It may seem incredible to believe that the Lydian Singers, a choir of over 100 strong, has as many regular companions in the world of the performing arts. Artistes from right here in the Caribbean as well as those from farther off have shared the stage with the Lydians, either in formal concerts or in the hospitable practice hall at Bishop Anstey High School. Let us introduce you to a few of the Lydians' friends.
Dancers, Choreographers and Artists
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Technicians: Sound, Lights & Multimedia
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Claudia began dancing at the age of four. Her early dance educators were Helen Mary Keaya and Heather Campbell-Alcazar of the Campbell Academy of Dance. She helped found and later left the Repertory Dance Theatre led by the late Astor Johnson, only to rejoin the group upon Johnson's death in an effort to hold it together. She toured the French Caribbean and Caracas with the revitalized group.
She had a close association with the Caribbean School of Dancing for many years, both as student and teacher; she also undertook stage management for the school. As Dean of discipline and teacher of physical education at the Success/Laventille Composite School, her academic achievements included a Fine Arts Honours Degree in Dance from York University.
In 1992, she undertook her first stint with the Lydians when the group performed Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. Claudia blossomed naturally from stage management into another key role - that of staging. The early experiences in teaching movement were rather challenging due to resistance from the Lydians who had grown accustomed to standing perfectly still while concentrating on expressing the music through proper use of voice. Now she finds greater responsiveness to her efforts.
Teaching acting skills and responses to soloists as part of their performances became another of her responsibilities, so as to ensure that they became immersed in the characters they played while they sing. If not, audiences will instinctively be aware and the performance will fail.
Succesful staging of 'Koanga' and 'L'Elisir d'Amore' comprise just two achievements, which led to her yet another major challenge - to stage the Turandot performance. She explained that various spaces were required for the crowd scenes and working out the details were particularly difficult. As Claudia's limber figure flit from section to section of the group, guiding members in the pursuit of excellence in stage production, her expressive gestures and commanding voice summoned positive responses from choir members who affectionately, but respectfully addressed her by her first name.
Article by: Marlene Davis, December 22, 2000
"Just say that I am a music addict who loves Trinidad and am an honorary Lydian and a friend of Pat. That's all." That's all? That's all that Siân wanted written about her which, of course, speaks volumes about this special person who has become one of us, modest and charming to all. However, I would not be so easily fobbed off and proceeded to spend a delightful morning with her at Pat's home and learned enough about her to make us appreciate her presence among us even more.
How had she become a music addict, I asked, and found that she was Siân (pronounced "Sharn") Carlin, nicknamed Welsh because, you guessed it, she was born and brought up in Wales - famous for its music. She was lucky to be born in Wales in a small village where all social life centred on the village chapel (and the pub, if the truth be told.) Here, at Sunday school (and she still has a copy of the hymnbook she used then) she learned to read music from the TONIC sol fa scale. She learned to read music at the same time or maybe before she learned to read. She started to play the piano from the age of 8 and was so involved in music that she studied Music as a subject both at 'O' and 'A' levels, proceeding to College and eventually to The Royal Academy where she obtained Diplomas in Conducting and Vocal Culture.
She practised arranging and composing music through necessity when in Nigeria where she lived and worked at a Teachers' Training College and where printed music was just non existent. In this our Christmas production we see an example of her arrangement of 'Away in a Manger' and 'At Christmas Your Heart Goes Home.'
How and when did she link up with Pat? Well, Fate later brought her to Trinidad where she met Pat in San Fernando in the early 70's. At the time she was the music teacher at Presentation College, was busy arranging a mini music festival and invited Pat to judge. Needless to say, Pat ended up conducting the folk choir and they became fast friends, having so much in common. Siân was at that time also conducting The San Fernando Ladies' Choir and the Southern Light Orchestra. These, interestingly, subsequently merged to become, get this, The Southernaires whom Pat took over when Sin went back to Cardiff. She's glad to see that they're still 'going strong' under the direction of Joy Caesar.
Another interest which these two musicians held in common was their love of the steelband. Siân was involved in assisting the Guinness Cavaliers and Texaco West Stars. She's still happy to meet some of their members who greet her joyfully even now.
