Sixth Form Sisserou Singers: Choral Legends
Writing about the Sisserou Singers is always one of my most difficult propositions because their high standards leave me in awe year after year. Notwithstanding the limitations of the Arawak as a theatre for the performing arts, many times the excellence demanded by director Pearle "Aunty Pearle" Christian is executed almost to perfection, through the voices and music of these brilliant, youthful Dominican academics of the Sixth Form, now renamed the State College.
This excellence I have therefore attributed to the respect for and high standards set by the director, the raw talent and love for singing shared by the group, but more than that, the discipline which only the home and education can impart to form a well-rounded individual. When one looks at the calibre of youth, past and present, who have entertained Dominican audiences since 1994 (this was their 19th production), one can well appreciate that attitude determines altitude.
As the Sisserou Singers has done every year, they pay tribute or homage is often paid to individuals who have for decades toiled in preserving the choral traditions and this year the programme indicated this honour went to Mr Dermot Southwell who for over 60 years has been a tenor of the Roseau Bethesda Methodist Church Choir.
Against a lovely backdrop of green, white and blue drapes dotted with red, green, yellow and blue stars and a crescent shaped 1st quarter moon painted by artist Earl Etienne they began with some international choral standards some of the most familiar being All Things Bright and Beautiful and the final number Lean on me. The Singers dedicated I Look to you to those women who were a source of support not only as professionals in their jobs but through their support of the group, but who, unfortunately, passed on over the past two years. It was to say the least heart rendering.
Lean on me was classically executed by one of Dominica's best female artistes, Michele Henderson, who doubles as a musician for the singers, and Aldayne Green, in solo roles, while the trio of Freda Blaize, Rosema Burton and Patricia Kerrie Austrie provided added support with the rest of the Sisserou Singers. If Section 1A presentation was the appetizer, then much was promised for the main course.
Young Ariel Isaac, who under Pearle Christians' tutorship earned a distinction from the Royal School of Music, was appreciated as guest performer on flute. Section 1B introduced the power and incredulous range of the voice trained Daria Sorhaindo in an opera-styled presentation of the popular jazzy number Summertime.
This was certainly one of the masterpieces of the night as her voice symbolized the passion of a red and yellow fiery dress she wore, contrasting the green of the Sisserou Singers who provided vocal complement. A five- piece choral selection from Les Miserables was then presented to the already spell bound patrons with solo by the miniature but distinctive vocals of Colette Ambo and the group's president Kareem Bertrand. Then justice was done to Your Song from the pen of one of my best composers / singers of all time, Elton John.
Bassist, Okan La Fleur exposed another dimension to his renowned abilities, when he led, with Golda Scotland- Andrew (another up and coming band front-liner) in a spicy and technically challenging piece titled I am Yours, an audience favourite.
Soon thereafter everyone was rocking to Rock the Boat with the lively chorography of the Sisserou Singers until we were all caught by the freeze in the end- sensational! The now experience Peter Letang then graced the stage with his jazzy Sax Sequential in which he solicited and got the audience to participate by clapping to the rhythm. The next guest act was the jewel of all the guest performances that evening. Jarret Jean Jacques who is not yet a teenager, a RSM distinction student, effortlessly blew his way into the hearts of patrons on the trumpet with Just the Two of Us. Quite appropriately he was accompanied by his sisters Stacy and Stephanie on tenor and alto sax respectively. Indeed a moment to savour.
Unarmed but Dangerous; Humble Servant and One Flag, easily three of Dominica's top 10 calypsos ever, were arranged medley-style with the able lead vocals of Tasha Peltier, the 2011 Calypso (and only female so far) Monarch of Dominica.
Just before the intermission we were entertained by a trio of violinist in a Mozart composition; Jade Alexander, Leanne Christian, who herself is an excellent pianist for the Sisserou Singers, and the gifted Pious Jno Baptiste who is attributed to be competent in at least six different instruments.
The most popularly anticipated folk Caribbean Folk Section lived up to expectations as narrative and story told in song depicted Caribbean life; beff and tory from Trinidad, Jamaica, BVI, and of course, Dominica.
The stories and songs evolved around Obertina and marriage, murder in the market, domestic violence, Jimmy and his revenge, bullying, and an appeal to eat what we grow. I was particularly impressed with the attire which represented traditional market and stalls vendors dress and the transformation of aprons to veils as a mark of solemnity and respect for the dead. Musicians Binta Lambert, Michele, Gabrielle Abraham, Ardene Nicholas, Jodie Dublin, Freddie, Shirvon Baron, Pious, Leanne and crew who are normally off stage, really set the mood for the calypsos and final folk section.
Choral Legends ended with a final tribute to the Nature Isle as a huge Dominican flag was waved proudly back stage to close the curtain.