The 50th anniversary celebrations of the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA) got underway Friday night at the Golden Square Freedom Park. On the packed roster of activities produced by the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) is the concert series Music in the Square Icon Nights, which pays tribute to three outstanding musicians.
During his welcome remarks, Kevin Moore, Cultural Officer-Music Education said, “This year we have returned to the competition aspect and for the first time ever all acts in the NIFCA music final will be backed by live instrumentation.”
The NCF has also introduced the Arranger’s Challenge, which was won by Marlon Legall. The ongoing challenge to recreate iconic solos by Barbadian musicians has added an exciting dimension to the celebration of creative excellence.
In the first edition of the three-part series the spotlight was on prolific musician James Millington. The dedicated educator who played a pivotal role in advancing pedagogy and the training of classical musicians in Barbados, is widely recognised for his significant contribution to the island’s musical landscape. Among those in attendance at the showcase were Millington’s children, Dorothy, and James Millington.
The event featured a diverse lineup of musicians from different generations, all coming together to pay homage to Millington’s remarkable musical legacy.
Classical music took center stage, with multi-instrumentalist Aymon Parris impressing on the piano with Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata — 1st Movement, while Nathan Vaughan delivered a flawless performance of the Moonlight Sonata — 3rd Movement.
Instrumentalist Kofi Gilkes’ artistry extends beyond the saxophone, he skillfully played The Pink Panther theme song on the clarinet.
Shawn Layne’s rendition of Oblivion added to the musical tapestry.
Several ensembles also graced the stage. Among them were the Republic Horns Sax Quartet, Bajan Brass, and the Anthony Hood Quintet, who blended classical instruments with traditional Barbadian folk songs like Ya Confuse and Draw a Bucket of Water.
The event also featured the Barbados National Youth Steel Orchestra under the direction of Joy Knight-Lynch.
Students of the Combermere Steel Orchestra, where Millington made an indelible mark, were featured.
The focus of the event was not solely on the instrumentalists. Vocalist Ravon Ramsay delivered a powerful rendition of the classic Time to Say Goodbye, while Shanika Roach’s rich tone was riveting during her delivery of the negro spiritual Deep River.
Janisa Alleyne thrilled the audience with her dynamic performance of Feeling Good. The vocal lineup also featured Junior Monarch alum Kymorhi Trotman singing the English folk song Linden Tea, and Paula Hinds was impeccable in her rendition of Fly Me to the Moon.
The final performer of the evening was Kweku Jelani, who wowed the audience with his vocals and trumpet skills. His set included Walk Away from Love, Let’s Make Love, and his own original piece, Do Tha Thing.
Further honouring the musical heritage of Barbados, in the coming weeks the series will continue with tributes to Jackie Opel and Sir Emile Straker.