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Thank you for the music

Published: 
Saturday, August 4, 2018
Martina Chow, standing at left, is accompanied by the senior band.

In grand style, the T&T Steel and Brass Symphonic Orchestra (TTSBSO) delivered a musical vote of thanks to late co-founder, Leslie Clement, at Daaga Hall, UWI on July 28 and 29. Clement died suddenly in March.

On stage were the orchestra’s junior and senior bands. In the packed audience were raised pores, applause and the occasional tear as the two sections of the youthful orchestra delivered a 20-piece set that opened with a popular symphonic passage from Carl Orff’s early 20th century Carmina Burana cantata and closed with a shoe-tapping 1980s Miami Sound Machine medley.

In between, the senior band established its strong musical bona fides under the batons of Isaiah Clement, Josef Ward, Stephen Villafana, Kenny Stephens and Shea Alexander.

Glenn Miller in Concert, comprising a swinging selection of the American big-band arranger’s 1940s hits, was, arguably, the highlight of the evening, challenging the players in all sections of the band. It followed a solemn vocal rendition of Ed Sheeran’s Perfect by Kern Summerville who accompanied himself on the pan.

Memories

Song selection proved important to afford a musical roller-coaster of an evening. The dramatic Paul Murtha arrangement of The Chronicles of Narnia set the stage for that particular feature of the programme and contrasted with Justin Phillip’s soulful delivery of the Mighty Sparrow’s Memories which he used as pointed tribute to Clement.

Singer/flautist and longstanding TTSBSO family member and music instructor, Martina Chow, provided vocals on Jesus Is Love, I See You and To Sir With Love – the latter a poignant reference to Clement’s mentorship of a generation of musicians.

During that final segment of the programme, the always effervescent Aiesha Clement danced and pranced and belted out Voice’s Year for Love before taking her place quietly, clarinet in hand, for the closing flourish of the Miami Sound Machine.

Earlier in the programme young Rinecia Zephyrine, accompanied by the junior band, sang The Prayer.

Another striking feature of the evening’s programme was the fact that several selections highlighted the superb soloing skills of an accomplished group of players including Adrian Kong, Jasiel Williams, Kezia Charles and Milano Lewis on the alto sax and Joshua Ramsey and Daniel Ryan on the tenor sax.

Isaiah Clement led the way on the baritone sax alongside Joshua Pasqual and Leon Ince on trombone. TTSBSO regular, Randell Adams, together with John Wayne Thomas rendered solo services from the trumpet line. Some of these musicians who cut their musical teeth in the orchestra, are now full-fledged professionals teaching and performing.

Clement is missed

Leslie Clement’s passing a little over four months prior to the event meant that the orchestra was required to pull off the programme in under three months. This included the TTSBSO annual music camp which introduces youngsters and newcomers to the range of instruments on stage that evening. In this instance, there were players in the junior band who had learnt their instruments and accompanying music in the space of three weeks.

“When it happened it felt as it was the end of the world,” TTSBSO co-founder Judith Clement said of her husband’s sudden passing. “God has really taken us through.”

“It wasn’t easy doing this concert, but it was one that was necessary because we are a big family and it was important as well not just for me and my children but for all our other kids,” she told the audience.

In the process, she explained, hosting the concert as scheduled contributed to the band’s “sense of closure.”

To many of the young musicians, however, the TTSBSO experience has opened new doors.

A packed Daaga Hall (that included a contingent from the Marionettes Chorale) together with a 60-strong complement of musicians, joined in thanking Leslie Clement for more than just the music, but also the joy, happiness and fraternity it brings

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