A "Pearl" in Dominica's culture: cultural stalwart Pearle Christian
It is inevitable. All good things end at some point but for Pearle Christian it has been an amazing 33 years of a labour of love at the Cultural Division from 1981. Aunty Pearle, as most of us affectionately call her, is a Convent High School graduate of the 60's. She was born of music guru Henckell Christian and Muriel Christian (nee Mathew) in the village of Laplaine. Her "good rhythmic sense", as she calls it, was nurtured while she was at the Convent Preparatory School. It was not surprising, therefore, that at seven she began her first tutorship in the piano with the musical composer of the National Anthem, her uncle L. M. Christian.
Choral singing formed an early part of her life particularly on Saturdays when she gave up play time to engage in the discipline. She later went on to study piano with Mrs. Rosemary Cools- Lartigue whom she credits as the main architect of her musical journey. With such a background steeped in talent and discipline she got involved with many school groups and performance activities but music remains her central love. So during her days at Convent, the High Royal Schools of Music exams set the base for her 1976 enrollment in the Norman Manley School of Visual and Performing Arts where it was all formalized.
Though Pearle's course of study exposed her to classical and music theory and education, she has an innate passion for the music of the Caribbean, its folk life and expressions. Her inspirational tutors in Jamaica took note of her skills and she won several accolades as best second and third and final year student and Student of the Year awards among others. She was invited and joined the staff after graduation from the Jamaica School of Music and from the Jamaica Ministry of Education she came back home to conduct her own ministry; one in culture, music and the arts.
Aunty Pearle has since composed scores of songs in her staging of six children musicals. She has done so on the flute, recorder and the piano with ensembles', choirs, soloist, trained scores of students through the Kairi School of Music where she was a principal tutor for 17 years, via dozens of workshops and one-on-one tutelage.
Some of her works included Ananse and fire(1988), Song of the Sisserou(1989)Ananse and the Pusher(1990) Anancy and the mirrors(1991) Maruka (1992)Mama Ella ( 1994) , Ma Flora-Golden keeper of the savannah , Befriending Ma Ziggilly and Anancy and Commonsense. Pearle Christian for a brief moment departed our shores once more, but that was to obtain a Master's Degree at Texas University, still in her search for excellence and thirst for knowledge in her music vocation.
Notwithstanding Pearle's dedication and outstanding work well over three decades with churches, the National Chorale, Dominica Folk Singers, workshops island-wide or at the Cultural Division, she will be remembered long after she is gone, for her almost 21 years of toil, dedication, the formation and grooming of talented young men and women into one of Dominica's most potent cultural forces over the last 20 years. That is the indomitable Sixth Form Sisserou Singers.
I submit Pearle Christian is not only an excellent composer, pianist, flutist and cultural officer but most of all she is an outstanding human being. A woman of high esteem. Everyone who has interfaced with her, particularly young women, can find a mother figure, a role model, hence the name Aunty Pearle. Always smiling, pleasant, approachable though her many students will add that she is a perfectionist, sets high standards so you better get it right. In fact, her lifelong slogan has been "Anything worth doing is worth doing well". Another maxim she has coined "Once a Sisserou, always a Sisserou".
This she exudes in all the group's productions as she finds a way to bring back to the fold those who once passed through the door of the Sisserou Singers. At the annual events the group stages, Aunty Pearle always ensures that some recognition is given to persons who have and may be still contributing selflessly to her passion, choral music. Dominican and visitors all look forward to Sisserou Singers' annual productions and particularly the most popular section- Caribbean Rhythms which contain themes that Pearle, all through her life, has explored.
I also submit that this generation will not see a combination in the sphere of culture, one like Raymond Lawrence and Pearle Christian. Never!
Pearle, who recently resigned at a youthful 60, says her greatest achievement through the medium of music (choral and instrumentation) was that she was able to provide that platform for the holistic development of many young people from diverse backgrounds. Her only regret is that she probably should have been more meticulous with the documentation of her intellectual property.
I say she needs to publish her work and to establish her private studios, in honour of her parents and name it the "Henckell Muriel Music Workshop".
I salute one of Dominica's greatest daughters and wish her well. Certainly when we speak of women of high esteem, this is the 'Pearle' that we speak of.