In the two weeks I did not write a column the topics have piled up.
Where to resume —Duncan Street, the professional service a family member received from Four Roads Police Station, the “decriminalisation” of marijuana, or the latest sad commentary on our courts by the Privy Council, this one concerning delay in giving judgments or the sudden blitz on the Municipal Corporations Act, with no time allotted for public comment? Have they forgotten that Tobago has the House of Assembly Act or is there a retrospective blitz to come?
Perhaps I will start with the Privy Council judgment delivered on July 31, 2013. The Law Lords described a four-year delay in giving judgment and an overall delay of 16 years in the final determination of a matrimonial case as “an affront to family justice” that “must never be allowed happen again”.
The irony is that practising lawyers are overwhelmed by the number of written submissions that have to be made to the courts, in my case having to curtail activities this August vacation, including writing my column, in order to catch up.
Did you see the wonderful pictures of our children performing in the birdsong graduation and the Skiffle and Invaders concerts? Their pictures did not make the front pages of the newspapers, as did those of the foreign artistes in town; nor did they have among their audiences the money people who should be supporting youth development through music, dance and other arts.
In a moment of exasperation, when ticket sales were slow, Junia Regrello offered me a weekend in the Hyatt if I was not impressed by the Skiffle concert. I have since told him that if he gave me the whole Hyatt that would be an inadequate measure of the value of Skiffle’s recent performance at Queens Hall.
My fellow columnist Richard Braithwaite, earlier this month, wrote incisively about existing steel orchestra youth development, this time with a focus on work being done in the deep South.
Nevertheless, it needs to be emphasised that pan artistry has moved way beyond the production of good music. The pan movement is now about the integration of our indigenous musical instruments with traditional orchestral instruments, such as brass and strings. The result is that birdsong closed its tenth annual summer camp graduation concert, under the baton of the priceless Richard Quarless, playing the grand chromatic march, Entry of the Gladiators.
Likewise such was Skiffle’s versatility that they not only played pan in conjunction with a brass section, but in an amazing sequence of performances, they were playing in complete harmony with opera singers and then used the G pan to achieve a particular musical effect required by Puccini’s Humming Chorus. Within days, Invaders were displaying similar versatility and inventiveness and, from all reports, bussing up Beethoven.
And so I choose the title for this column by reference to one of Skiffle’s performances, a piece from Phantom of the Opera. All I ask of my readers is to get out and attend these concerts and see what young people are doing with pan-sticks and conventional musical instruments, not guns. Birdsong’s summer camp takes youngsters from enrollment, to performing on stage with a musical instrument, in a mere five weeks
If we had thoughtful governments, they might try to find a way for Andrew Lloyd Webber to hear how several pieces from Phantom of the Opera have been translated into pan, driven by conductors such as Bravo of Silver Stars, Regrello of Skiffle and Mickiel Gabriel of Laventille Success Stars. All I ask of you governments is that you devise and publish an objective policy for funding of the arts.
Musical youth development is saving souls and doing so with little money or sponsorship. Corporate and other social responsibilities are being inadequately exercised and, to make it plain, the assistance that is being sought is not to win a Panorama.
All I ask of you corporate sponsors is that you inform yourselves of the sterling work of mentoring and social development in bloom in the otherwise killing fields but which is inhibited for want of funds. Make an investment towards social stability.
An account of musical August would not be complete without reference to the Lydians, who brought a brilliant Negro spiritual concert to the Little Carib to commemorate the laying of the foundation stone of the first building on that site in 1948 by Paul Robeson.
Hopefully we will bring dance back to the Little Carib in the form of its own dance company, with Brimblers serenading patrons at White Street Corner and the delightful Drinks bar at the Roberts Street crossroads being the place to rendezvous and slip across to Invaders and Phase II as well as to Little Carib and Alice Yard.
We have abundant artistic talent. Will we continue to inhibit its sweetness with a desert air of neglect of philanthropic funding?