Siân now lives in Spain, "the nearest thing to Trinidad" but with the advantage of being a mere two hours away by plane from Cardiff where her two children, both of whom were born in Trinidad, live. As expected, there too music is the centre of her life - she conducts a Ladies' Barbershop Chorus, a Dutch Choir and an International Opera Chorus which gave its premiere performance last May and is getting ready for a mini Glyndebourne festival next May. It is not surprising that when asked what is her favourite musical instrument she quickly replied "the human voice." Now I know what we all have in common with her.
We cannot thank her enough, this shy, modest musician with the impish twinkle in her eye, for the warmth and wholeheartedness of her contribution, be it at the piano or conducting us.
It was a pleasure to get to know her and to share with you one who, in being Pat's friend and 'sister', is ours also.
The title, 'Metamorphosis', expresses the essence of this dance company started by Nancy Herrera in 1996 - change. Productions utilise choreography developed from people with dance experience, both here and abroad, affording the company an interesting and continuous mix of styles.
There are twenty mature dancers, led by Nancy Herrera- Artistic Director, Carol Yip Choy- Manager and Gillian Merry-Rehearsal Director. The dancers train at the associated Caribbean School of Dance whence Metamorphosis emanated. The company has its annual season in May at Queen's Hall and also performs regularly during the year on occasions such as award ceremonies, functions for visiting dignitaries, Christmas and religious services. A variety of techniques are reflected - classical, ballet, modern jazz, afro-Caribbean, tap and liturgical.
Association with the Lydian Singers has provided opportunities to dancers from both the Caribbean School of Dancing and Metamorphosis to work with live music. Another benefit is collaboration among dancers singers and the orchestra, entities that have different needs and must share space on stage. The length of the Lydian season and the varied performance venues serve as a useful prelude for dancers who choose to work abroad, where locations are varied and performances may last weeks or months.
Nancy Herrera founded the dance company Metamorphosis in 1995 and is its artistic director. She holds a degree in Dance Education conjointly at the London College of Dance and Drama and Bedford College England. In addition to her work with Metamorphosis, Ms. Herrera freelances as a teacher, undertaking movement-based remedial teaching for children with learning disabilities, maladjusted youngsters and hearing impaired children at the School for the Deaf. She also teaches curriculum subjects to pre-school children.
Teaching a subject that many feel is not of vital importance frees her from working within the confines of a common entrance syllabus and public agreement of success by a mark on a certificate. Audiences constitute her main reason for having her dancers perform, for she feels that dance and the arts generally can galvanise people towards creativity, problem solving and happiness.
In her capacity as artistic director of Metamorphosis, she will continue promotion of excellent standards, fostering relationships with performers overseas and encouraging high expectations by those unable to pursue dance abroad. Collaborative events, which include dance, will repeatedly excite her artistic enthusiasm.
Pat Roe, a dear friend of Pat Bishop, was instrumental in preparing the choir for festivals and performances from the early days. However, it was the Lydians who first brought live music to shows put on by the Dance School. For the School's "Fantasy in Dance" concert of 1990, the Lydians sang the Congolese "Missa Luba" for the dancers, as well as "Amazing Grace" and "Hooked on the Fountain". In return, the dancers performed to Schubert's 23rd Psalm sung by the Lydians' in Thanksgiving services in Trinity Cathedral, All Saints, St. Paul's and at Mount St. Benedict. However, in 1991 for the famous "Dots" concert, "the Christmas in the Round", at Queen's Hall, the dancers of the school gave a new focus to the singing. After experimenting to discern the best place for the "stage" at Queen's Hall, Pat Bishop finally decided to remove the chairs from the floor and seat the audience on the ramps. As such, the audience surrounded the performance, hence "The Round". 12-14 dancers performed to many pieces including "The Hallelujah Chorus", "Ningue" by Monsalvate, "I Sing of a Maiden" and "Sure of this Shining Night", all choreographed by Pat Roe, as well as "Carol of the Bells", choreographed by Sonja Dumas. It was at this time also that more choreography and movement were introduced to the Lydians' performances, and the unique theatre that is "The Lydians" was born.
