By Simone Tull
As night closed in, a sea of illuminated candles blanketed the grounds of Ilaro Court, signalling the return of the immensely popular Carols by Candlelight. Though the event produced by the Rotary Club of Barbados was scheduled to start at 5 p.m. this past Sunday, a steady stream of people made their way into the venue hours before. As show time drew closer, the lines snaked their way to the adjoining Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. However, with fast moving security checkpoints, patrons were able to quickly make their way in and choose their preferred spots.
While awaiting the official kick-off, patrons were equally entertained by steel pan selections from Phoenix Steel in the gazebo and the roving Trumpet Boy Entertainment band that traversed the grounds, adding a rhythmic flair to traditional Christmas carols.
Backed by members of the Barbados Police Force Band, an air of freshness continued to be added to familiar music as the show opened with the soulful voice of Leigh Phillips singing Mary Did You Know. Jamal Slocombe was impressive as always with the powerfully delivered O Holy Night. He was followed by the strikingly clad Ayana John who displayed her smooth vocals on All I Want for Christmas and her own original Christmas song Good Morning, It’s Christmas.
Dance troupe Elevé, which started during COVID-19, was a part of the package. RPB took it to another level with the crowd favourite Maize as attendees were singing along loudly with him. Reigning Junior Monarch, Shontae Alleyne-Clarke, showed her versatility as an artiste singing Gee Whiz It’s Christmas. Next, there was a marriage of the blossoming and the experienced as she and the Calypso Queen Alison Hinds merged their voices on a Christmas revamped version of Something’s Happening. Hinds also performed Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and was accompanied on pan by former Square One bandmate, Terry ‘Mexican’ Arthur.
The next segment saw musical extraordinaire John Roett, joining the band on keyboard. He brought along a few of his friends to entertain. Natalie Burke opened and was in fine voice as she sang Caroling Caroling. When she teamed up with Biggie Irie for Drummer Boy, the feeling of Christmas in the air was undeniable. This segment also included performances by John King, Tamara Marshall and Marisa Lindsay.
The children who lined the front of the stage were ecstatic when Ishiaka McNeil, dressed as Santa Claus, led a singalong session with favourites like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Joy to the World, The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy and Feliz Navidad. Prime Minister Mia Amour Mottley was able to elicit a similarly excited reaction as children and adults alike rushed to get close to her and get pictures as she made her way through the crowd. She even led the audience in a rendition of We Wish You a Merry Christmas.
Current president of the Rotary Club Barbados Tracey Knight-Lloyd, stated, “We are indeed grateful for your support over the years. This show has been running for 27 years and we could not have done it without you, our patrons, and, of course, our entertainers and our sponsors.”
She acknowledged that all the funds raised are funnelled back into the community. Their projects include ensuring that the residents of children’s homes have enjoyable experiences and assistance is provided to the older demographics by facilitating home repairs and providing hampers. She indicated, “Next year, we will roll out a new initiative called Save, Spend, Thrive where we will teach vulnerable women how to manage their finances in a much more sustainable way.” The club will continue to install water tanks in schools throughout the island. Other initiatives will include the promotion of healthy living, aimed at getting Barbadians into shape.