The rich legacy of musician Joslynn Carr-Sealey

todayJuly 30, 2023 3

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Singer and music teacher Joslyn Carr-Sealey. –

FAMILY members, friends and former musical colleagues met at All Saints Anglican Church in Port of Spain on Wednesday to bid farewell to the late Joslynn Carr-Sealey, singer, music teacher and leading light of the TT Music Festival.

Canon Richard Jacob in his homily hailed her for “a life well-lived, that would have touched on other lives and made a difference.”

“One of the things about Joslynne is that you were either comfortable with her or you were afraid of her. I see the laughter and smiles.

“The thing that a lot of folks came to understand was that her supposedly harsh, strict exterior was about challenging you to do your best in every way and drawing out the best in you without excuse. ‘Don’t pretend you are not going to do this to the best of your ability because I will not permit it.'”

He viewed the funeral service as a way to thank God for having shown everyone a little bit of His honour and glory by way of Sealey’s life.

“Go Google it and listen to her arias or any of those things that she did, with Catelli/Trinidad All Stars.

“If your pores don’t raise, go and see a doctor and get your temperature checked! You’ll know what I’m talking about?”

Jacob recalled his deep conversations with Carr-Sealey.

“She felt that if more persons took the time to explore their gifts and to use them to their fullest potential, we could do anything!

“She believed that!” He reckoned that was why she was so hard on her students and her choir members.

“There are all kind of stories, many sides of Joslynne.

“But because she was chasing perfection and chasing a God who she believed gave her a gift of being able to discern what the thing looked like…”

Jacob recalled some pannists asking how she could be a judge and be linked to All Stars. “But Joslynne was fiercely independent and fiercely honest.

“Eventually the bands would listen to what she said about what happened at Panorama, and why ‘this one’ didn’t get that point and why ‘that one’ lost this point for that. Then they would tune themselves and organise themselves so they could come back better next time.

“That is part of the legacy of who Joslynne Carr-Sealey was.”

He said everyone could all take a page from her book, on how she adapted to her circumstances and planned out her life.

“Our sister Joslynne loved her Jesus. She was ready. She believed He had allowed her to do all kinds of things that were important and she was ready to meet Him.

“I believe Joslynne would say to us, ‘Explore your gifts and talents completely because they are God-given and they are God’s gift to you.

“‘And they may be the way God makes you His gift to someone else.’

“Joslynne was one of God’s gifts to us: that desire to make things better, that voice, that intellect and independence.”

Jacob thanked God for Carr-Sealey’s “legacy that will last.”

He recalled a sixth former once refusing Carr-Sealey’s urging to sing at Music Festival due to exam pressures, but returning 30 years later. “And guess who was the judge?” he quipped. “They realised that Joslynn was not angry but hurt and disappointed that they were not necessarily fulfilling their true potential.”

Jacob said, “Joslynn’s legacy will live in her students and all those whose voice she trained and in all those groups who she judged for Best Village, for pan and all of those things where she had an influence.

“God has given each of us a gift and a talent. We should be lucky to use it even in just one-tenth of the way in which Joslynne used hers, because it will make a difference to someone else.

“If even one person is changed by the things that we are, then God will smile.”

Augustine Francis, Best Village co-ordinator, hailed Carr-Sealey’s contribution to that competition, dubbing her a gem.

“Her knowledge of folk culture was exceptional, being the daughter of the late Andrew Carr, chairman of the NCC (National Carnival Commission) of TT.”

“She served on a judging panel over the years in the discipline of music for the folk concert and folk theatre categories from since 1993.

“Ms Sealey served as our chief judge in most of our categories.” Her remit included judging African drumming and tassa drumming, he recalled.

“She was loved by all the staff and the groups alike. To this end of behalf of the Ministry of Sport and Community Development and the Prime Minster’s Best Village Trophy Competition, I offer sincere and deep condolences to her family and friends. She will be missed.”

Chantal Esdelle, musician and former pupil of Carr-Sealey at Bishop Anstey High School (St Hilary’s), in her tribute recalled being mesmerised by her singing a concert, Classical Jewels.

“Mrs Sealey was the star of Classical Jewels in an era in which the tone and clarity of the steel pan playing classics could be likened to liquid glass. Her voice moved within, around and about it, like an intoxicating vapour. I marvelled at it then and since.