Since then, an association dance company-Metamorphosis, headed by Nancy Herrera and others- has been very involved in Lydians' concerts. In 1995, solo dancer Zara Bartels performed to Eddie Cumberbatch's "O Paradis" for the Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, while Roxanne Fung danced to "a Cuban Lullaby" sung by Jenny Archer at a concert in honour of the Senior Vice President of Texaco. For the opera Koanga and for "Les Belles Caribes" performed by the choir for the delegates of the ACS Summit, there was a large input of 12 dancers from Metamorphosis. In 1996, at the 75th Anniversary of Bishop Anstey High School, Pat Roe and Noble Douglas were honoured and Roe choreographed "Tree at my Window", which was performed by current Bishop's students: Lydian Singer Patrice Quammie and Caribbean School dancers Zara Bartels and Abby Charles.
Pat Roe is one of the oldest friends of the Lydians. She has worked very hard with now popular soloists Eddie Cumberbatch, Glenis Yearwood and Joanne Pyle, whose style and stage presence are her handiwork. Pat Roe coached all more recent competitors at the 23rd Music Festival, Barry Martin, Leisel Semper, Miriam Richardson, Germaine Wilson and others in preparation for their operatic arias. Pat modestly admits to "simply facilitating people's performances", but she is the one responsible for getting the Lydians lined up onstage, bowing and sitting down with such communal discipline that it prompted an admiring comment from adjudicator Richard Deering at the recent Music Festival.
The highly respected artist and 'mas' man- Carlisle Chang - has just scored another first. During more than forty years of involvement in theatre, he had monitored the performances of the then twenty-year-old Lydian group. He has known the Director Pat Bishop since her return from studies abroad and they support each other as artists. However, this is the first occasion on which he actually worked with the Lydians, designing their 'Turandot' production.
Mr. Chang brings a wide-ranging theatrical experience to the assignment. From classical repertoire, he dressed the 'Taming of the Shrew'- the last Botanical Gardens production of the Trinidad Dramatic Club. He dressed 'Le Bourgeois Gentil homme' for Graham Suter and 'Hamlet' for the John Ainsworth Company which toured the Eastern Caribbean. Since 1963, he designed every dance performance of the schools of Marcia Moze and later Helena Dunn. Now he designs for the Caribbean School of Dance and Metamorphosis. His first opera design was for 'The Magic Flute' performed by the Trinidad Opera Company; more recently he dressed Jacqui Chan's 'Lysistrata' for which effort he won a Casique award in 1991.
China is familiar territory to Mr. Chang. The first play for which he designed was 'Lady Precious Stream' produced by the Chinese Arts Group. His designs for 'China-The Forbbiden City', won the Carnival Band of the Year title in 1987. For 'Turandot', he was anxious to recreate the authentic style of the fabled court of Peking since many people tend to confuse Chinese and Japanese costume. As a result of exhaustive research, the Lydian's production evoked the Tang Dynasty of 1200 years ago, generally regarded as the Golden age in Chinese history.
That was a period of expansion and trade, painting, poetry and invention. The cultural influence spread from Indo-China to Korea, from Tibet to Japan. Silk and porcelain were exported westwards as far as the Caspian and there were daring sea voyages to India, Arabia and the east coast of Africa. In those days silk was reserved for court use and men wore heavily embroidered robes over trousers pushed into ornate boots. Male hair was kept long and piled on top of the head, held in place with head-ties and caps shaped to accommodate their buns. Women wore their hair swept up into various buns, chignons and rolls held in place with elaborately jewelled hairpins and combs, often with pearls and tassels hanging about the head. They ware Trailing gowns with Empire-style high waistlines and tiny tunics. Silken shawls or stoles were commonplace.
In the Lydians' production, the princess Turandot wears the high waisted empire line with tiny tunic and a phoenix headdress. Her father, the Emperor, wears the traditional dragon robe of imperial yellow. The exiled King of Tartary wears a fur collar and hat evocative of the Mongol tribes, while the garments of his devoted slave-girl, Liu, suggest turkestan origin. The hero, Prince Calaf is somewhat updated to suggest a military bearing. The three comic relief ministers-Ping, Pang and Pong wear robes more akin to conventional Chinese opera with ornate headdresses and simulated embroidery.
