The St Vincent and the Grenadines Cadet Force (SVGCF) Band celebrated its 50th anniversary last Friday, June 8.
The SVGCF Band was started in 1968 as a drum corps by Lt. Rev. Allan Kirton during the tenure of Capt Lennox John as Commandant.
Its first appearance was at the Queen’s Birthday Parade held at the Victoria Park on Saturday June 8, 1968. The foundation members were: Major the Honourable St Clair Leacock, Garth Williams, Michael Ollivierre (aka Lord Have Mercy), John Daisley, Archdeacon Everton Weekes, Calvert (Booty) Ferdinand, Timothy Hazell (deceased), Peter Fraser, Val Lawrence, Denzel Stewart (deceased), Donn Bobb and Greg Richards.
In 1970, the corps acquired four more bugles and in 1972 two tenor drums that they were played by Esmond Weekes and the late Douglas Hamlet. Two further tenor drums were acquired two years later. In 1975 a donation from Humber College of five silver piston bugles enhanced the wind section and thus the repertoire was expanded slightly from simple bugle marches.
Women were recruited into the band in 1977. The first female tenor Drummers being Kenlyn Clouden and Diane Hall. The great leap forward came in the latter half of the 1978 when the corps of drums was transformed slowly into a full military band reaching its pinnacle in the 1980s under the guidance of Captain Dr Alwayn Leacock who made music education mandatory and thus give rise to many prominent tertiary qualified musicians such as Junior Sutherland, Darrien Ollivierre, Dexter Bacchus, and Kemuel Spence who attended the Royal Military school of music in Kneller Hall UK. Among the band’s achievements is winning a gold medal twice at the national music festival and the signal Honour of playing for Her Majesty the Queen on Sunday, October 27, 1985 at the medal investiture ceremony at Government House.
The band boasts amongst its past members several prominent Vincentians Senator Julian Francis, eminent Volcanologist Dr Richard Robertson, Commander David Robin, Colin Cunningham, veteran mass media communicators Donald Bobb and Colin Cunningham, renal transplant surgeon Dr Malcolm Samuel, Dr Wilfred Layne haematologist, Ashley Marksman of Asterisk fame, entrepreneur and businessman Anthony Regisford, Volcanologist Carlilse “Pyiko Williams”, Captain Samora Leacock of the US army, first Sousaphonist. First second’s trumpet theatre management specialist Fred Harry, First E flat clarinettist Sgt Brian woods of the UK RLC corps. First female clarinettist Dr Melissa Scott, first Female drum major, Corsilla Adams who then went on to be the first female drum major of the police band. ACP Richard Browne; drummer, bass drummer and drum major. Artillon Hamilton veteran B Flat bass player. Altocha Anderson clarinet player who became the first female Regimental Sgt major of the cadet corps.
It had always been the dream of Captain Lennox John, the then commandant to make the band a national show piece; a sentiment expressed by successive commandants over the years. The journey has not been easy as they have had to rely on the generosity of the Kingstown Baptist Church, the Marriaqua Secondary School and the Japanese for musical instruments. More significantly the volunteerism of Bill Roberts, Hugh Huggins, Ikiki Rose, Joffre Venner and Ricardo McDonald who at various segments gave of their free service and musical expertise to expand the band.