“Spiritually, it was a perfect for this national who always put this country’s art – where pan, dance, drumming and calypso were concerned – to meld seamlessly with our steel pan.” Esdelle recalled her own musical development in piano and voice at Bishop’s under Carr-Sealey who ran the school choir.

“Mrs Sealey demonstrated this commitment, dedication, heart and love to us at school particularly through the diligence and care she put into our choir.”

Choir life was about vocal development and personal development, and required personal grit, she related.

“Like all music teachers of that era, she was serious. Once you stayed though, you had the backing of a solid ally, in school, out of school, and after school.

“Bishop’s choir under Joslynn-Sealey was a well-oiled machine. We did carol service in school and/or All Saints, every single Hazel Ward special, Memorial Day, Christmas at President’s House, school functions, funerals, the festival shield. We won most festival classes most times.”

Esdelle recalled Carr-Sealey directing the operas Pirates of Penzance and Orpheus and Eurydice.

“She fought to keep music at the centre of the Hilarian experience, maybe even existence, because she knew it was a source of strength, identity and connection for all of us. Even if you couldn’t sing, ha ha.” Carr-Sealey had also kept music at the centre of TT’s national experience.

“After her retirement from the teaching service Mrs Sealey spent near three decades serving as secretary for the TT Music Festival Association, and then as vice chair of the association’s north committee.” As an association member, Esdelle personally attested to her bull work towards the festival.

“Mrs Sealey sourced music, chose music, filed music, typed syllabi, did registration, manned the green room, prepared press releases.

“She even left us with a manual on how to operate the festival, that we would do well to follow.”

Esdelle hailed Carr-Sealey adjudication of Panorama and Best Village, and in fund-raising towards building Queens Hall.

“Mrs Sealey worked hard. She worked with intention, with joy, and in prayer.

“She had a fundamental understanding that this world is a spiritual world, more than a physical one.”

Music producer Alvin Daniell gave a tribute by video-link, in which he recalled a “live” concert performance.

“When Joslynne graced the stage, I noticed she opted not to use the microphone placed before her.

“When she began to sing her voice pierced the night, with such clarity and richness of tone that I marvelled that she could throw her voice that distance.

“She climbed the scale with such ease, struck some of the highest notes I’d ever heard from a singer.”

Daniell recalled getting to know her as a person when both were judges at the annual Calypso Monarch competition, visiting all calypso tents in TT during the 1980s.

Her recalled both of them had also been undisclosed judges for Scouting for Talent.

“Joslynne became my personal family friend and my two daughters treasured the time they spent under her tutelage as members of the Bishop’s choir.

“She was a strict taskmaster and did not settle for anything less than the highest degree of excellence from her singers.”

Peter Carr, Carr-Sealey’s elder brother, in his eulogy attributed her development to their mother’s love of music including piano and their father being a renaissance man. He said she took piano and singing lessons in Woodbrook and won her classes in the Music Festival.

“Classical music in our home was played every Sunday when our parents welcomed friends to sit and chat as was the custom at the time.”

By this, Carr-Sealey got to know the works of Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin and Mozart. “We knew all these things inside out. She was conditioned to move into that.

“The home environment shaped her life and nurtured her love for music, in drumming and other artistes, because they frequently came to our home to perform.”

Carr said in 1970 Carr-Sealey was awarded a government scholarship to study music at Mc Gill University in Canada, including a diploma in music education.

“She said, ‘That was probably the best five years of my life. I was among a community of musicians that was exciting and stimulating. I was 35 years old and had to learn French and German. That experience changed my life completely.'”

He said Carr-Sealey had judged Best Village for 23 years and Panorama for 35 years. Her work at the Music Festival was legendary, he recalled.

“She was a professional with high standards. She insisted her students perform at their highest level of capability and made them strive for their best.

“They valued her for it, as it taught them the importance of striving for the best and they carried it over into their lives.” While Carr-Sealey could be argumentative, she was a true friend and one who kept her commitments, Carr related. “Yet she did not bear malice and was very kind to those she cared for.”

Carr added, “She loved her rum and coke when relaxing and having a good time or judging. She was very religious, read her Bible daily and went to church regularly.

“Her connection with God through prayer was a hallmark of her life. May her soul rest in peace.”

Musical tributes during the service included renditions by the Lydians Choir, Bishop’s Choir, pannist Dane Gulston and pianist/vocalist Richard Pierre.

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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