Calypso Judges get training

The workshop was all about educating judges about the artform. Pictured is Jeff Pelay Elva (R) and facilitator Rudolph Ottley.

Aspiring judges of calypso and those seeking to become more knowledgeable about judging the art-form concluded a very thorough and informative three day workshop and training seminar here on Saturday April 2, 2011. As a participant of the exercise, I felt that the program for the activity was very well organized and put together, and was indeed a worthwhile venture for which the organizers must be commended.
Organized by the St Lucia Calypso Association (2009), the training facilitator was Rudolph Ottley of Trinidad and Tobago. Speaking ahead of the event, Caron Tobierre Chairperson of the Calypso association said that the activity was meant to facilitate training for judging accreditation so as to widen the pool of competent judges here in the areas of Calypso and Soca. The intention she says is to use only accredited judges for the 2011 Calypso season and beyond.
Participants over the three days appeared fully engaged by the facilitator who has delivered lectures at UWI in Trinidad on Calypso and has also written five books, two volumes on “Women in calypso” and three on Calypsonians—then to now. Ottley, who runs his own Calypso tent in Trinidad, the Divas Calypso tent featuring an all female cast, is also a panelist on the National Carnival Commission (NCC) of Trinidad and Tobago. He is part of the panel selecting the semi-finalists for the Calypso Monarch Competitions and is also a member of the National Calypso Committee with responsibility for developing training programmes for aspiring judges and calypso tent management.
Last week’s training which was attended by more than twenty-five participants was offered free of charge by the Calypso association here, in collaboration with the Cultural Development Foundation and the Open Campus of the University of the West Indies in St Lucia. The first two days (Thursday March 31 and Friday April 1) were held at the CDF conference room Barnard’s Hill whilst the finale of the exercise was held at the Palm Haven Hotel on Saturday April 2, 2011.
The three days of training were very interactive with the use of audio-visual presentations and relevant literature. And, as with the actual art-form itself, discussions on various subject areas, at times got very heated and animated, as many who attended the sessions were very passionate about their take on Calypso.
During the course of the training, not only were the various aspects of judging and the criteria covered but also an in-depth look at the history and origins of Calypso was taken. Other areas discussed included the origins of the word Calypso, the first Calypso tent, women in Calypso, the use of the Chantuelles and Gayelles, the perception of calypso at the time as well as the mark Calypso made outside of the Caribbean from as early as 1933 and the introduction of Soca in 1974 by Shorty. Historical anecdotes like the origin of the Andrew Sisters rendition of “Rum and Coco Cola,” Harry Belafonte’s “Calypso” album which was the first album to sell a million and Sparrow’s first calypso title which won him TT$25 and 3 bottles of rum also helped liven the sessions and kept them interesting.
On the question of judging, Ottley went through the various components with participants explaining more intricately the areas of “lyrics,” “melody,” “rendition,” “presentation” and “originality” which make up the judging criteria for Calypso.
At the final day of the training, the various systems used in judging calypso and Soca were expounded on including the “aggregate system,” “hi-lo system,” “merit system” and “consensus system.” A practical session was then held where the workshop was divided into panels of judges (groups of seven.) The groups then viewed a number of “live” calypso performances which had to be judged using a system of their choice. The results and comments were then presented. Participants were also allowed to view some Soca monarch performances and to offer comments.
At the end of the training programme participants were assessed based on their score sheets and comments, for accreditation through certification by the Open Campus – UWI.
Caron Tobiere also expressed her gratitude on behalf of the association to Rudolph Ottley for the exercise as well as the UWI-open Campus here. She also thanked the participants for coming and informed them of two follow up workshops, one in April, the other in May, ahead of the start of the 2011 calypso season. “It has been a very productive three days and I think we achieved what we set out to do which was to widen the pool of existing judging by attracting new ones and also to offer a sort of refresher course to those who have been there,” Tobiere told the STAR later. “It is part of our whole developmental process whereby we want to continue to grow and improve the art-form and we know that judging is critical to all of this. So it was just one step and from the feedback so far we think it was a timely and successful venture,” she ended by saying.

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