Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 11th 2013 Contents B30
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt August 11, 2013
It s been nine years since dancer/choreo-
grapher Dave Williams has put on a full pro-
duction---2004 s award-winning Falling 2.0,
which he d first presented three years earli-
er.It s no wonder. Williams has his hands full:
he s an advertising consultant, a collaborator
on the online arts magazine Draconian Switch,
and co-founder of the annual COCO Dance
Festival and also of the successful T&T Erotic
Art Week, the fourth installation of which is
carded for April 2014.
And there s one more reason it took Williams
almost ten years to bring out Press Play, the
40-minute contemporary dance/ drama/ per-
formance art presentation that began running
at Woodbrook s Night Gallery/ Bohemia last
month and continues this weekend.
"Trinidad is a hostile environment to art---
well, generally everything; it kind of breaks
you," said Williams, who made news in 2010
for calling Napa, Port-of-Spain "nothing more
than a very ornate twig" with a stage that
could be hazardous for performers.
He d performed at the then-new building
the previous year, during the opening ceremony
of the Commonwealth Heads of Government
Meeting and was one of many performers and
art activists criticising the extravagant struc-
"It kind of takes the wind out of you a lot
of the time," said Williams, continuing his
assessment of the social environment in T&T.
"Every time (you stage something) you have
to be giving yourself the pep talk---what are
you doing it for in the first place, and what
would be the outcome and the benefit.
"It s not cheap to do," he said, pointing out
another obstacle to putting on a production.
"It s a lot of work. I remember Peter Minshall
once said the opera singer does not have to
build the opera house or sweep the theatre or
collect the tickets---but in the scheme of things
here, (performers) really do everything."
Press Play is an amalgamation of ideas that
had been gathering in Williams head over the
past decade. With a cast of seven, including
Williams, it explores personal relationships,
the role of the media, and politics.
Night Gallery/Bohemia, an art space run
by Williams and other artists, is increasingly
being known as the place to see alternative
and experimental work. It was one of the
places that showcased work for the Erotic Art
Week and it hosted the first ever postal art
exhibition last year, along with visual artist
Adele Todd s look at crime through the unex-
pected medium of embroidery.
The space is small, with room for only 60
audience members for every performance of
Press Play. It s one of the reasons the pres-
entation is running longer than typical dance
The space is intended for new artists or
experimental work that can t afford anything
bigger, said Williams.
"We kind of have a space where the financial
commitment and risk aren t there," he said.
"It s really to get audiences to see new cre-
ative work and for artists to start testing their
work on audiences. It is experimenting for
both the audience and the artist."
Press Play ends its second run this evening.
Showtime is 7.30 pm.
More info: Night Gallery/bohemia on Facebook.
When you think of the music of Trinidad
and Tobago, the classical genre is probably
not the first thing that comes to mind.
Natalia Dopwell, the celebrated soprano who
is an active part of the Classical Music Devel-
opment Foundation (CMDF), suggests that
this is because we are not as aware of musical
history as we should be---which is one of the
reasons the foundation has just embarked on
its first Classical Music competition.
A non-profit born out of the realisation
that the classical arts were not being given
much attention locally, the CMDF has vested
itself with the responsibility of promoting
excellence in the performing arts, staging
operas and classical concerts, and supporting
gifted students, who happen to be the focus
of the competition.
"We wanted to meet the needs of local stu-
dent musicians," explains Annette Dopwell,
one of the organisation s founders.
"It can be difficult for them to get the oppor-
tunity to hone their skills, let alone be paid
The contest, which is expected to be held
annually, is designed to fulfill a dual purpose:
entrants can showcase their talent and compete
for a sizeable amount of prize money.
"Classical musicians are the best kept secret,"
"We have world class talent here---sopranos
like Jeanine De Bique and tenors like Ronald
Samm---they do so well at conservatories
abroad but don t always get the recognition
they deserve locally, because the environment
to support their learning doesn t exist to the
degree it should."
The foundation s aim is to help facilitate a
more active classical music scene in T&T, so
that these artistes have a place to call home,
personally and professionally.
"The Classical Music Competition will be
a good platform on which to do that," Annette
"It will open people s minds. Some may
think opera is about big, fat ladies wearing
horns on their head, but the stories are about
In collaboration with UTT s Academy of
the Performing Arts, the CMDF recently staged
a production of the opera Dido and Aeneas,
and the student response was, to use Annette s
word, amazing: "You could see the musicians
stretching their skills; it was awesome for
The competition promises more of the same.
"We targeted people who were actually invest-
ing in music training," explains Natalia.
"Applicants had to submit documents such
as certificates from the Royal School of Music
in order to even get to the preliminary stage."
Ten candidates advanced to the semi-final
round on Friday night: classical guitarist Seth
Escalante; cellist Traycell Frederick; violinist
Chelsea Goolcharan; tenors Stephan Hernan-
dez, Christian Joel and John Thomas; count-
er-tenor Kevin Yung; and sopranos Stephanie
Nahous, Llettesha Sylvester and Ayrice Wilson.
They confidently faced the judging panel which
comprised two international judges (orchestral
and choral conductor Carlos Aransay and
mezzo-soprano Hilda Harris, who is on the
faculty of the Manhattan School of Music)
and one local (classically trained jazz saxo-
phonist and UTT lecturer Anthony Woodroffe).
The singers were required to perform two
pieces, one from the Romantic and the other
from the Classical period. The musicians had
to play one Sonata and one Concerto move-
ment from the same periods.
"It s interesting," says Natalia, "because
you re competing against everyone else,
whether you re a singer or an instrumentalist.
Everybody is being judged on their proficiency
and the difficulty level of each piece, so it s
a level playing field. Anyone can win."
The finals took place last night at Queen s
Hall, with the singers performing an aria and
a selection of their choice, and the instru-
mentalists playing a different movement and
a piece of their choice.
Prizes were awarded for first, second and
third place---US$5,000 for the overall winner,
courtesy the National Gas Co; US$3,000 for
the second-place performer, courtesy First
Citizens Bank Asset Management; and
US$1,000 for third place, donated by the Neal
and Massy Foundation.
There was also an audience prize worth
US$500, judged by secret ballot, and each
finalist walked away with US$100, even if they
did not make the top three.
"Sponsors have been very generous," says
Natalia, adding that the US Embassy also
played a key part in the competition by cov-
ering the cost of bringing in one of the judges
from the United States.
"There are so many different levels and
layers to music," says Natalia, "and this com-
petition gives people the opportunity to appre-
ciate something different. It s like a whole
other musical language."
If you missed Friday and Saturday s per-
formances, you have one last chance to see
these classical artistes in action---for free---at
a Masterclass with the judges, which takes
place from 4 pm today at Christ Church in
More info: facebook.com/events/
Last chance to catch
Classical Music competition
Williams repeats Press Play
Dave Williams, centre, being dressed in newspaper costume by fellow cast members in the first
staging of the show Press Play. PHOTO COURTESY RICHARD RAWLINS
Young violinist Chelsea Goolcharan was
expected to compete in the Classical Music
competition. PHOTO COURTESY CMDF
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