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It’s back to the classics for UTT’s Ibis Ensemble

Published: 
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Simon Browne and Krisson Joseph of the Ibis Ensemble. PHOTO: MARIA NUNES

The Ibis Ensemble of UTT will perform a free concert of early calypsos by Roaring Lion, Growling Tiger, Houdini and Atilla the Hun as well as early instrumental pieces by Lionel Belasco and Lovey’s Band. This concert titled Capturing Calypso, takes place tomorrow at the UTT Campus Theatre 1, at Napa from 7 pm.

Capturing Calypso is part of the ongoing work of violinist Simon Browne who has spent the last few years creating string band arrangements of early Trinidad music that has not been performed live in many decades.

Browne has become obsessed with transcribing performing these early classics. “When I first came to Trinidad, I loved to listen to classic Calypso - lots of Kitch, Sparrow, Lord Melody and Lord Invader. But when Bear Family Records released Lovey’s Band’s recordings from 1912, I was struck by the use of violins, clarinet and flute, and the lively cuatro, mandolin and guitar strumming. So different from the jaunty jazz combos of the 50s and 60s,” he said.

“I sought out as much music from the intervening years as I could. Naturally, as a violinist, I was itching to play those fantastic melodies. Transcribing the music from the original recordings was a mix of artistic selfishness and a desire to find a new audience for this much-neglected music. Extending the scope to include the first Golden Age of Calypso in the 1930s - Lion, Atilla, Tiger, and others- seemed a natural progression.”

The musicians include Eleanor Ryan (violin), Yevgeny Dokshansky (clarinet), Katy Gainham (flute), Aidan Chamberlain (trombone), Caitlyn Kamminga (double bass), Theron Shaw (guitar), Michael Chapman (guitar), Desmond Waite (cuatro), and Josh Watkins (percussion). Their featured vocalist is baritone Krisson Joseph, who is the programme coordinator at UTT’s Academy of Performing Arts. Son of the late master calypsonian Seadley “Penguin” Joseph and has been involved in prior programs. The show will also feature Edric Connor’s Animal Party in a Cemetery previously featured at the Edric Connor tribute at last year’s T&T Film Festival.

“It’s great music,” Simon Browne notes, “as fun to play as it is to hear and a joy to get this music back to live performance. The Ibis Ensemble really loves to play them.”

This concert is not the end by any means. It will be just one of many ongoing such free events at UTT. “There are so many great calypsos from that era now available to hear on disc (or online). I never tire of them, and it will be a very long time before I run out of tunes to transcribe and perform.”