Sold-out benefit concerts were held on Friday 29th and Saturday 30th January at Musicbox, the performance venue at Golden Palm Events Centre in Rodney Heights. In attendance on Friday evening was Governor General Dame Pearlette Louisy. Proceeds were in support of Amy’s Gift to Saint Lucia, a music project which currently benefits the Boys Training Centre and Dunnottar School, and for the Saint Lucia School of Music (SLSM). Sue Sandle, speaking on behalf of the music project committee, gave a brief history of the project’s origins, the two years of funding from the Amy Winehouse Foundation, progress, achievements and hopes for the future.
Compered by a justifiably proud and exuberant Larry Bain, the music programme then commenced with tunes by bands from the two learning institutions. Hearts melted and hands clapped in recognition of how hard the youngsters had worked and their courage in playing live to packed-out houses. Credit goes to instructor John Polius who last year worked with students from both schools, and to the new music teacher, Lestan Celestin.
A string ensemble from the SLSM demonstrated the result of talent and years of practice by entertaining with a mix of classical and folk tunes. Audiences were in for a special treat as Gary Stoner performed with a medley of Country and Western songs. Gary, a regular visitor with his family to Saint Lucia, is lead singer of the Mid-Life Cowboys band in the USA.
Then came the star of the night: Gene Lawrence accompanied by Jesse Billy on keyboard, Albert Eugene on electric bass and Dale St. Jules on drums. Gene, dapper in his white suit and trademark hat, regaled with stories of Caribbean music – the origins of certain songs, when they were performed and the meanings behind lyrics. Gene is an expert story-teller and a talented songwriter and musician; he impressed all and ensured that the evenings ended on the high notes on which they had commenced.
Thanks were voiced to the ongoing sponsors of Musicbox and the SLSM: Michael Chastanet and Coco Resorts for the venue, Banana Sound for the stage, lighting and sound, and Sagicor for assistance in obtaining the magnificent Bechstein piano. Gratitude was expressed to sponsors of these specific concerts: Barbay for wine, Blue Waters for water, Du Doulay’s Bottling for soft drinks, La Cantina for wine, Peter & Co for Presidente beer and Spinnakers for the plastic glasses and ice.