The making of "Footprints": A preview of a musical comedy by the Sisserou Singers
It's the 20th production of the Sisserou Singers (SS) and I was privileged to be backstage and front stage while the group rehearsed for the staging this weekend's show at Arawak House of Culture in Roseau and in Portsmouth.
Normally I would review productions in this column but this time I venture to preview as I've always been intrigued about what goes on behind the scenes of such high quality annual productions from the Sisserou Singers.
Well, Pearle 'Aunty Pearle' Christian explained that while the group was first established some 22 years ago with Sixth Form College students and graduates the SS has extended membership by auditioning some members who are already in other groups and the group hopes to build on that foundation of talent, good morals and ethics. In this way it's a win -win situation for everyone – the grooming in the SS will assist them in their own church or village groups and choirs.
Performing with the SS is not just about singing and having a good voice but it's about conflict resolution, traveling on the straight and narrow which instils the required discipline for following instruction, developing group dynamics and conduct and up-holding the image of the group.
Aunty Pearle is the director of Footprints, a theme which has led her to choose appropriate compositions and tailoring them to honour Dr. Alwin Bully, one of the greatest cultural icons in Dominica along Cissy Caudeiron and Edward Oliver Leblanc. Dr. Bully has attained regional and international acclaim for his work particularly in theatre arts and as a UNESCO chief cultural advisor for many years when he resided in Jamaica.
Quite apart from the scores of plays that he wrote in the 70s and 80s he is the gentleman who designed the Dominican flag, and fittingly he is this year's honoree of the SS for his remarkable contribution to Calypso theatre.
Pio, Pio and Jesus Christ Super Star are two acclaimed musicals which he directed in the 70s. Most appropriately his expertise is used in the latest musical comedy "Footprints" as the writer /director of the script entitled "Lavinia"
The script which features folk songs, drama and choreography brings to the fore traditional village life in conte; Copin Lapin and Copin Tig, love, courtship and marriage, bananas and cocoa tea, jealousy and betrayal. Imagine the unraveling of plots and tales with appropriate music and dialogue through characters such as Lavinia, Ma Kazo, Aunty Bonti, Bonti, Ashley, Jessie as their stories unfold among villagers and friends in a spicy fast-moving musical comedy, in the folk section, the favourite of patrons of the SS.
To get the show right requires hundreds of hours; they began to feel their way around the theatrical project from January this year. Almost two weeks ago when I got a sneak peek it seemed to be 85% ready,
For most people, it would have even been at a higher percentage of readiness, but Pearle and Alwin, perfectionist in their own right, called on the singers and actors to go over and over again so as to ensure that the patrons, as is usual with the Sisserou Singers, get more than their monies worth.
"Anything worth doing, is worth doing good" is the Director's maxim. It was equally comforting to see how enthusiastically the 32 singers and performers, a third of which consisted of young men, responded and adapted to directions.
A wonderfully talented, and I dare say, intelligent crop of youth of high esteem and promise; students and graduates of the UWI, Dominica State College and All Saints University, Calypso Monarchs & finalists, dancers and instrumentalist all having one thing in common-to sing and to do it well.
Come see and hear as you have never done before and re-live childhood memories such as Brown girl in the Ring; Day O'-the banana song; Kai Vole; Da Cocoa Tea; Sugar Plum and my favourite "Muma Me Going a Town. And this is just in section four!
Section One opens with songs of praises and then a tribute to our black heroes (Malcolm X, Martin Luther etc). This is followed by a number of spicy Negro spirituals and contemporary as the popular "Cheerleader." One of King Dice's biggest Calypso hits is beautifully re-arranged in several parts ranging from sopranos to bass; African medleys are performed in the language of the mother land and a couple current most popular Soca songs with Afro beats is also featured.
Live musicians, elaborate colorful attire, and sound and lighting all form part of the 23-song repertoire which incorporates drama and dance, in a production expected to last approximately 2hr. 20 minutes.
Surely you must follow Sisserou Singers "Footprints" to the Arawak House of Culture this weekend.