Condolences continue to pour in for one of Saint Lucia’s cultural icons who passed away this week. On Wednesday April 8th, Frank Norville passed on, two days short of his 71st birthday, having been born on April 10th, 1944.This week the Eastern Caribbean Collective Organization (ECCO) was among those paying tribute. According to ECCO, Frank Norville was a St. Lucian cultural icon, having pioneered in the early recordings of our indigenous folk songs with The Helenites Folk Group in the early 1970s. “Using the authentic rhythms and folk idioms, he created original melodies and enduring lyrics using the creole language with skill and alacrity,” a statement by the organization says.
Frank was born in Barbados but came to Saint Lucia and attended school here. He lived in Soufriere next to the St. Isidore Hall and that was the place where he developed his love for performing on the stage, singing Country and Western with his guitar and baritone, sometimes wearing cowboy gear, boots and all. He had excelled as a member of the island-wide Castries Catholic Youth Organisation. It was there, at the age of twenty, that he launched “Scouting for Talent” giving aspiring musicians and singers their first break. He was later to become a member of both the St. Lucia Arts Guild and Creative and Performing Arts Society.
His love and skill of still photography came to the fore later when he was employed with the Government Information Service, since every community project had to be photographed and presented on display boards in the relevant communities. Together with Duval, he ran one of the best film development processes on the island. Frank roamed the island, having to mount film shows in communities at a time when television was not as common as it is today. These flicks were mainly BBC newsreels.
It was this ground roots intervention with the rural communities that led to his energetic and dedicated love for the Flower Festivals of La Rose and La Marguerite. In 1968 Frank also joined The Helenites, one of the island’s foremost folk groups. His voice is immortalized on songs like “Tiwe’ Lanmen’w” and “Sent Lisi se en joli peyi”.
Frank Norville’s cultural work took him to many regional and international shores, on workshops and tours, recording video and audio as well as promoting publications of the Saint Lucian folk dances. He also scored music of his original and traditional compositions.
For many years, Frank was the Folk Cultural Officer with the Ministry of Community Development and later the Cultural Department. He was a long-serving member of the Folk Research Centre and taught folk music in a very creative capacity at the St. Lucia School of Music. He was an exceptional folk and quadrille dancer. He was in his element when working with the students of our Education sectors: infant, primary and secondary.
Being a gregarious, amiable Aries, leadership came easily to Frank Norville and his group, Frank Norville and The Lucians, was one of the early pioneers of the few folk groups performing both for local and hotel audiences. He loved a good laugh and was a great story teller.
He also wrote a booklet on the folk dances of Saint Lucia and in 1983 published Songs of St Lucia: ‘folk songs’, a comprehensive scoring of the island’s most popular folk music.
Around September last year Frank Norville fell ill and had been in declining health; now he has finally succumbed.
Undoubtedly, Frank Norville’s cultural legacy will and must survive as his contribution to our National Culture has been a creative cornerstone of our Cultural Heritage and Foundation.
The Board of Directors, staff and membership of Eastern Caribbean Collective Organization for Music Rights (ECCO) Inc. extend sincere condolences to the family and friends of the late Frank Cyprianni Norville. May he rest in peace.