Bishops is top junior parang group at Trinidad and Tobago Music Festival

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Armonias Divinas (Bishop Anstey High School Choir) performs in the Junior Parang Ensemble 19 Years and Under Final at the 35th Biennial Music Festival at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s on February 27. – Photo by Faith Ayoung

BISHOP Anstey High School won top junior parang ensemble (under 19 years) for their group known as Armonias Divina on Tuesday at the TT Musical Festival at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s. With Bishop’s earning 90 points out of 100, they edged out St Joseph Convent Port of Spain (SJC) on 82 marks, Holy Name Convent on 78 marks, and Providence Girls School on 76 marks.

Bishops sang El Salvador (The Saviour), SJC sang Andamos Buscando (We Are Looking For), Holy Name sang Dulce Nombre de Jesus (The Sweet Name of Jesus), and Providence sang La Dedicacion (The Dedication).

The groups all generally had a great stage presence, with group vocals very clearly heard. However, the solos and duets done by lead singers struggled to project into the audience, especially against the backing of the accompanying instrumentalists/percussionists.

Wearing frilled red and yellow dresses, the SJC girls were a tight-knit group, as they sang and danced with confidence, all aided by keen swaying and liberal hand motions. Their accompanying instrumentalists/percussionists came from St Mary’s College, the college’s parang band leader Jonathan Mottley told Newsday.

Providence girls dressed down, in all-black jerseys and leggings, but for the two lead singers in bright yellow dresses.

Their lively performance also featured a scintillating guitar performance beyond a mere rhythmic strumming accompaniment.

The girls of Bishop’s parang choir wore blue dresses whose floral trimmings emphasised the girls motion as they swayed and rocked. They were supremely confident and gave a very tight performance. Their accompaniment included a male tenor pannist.

Lead singer Kaeija Wilson, celebrating her 15th birthday, seemed very comfortable on-stage with the music. However, like all those rendering solos she had projection challenges.

Holy Name Convent was the smallest group, with just six singers, but held their own with great smiles, confident poise and sweeping arm motions.

In purple and gold dresses, at one point they paired off to dance around each other.

Judge Nubia Williams said Providence had a nice blend of voices, but more expressiveness was possible. Touching on the theme of the inaudibility of lead singers, she advised, “Musicians can decrease their volumes, especially during (vocal) solos.”

Williams said Holy Name had “good voices and good harmony.” A bit more expression would benefit their interpretation, she advised.

Williams said St Joseph Convent had a good balance and good blend of voices, but advised the accompanying tock-tock was too loud.

She praised the convent girls’ “good expression, well-placed notes and well articulated crescendos.”

Newsday spoke to several parang singers afterwards.

Wilson said, “I felt great. Every band was different. No band sounded the same. So I was really wondering how the judges would do.

“I was really glad I got some criticism actually, because now I have stuff to work on and feel like I can do something.”

Asked how it felt to win on her birthday, she said, “It felt very nice. Everybody in the band worked really hard.”

Newsday asked if lead vocalists were ever allowed microphones.

“No. This is my first time in Music Festival. I have never seen any microphones.

“If I had any advice, it would be to breathe from your diaphragm.”

She said she had learnt parang for about one-two years, following a few years in the Bishop’s regular choir.

St Joseph’s Convent Choir perform Andamos Buscando at the TT Music Festival on February 27. – Photo by Faith Ayoung

Newsday spoke to Holy Name Convent’s two lead singers, Taariq Joseph and Kristianna Richards.

Joseph said, “We were a bit disappointed because we wanted to top. But at the end of the day our hard work paid off. We still came here to represent our school and to show our talent.”

She was proud of the variety of singers from her school at the festival including solos, duets, and folk, and for the chance to show the school as a school of performing arts. Joseph had sung since age seven-eight, and had learnt choir and parang singing for about a year.

“It was exciting. We last performed last December. So we really have not been on-stage for a while. So it was really exciting to be on-stage again, in the moment, singing in a different language.

“It was really, really amazing. It was an amazing experience, to actually be on-stage again, with our whole parang group.”

Regarding language familiarity, she said she was pursuing Spanish CAPE studies.

Richards told Newsday, “I think the energy was there. Obviously we didn’t have mics, which would have made a big difference for us, although we would have practised without mics.

“It was an interesting experience to perform without mics, and a challenge as well.”

She said they had practised in school both with and without mics, and had performed in past competitions with mics.

“We did well. We got out comments – we could have projected more. I think it was good they gave us our comments.”

Newsday met Melanie Garcia, one of the lead singers for St Joseph Convent, who spoke of the last-minute stresses of preparation.

“But we worked really hard as a team, together. We just kept pushing through. We had a lot of ups and downs.

“But eventually when we were on the stage, things just came together and we all just sang to the best of our abilities and let the music shine through us.”

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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