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They gave Oh Maria a standing ovation.

"Even people who couldn't stand properly stood," said a person who viewed Oh Maria - Songs and Stories of Survivors at the Alliance Française de la Dominique on Valley Road on Saturday August 18, 2018.

"Oh Maria was full of Maria stories and that made us realise that there is more about Maria we do not know," she said. "I saw some people in the audience cry."

Earlier the Cultural Division hosted Dominican-born Darrel Toulon who returned to his native country after 37 years of living and working in the UK, Germany and Austria to create a piece of musical theatre performed by a group of young talented fellow-Dominicans.

The piece entitled Oh Maria – Songs and Stories of Survivors was produced during an intensive two-week workshop held at the Convent High School in Roseau.

Under Toulon's artistic direction the selected participants of the workshop were introduced to a whole new range of creative tools, by the international leading team of Maurizio Nobili (Musical Director, song writer, composer, and arranger) and Carole Alston (singer, actress, vocal coach, and singing teacher). Complementing the faculty was Alwin Bully, Pearle Christian, Lennox Honychurch, Dorothy Leevy, Ophelia Marie, and Anthony Toulon who gave key-talks, providing invaluable inter-generational local input.

"The workshop has been an excellent education opportunity for the participants, to work with experienced and highly skilled professionals of international repute; they were guided and coached; and introduced to ideas concerning storytelling, song-writing, arrangement, interpretation, and performance, for creative purposes of transforming the stories of trauma and resilience," wrote Anita Bully in a press release.

"Stories of the survivors of Hurricane Maria were converted into monologues, and then into lyrics for songs arranged for performance by the Workshop Participants themselves in collaboration with the facilitators.

"This project follows the astounding success of the Gala event held by Mr. Toulon in Austria last year and which raised some €31,000 for the Blood Bank at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Dominica," Bully said.

While talking about the project, Toulon stated: "This provides me with a chance to give something back to Dominica after 37 years of living and working abroad. Leading and creating similar projects internationally with people from other countries and using their traumatic experiences to communicate with a contemporary European Audience, it matters now to initiate this project back home."

The performance was kept deceptively simple, almost like a live-radio-play, in that the emphasis was on the voice, and the stories unfolded through song, spoken-word and a sound-scape all created in the 2-week workshop, Bully stated.


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