Tribute to Petronilla Deterville

“The isle is full of noises, Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight, And hurt not . . . ”
‘The Tempest’ Act 3 Scene 2. (Shakespeare)

Sweet sounds there certainly were in abundance at that musical tribute to the late Mrs Petronilla Deterville at the National Cultural Centre last Wednesday as part of this year’s Nobel Laureate Week’s activities. Fourteen schools from different parts of the island participated, with only one item of Dance provided by the Avad Dancers to the accompaniment of the Steel Pan played by the students of St Joseph’s Convent.

Present were the Governor-General, Dame Pearlette Louisy and Ministry of Education officials and staff. After all, it was a school occasion.

One pertinent observation. When such activities are being organized it would be most appropriate to invite the Ambassadors of those two countries, France and Taiwan, which governments have been offering so much valuable assistance to the government and people of Saint Lucia. Government officials may not be aware of it, but in addition to what the French have been offering to the government of Saint Lucia, France has been of tremendous importance to our creative artists in the mounting of Art exhibitions and the launching of published works by our young writers; the next will be of Saint Lucia’s latest novelist, Miss Greta Bondieumaitre, on the 1st March, 2011.

The presence of those two governments ought to be imperative on such occasions as the presentations by our schools. Let them see that we are not merely mendicants, but have something to offer as well that is worth viewing.

The government of Taiwan had offered to build that National Theatre on
behalf of Saint Lucia, but for those insane plans to place that facility in the flood-prone Cul-de-Sac Valley, Saint Lucians would have had their National Theatre. That show by the school children revealed only too clearly the urgent need for such a facility.

Now it is being rumoured that another area is being looked at in Choc, the property of the late JQ Charles which had been earmarked for a Housing Development and which the Government would have to purchase.

The event by the school children that Wednesday afternoon, was a most welcome artistic contribution from the island’s schools to the development and improvement of artistic
and cultural life in the country.

At the commencement of the programme the stage was not being properly utilized, an oversight, perhaps on the part of the Director?

The programme began with  the Ave Maria Girls Primary School playing the Recorder, then songs by the Forestierre Combined School, all girls, followed by the La Guerre Combined and the Gros Islet Primary, this latter a large group making better use of the stage. One pertinent observation, the musical director must not stand directly in front of the singers but must stand a few feet away on the first or second step leading up to the stage, or stand farther back in the auditorium so as not to obscure the view of the singers.

Solo presentations were by Miss Shirlea Victor of Vieux-Fort, Campus B, Miss Anchele Biroo of St Joseph’s Convent and Miss Tayannia Preville of the SDA Academy, who sang her own composition against the backdrop of scenes from Haiti’s recent devastating earthquake, a beautiful song inspired by that disaster.

Next came Instrumentals provided by the Bocage Secondary School, the Charles Cadet String Orchestra from Anse-la-Raye which was made up of Violins, Clarinets, Saxaphones, Flutes and Cello. They played a tune very much resembling the Irish ‘Oh Danny Boy,’ then next the tune ‘Ode To An Artist’ by M Charles Cadet, a tune most appropriate for the occasion, while Mr Cadet sat listening attentively.

Next came the St Joseph’s Convent’s Steel Pans playing for the Avad Dancers. The tune was a La Commette, ‘Chanson Marianne,’ but the steps for the dance were not those of the La Commette.

The choirs were from Vieux-Fort Comprehensive, Campus B whose singing was beautifully conducted. They were followed by the Leon Hess Secondary School who appeared so pleased with their singing they smiled throughout.

The Solo Instrument was played by a girl, Miss Howell, from the L’Abbayee SDA Primary on the Flute.

At this stage a young man was called upon to give an appreciation of the work of the late Mrs Petronilla Deterville, but I think I detected a confusion in the uses of the Present and Past Tenses during his delivery. This was followed by a Video Documentary of the works of Mrs Deterville.

We were next treated to some fine singing by a vocal group  from St Mary’s College, and here the Musical Director placed herself far back in the auditorium affording the audience
clear visual access to the singers.

Next came the choir from the Anse-la-Raye Primary School, tiny tots smiling throughout while they rendered, first, a Barbadian song, then a selection of songs in French Creole ending with one about Fish Vendors. There we beheld the skills and discipline that the late Mrs Deterville had inculcated in the youth of her village, Anse-la-Raye.

Miss Lucien was the penultimate performer with a song entitled, appropriately, ‘Thank You.’ The late Mrs Deterville has certainly left behind a superlatively wonderful legacy and the song by the Anse-la-Raye Choir, ‘Dormir Ich Moin, Dormir,’ paid the ultimate tribute to that legacy.

It would have been remiss of me not to have made some observations, and they refer to the adults who spoke that afternoon. Badly pronounced words, particularly those containing two vowels . . . Thus ‘years’ is not ‘yez!’ The letters ‘th,’ ‘thousand,’ which was pronounced as ‘tousand,’ ‘th’ ‘with,’ pronounced ‘wid.’ And there is no such word as ‘farward,’ the word is ‘forward.’

Again a married woman, Mrs Deterville, was referred to as ‘Mistress Deterville!’ No, she was ‘Missis Deterville.’ Check it out in the Dictionary. A ‘Mistress’ in French Creole parlance is a ‘Jabal.’

Finally when we are to have an event of that nature with singers performing to the accompaniment of taped music, then all the tunes ought to be, in sequence, on one CD, thus avoiding the embarrassingly long delays while the technician searches for the right music. And such shows ought to have a final dress rehearsal, then all possible problems would have been identified and corrected.

All in all that event had been one of the most exciting and memorable shows that I have seen for a long time. At the end I could not resist repeating to myself those lines from Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest:’“If music be the food of love, play on, Give me excess of it.”

A pity my lady-friend had been unable to attend. She would have enjoyed herself enormously.

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