It was three and a half hours of festive praise expressed in true Caribbean style. Caribbean Praisefest — The Barbados Edition therefore lived up to its name when it came off Saturday evening at the Wildey Gymnasium before a relatively small, but interactive audience.
With Minister of Social Care and Community Development Steve Blackett as guest of honour, local and regional artistes who took to the stage treated patrons to a celebration of music and song that more often than not had people dancing and singing along to the indigenous rhythms of the Caribbean.
The 35-member Coleridge & Parry School Choir opened the concert with an exceptionally impressive performance that seemed to have surprised the audience. Under the baton of musical director Marlon Legall, the mixed choir, backed by its own band, was melodic with fantastic harmonies to boot.
In addition, the audience broke out in a buzz when two of the students stepped to the front of the stage to render a duet, interspersed with impactful solo pieces.
But the song that went down best –– I think –– was an original of the choir that told the story of the journey and pain of a homeless man.
The composition again featured the well-trained voices of a male and female student, backed by the choir of course. They were engaging and attention-grabbing in their performance. Kudos to Legall and his Coleridge & Parry School Choir.
It was then time to dance.
And on came the New Dimensions Dancers, under the new leadership of the Reverend Stephen Holford and his wife. The choreography seemed to have been well thought out, particularly the open dance that depicted the ocean. The pre-recorded backing music, aptly called Oceans From Hillside, mirrored the message of the dance through the use of multicoloured cloth, manipulated to illustrate waves.
More big things were to come.
So, De Warrior, who was waiting in the wings, followed, and was greeted with loud cheers from the audience.
This local and Caribbean top artiste –– as they say –– simply mashed up the place. It was driving regional rhythm from beginning to end of his set.
People were in the aisles, their seats and front of stage partying to such hits as I Won’t Go Back, Goodie Goodie, Only One Name and De Blood. It was De Blood that had patrons going wild as they “sprinkled it all over their bodies, from their heads to their feet”.
The praise continued in Caribbean fashion when Jamaican Christian artiste Kevin Downswell brought even more hype to the place. The energetic Downswell called for waving in almost every song. By the time he was into his second rendition, his coat was off as the energy level moved to another stage.
He rocked and grooved the Gymnasium posse with numbers such as My Mind’s Made Up [in his own style], It’s Already Done, Change Is Coming, Close To You and, of course, his latest release The Meaning Of Life.
Downswell ended his tenure on stage with perhaps his most popular hit in Barbados –– You Make Me Strong.
Fenton Harry from St Vincent and the Grenadines did his thing. Although it was short, he still blessed the audience who continued singing his final rendition Bless The Lord Oh My Soul, even when he was off the stage and had completed the number.
The curtains came down to the spirited voices of Shine The Light.
That chorale hailing from St Croix in the US Virgin Islands brings back memories of the popular Grace Thrillers from Jamaica. However, Shine The Light has its own style.
It was admirable to witness patrons sticking around to the end, the event closing about midnight, to celebrate and praise with Shine The Light as the all-female vocal ensemble –– and backing band –– cruised through well-loved songs that included Arise, I Know Who I Am, God Alone and the very popular medley Goodbye World.
Worshippers were on their feet as the Caribbean Praisefest — The Barbados Edition rocked to a close with This Train, Downfall Of Satan and the like filling in the air.