For sure, the teaching style of my elementary (standard prima) teachers at St. Giles Boys school was distinctly different from today’s classroom.
Compared to today’s teacher, many of them had no qualifications or university training. However, they had a relentless drive for excellence in education – reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic and respect, among other things.
These teachers always went the extra mile and set their own standards. It was in February that some of us found out that we would be attending Harrison College in the following September, yet Mr. Greenidge and Atherley mandated us to attend lunch time and after school classes until they were satisfied that we were bright and shining like a “Crumpton Street” penny.
During class, if ever we met a word like Hootenanny, our teachers taught us to break it down by sound – Hoo – te – nan-ny. Then, on the blackboard they would its meaning: a gathering at which folk singers entertain often with audience participation.
Recently, in the Diaspora, we had a replica – in the area of music performance – of that era of excellence, when a group of former members of the Royal Barbados Police Band thrilled the large audience that attended the 50th anniversary church service celebration of Barbados Ex Police Association, in New York.
To my untrained musical but observant ear, the Michael “Smokey” Roett led group was flawless, well rehearsed and entertaining. They provided exemplary instrumental support for the organist of St. Leonard’s Church in selected songs, and more.
During, the grand march of flag bearers, members, and representatives of organisations, which began the service, the group complemented the organist’s rendition of Scippio, yet maintaining a distinct voice of their own that clearly added a military flavour to the pomp and ceremony.
Again, this military skew was more pronounced during the visual tribute to deceased members of the Barbados Ex Police Association, New York. Their rendition of Even Song and The Last Post, lacked nothing, except perhaps, the presence of the soldiers who stand vigil and perform routines on such sad occasions.
Truth be told, for the most part, the service followed a fairly traditional format: hymns, psalms, readings, prayers, and sermon except for a slot which was set aside – as President Malcolm Best said afterwards, for a musical performance by a group from the current members of the Royal Barbados Police Force Band. Again the Roett group filled the slot and didn’t disappoint.
Among their song choices was Leroy’s Anderson’s version of Hootenanny. All of a sudden members of the congregation stood and applauded. And if one were to judge by the buzz and applause, one can only conclude that this melody of Negro spirituals reminded – as it did to me – many persons of the police band performing on Christmas morning in Queen’s Park.
All the while, sitting besides me, was Inspector Gordon Lovell (and wife), a former Captain of the Police Band and the son of an organist. At times, during the hymns, his tenor notes were crisp and sweet. At other times when the group was playing, he followed every note with his lips inserting rifts and following the melody. Clearly, he was having fond memories. At one point during the playing of Hootenanny, Inspector Lovell turned to me and said:
“If I had known that members were playing, I would have brought my trumpet.”
For the record, members of the musical group were: Michael “Smokey” Roett (Alto Sax-leader, leader of the Barbados Festival Band for 18 years and music teacher at PS 189); Jeffrey Grannum, Tenor Sax (teacher); Valmon Dawson, clarinet; Cecil Watson, trombone; Daryll Boston Massiah, drums (Escorts); Kenny John, 1st Trumpet (Trinidad and Tobago Royal Police Band); Jean Calixte, 2nd trumpet (former student of Michael Roett). The group is scheduled to play at the Anniversary Ball.
Among those celebrating the anniversary was former New York Council Woman Dr. Una Clarke and her daughter Congress woman Yvette Clarke. In her tribute – as she has done repeatedly – she expressed her gratitude for the opportunity, the training and the learning experience which the Barbados Ex Police Association, in the early days, provided.
She said that without doubt her success in life and politics could be traced directly to the lessons which she learnt during those early years in her first job.
“I am Jamaican, but there many times when I see myself as a Bajan,” said Clarke.
Her daughter Congresswoman Yvette Clarke was also high in praise for what the association had done for her mother and presented the association with a proclamation.
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