never in question, but quite often when we put our talent on display, the organisation leaves much to be desired and this detracts from the performances. Not so on Friday 18th. The show started about three minutes beyond the scheduled starting time and flowed smoothly and spectacularly for the next three hours. Even MC Bernard John’s task was made easy for there were no awkward breaks that would have forced him to intrude into the proceedings. His task which he did with his usual aplomb was to gently nudge it along.

The stage and general setting which, I believe, was done by Sea Operations (SVG) Ltd, was splendid and helped to create the ambience that prevailed. One of the advantages of having that show at the Mike Findlay pavilion is that the seating is so comfortable, although the acoustics is always challenging. The audience, contrary to my original fears, was a large and enthusiastic one that came expecting something beyond the norm, something to put them in the holiday mood. The only thing left was for Starlift to deliver. And they did, so much so that patrons echoed the MC’s point that it was worth more than the $50 required of them. The man of the moment was Errol Sutherland, who realised that his dream was about to be fulfilled. At the end when the Grand Finale was taking place he could barely restrain himself and was no doubt very much carried away with how smoothly and beautifully things went.

Following the National Anthem and a brief address by manager Sardo, a Fanfare by the brass section of the RSVG Police Force band brought Cantemus and the New Kingstown Choral on stage to join Starlift as they played “Celebrate” by Kool and the Gang. And then the musical journey and celebration began. Starlift seniors set the tone for what was to follow with their renditions of “Feel so Good”, “Breezing”, “Rain in Africa” and “Summer Time.” Cantemus then followed, blending beautifully with Starlift to do “Skater’s Waltz”. After a rendition of “Yours in My Heart Alone” by Starlift and the brass section of the RSVG Police band, the seniors ended this first part with “Waltz in E Flat” (Chopin), played in calypso tempo. This was beautifully done and shows the versatility of the steel pan. I make this point because in an interview last week, one of the organisers of the show, Dick Neverson, was making the point that when the members of the band were confronted with the fact that they had to play classical pieces, some of them disappeared and had to be coaxed back. When they realised that this was not beyond them and that the steelband is not only about carnival and calypso, they really got into it. Their enthusiasm and vigour were demonstrated on Friday night as they travelled their musical journey. At this point I have to pay special tribute to Vernon Coombs, who had made the journey back from Toronto to re-establish contact with Starlift and to take on the task of doing the musical arrangements for the show and as musical conductor for the night, something he did in fine style. He has to be given credit for what was delivered on that night.

Then there was Starlift Youths, with their youngest pannist being a mere seven years young. I echo the sentiments of the MC that the future of Starlift and of steelband in SVG is quite assured. The youngsters accompanied by Japanese pianist Sachi Yamada, who is becoming a fixture on the local scene, did three pieces, “Interlude”, “All of Me”, and Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer”, the last a familiar piece that brought the house down with thunderous applause. The Seniors then continued in the classical mode with “Air on the G String”(Bach-Orchestral Suite No.3 in D Major), and “ On the Blue Danube” (Strauss) done with the New Kingstown Chorale. Of course, wherever there is the New Kingstown Chorale one can expect the best. Ably led by Jeanne Horne they did not disappoint, although there were slight problems getting their voices heard above the sound of the steel pan which was picked up by the mikes that were spread around to accommodate the large Chorale group. It was good to see the Chorale lending their support to this magnificent show. John Horne, one of its members was, I believe, the main producer of the Show and his experience would certainly have contributed to its success.

Following the intermission and a tribute to Starlift’s ‘Fallen Members’, which disappointed in that we did not get the multi-media presentation promised, was a tribute to the season and was dubbed “That Old Christmas Feeling”. Playing a central role here was the veteran and renowned Syl McIntosh, who played along first with the young and talented Reajahn Baptiste, who I believe is attending Music School in Jamaica, and Sacho Yamada. Syl also left the audience wanting more with the “Christmas Song” which he did being accompanied by Starlift. What was good about this part of the programme was that it featured the music of Vincentians, “Merry Christmas” by Dan Simon, one of the ‘Fallen Members”, Becket’s “Calypso Noel” and De Man’s Age’s “Christmas Time.” Also being featured live were vocalists Ricky Bowman and Gideon James, James doing Dan Simon’s “Merry Christmas” and Bowman “Careless Whisper”.”For Unto Us a Child is Born” (Handel-the Messiah) that brought together Cantemus and the New Kingstown Chorale with Starlift was so wonderfully received that the MC with the prompting of patrons had to ask for an encore.

All joined with the singing of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” before the Grande Finale that brought all the performers on stage to accompany Starlift with its performance of “A Love Me Christmas” by CP. Then it was time to leave, three hours well spent and a happy audience, many of them returning Vincies, getting a grand welcome home; all of us being put in the spirit of Christmas, knowing that this country can deliver much more once our people come together. Those who missed this show missed a night to remember in grand Vincy style. DVD’s will, however, soon be available, so don’t miss them.

l Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.