The court is peopled with mandarins, soldiers, sages and dancers while the general populace wear tunics of various lengths over narrow trousers or skirts, as well as head-ties and broad hats for work in the fields. All of this will take place on a specially designed stage.
The Malick Folk Performers, 17 years in existence under the directorship of Michael Lucien, have been performing with the Lydians for the past 5-6 years. Out of the group's large ensemble, 95 in the senior troupe and 110 juniors, only an average of 6-8 perform during concerts on stage with the choir. Familiar songs such as "Some go to Church", "I've Been 'Buked", "Climb up Chillun", "Cumina" and "Ride the Chariot" are only a few of the pieces which the folk dancers have brought alive. The Malick Folk Performers have participated in the two most recent operas, Koanga in 1995 and Elixir of Love in 1996, have performed with the choir at the Prime Minister's residence, and were also part o the choir's performance for the leaders of Cuba and The Netherlands in 1995.
This group came into existence in 1962 and celebrate their 35th anniversary this year. Out of the Company's 45 members, the Lydians had the pleasure of meeting two - Arlene Richards and Delroy Rose - at the gala performance for President Bill Clinton in Barbados in May this year. The Company shared the stage with the Lydians in tribute to Jimmy Cliff, and expressed hope that through continued efforts of their Company and the Lydians, foreigners will gain a better understanding of what Caribbean Artistes have achieved.
Pat Bishop's pioneering work with the steel band movement in Trinidad heavily included Desperadoes Steel Orchestra. As its conductor, she took the band on eight major USA tours including two major concerts at Carnegie Music Hall. She was the first to conduct a combined steel band and symphony orchestra, this being the Desperadoes and the New York Pops Symphony in mid 1980's.
Seven years later in 1987 she began leading the Lydians. The choir then began performing with Desperados Steel Orchestra both 1987 and in 1989. The band had successfully won the Steelband Music Festival in 1986 and 1988, where the traditional Christmas carols and the "Polvetsian Dances" by Borodin came to life as steelpan and voices joined together under the baton of Pat Bishop.
The creative collaborative relationship between these two major groups continued with the Lydians and Desperadoes sharing the stage in several concerts. Most notably, the Lydians performed in 'From Hill to Hill' in 2008 - a monumental concert described as a gift from the people of Laventille, from its citadel, the hill that overlooks the nation’s capital, to the people of San Fernando, at their equally historic landmark hill.
Desperadoes pan players were also featured in the 2010 Caribbean premiere of Jose Maria Vitier's 'Missa Cubana' performed by the Lydians at Queen's Hall. In April 2019, the Lydian Men and Lydian Steel Ensemble performed with Desperadoes once more under the invitation of the P.A.L.M. Foundation.
The Samaroo Jets have been with the choir for the past 5-6 years. Accompanying the choir on tour to Panama and Tobago in 1996 and to Barbados in 1997, the 6 Jets showed off their talent for bringing all sort of music to life on the pan. Together with the Lydians, this steelband lend a truly Caribbean flavour to well known pieces such as "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring" and the "Hallelujah Chorus".
**The Lydians have also sung with the Samaroo Jets in their anniversary celebrations entitled 'For the Love of Pan' in which Folk song arranger John Jacob paid tribute to the National Instrument in the form of an upbeat jam which the Lydians sang and which the Jets accompanied.
The T&TEC Malick Tassa Drummers, formely the Soogrim-Ram Tassa Drummers, have also accompanied the Lydians on tours and have been friends of the group for the past 5 years. Playing with the Lydians for saxophonist Dave Coz, President ANR Robinson, and Prime Ministers of Trinidad and Tobago, this father and son team of 4 drummers admits to being very proud of its association with the Lydians. The Culture Shock drummers who have been in existence since 1983 are also now permanent members of the choir as they have been with the group for the last 10 years.
The pan, the tassa and African drums all add to the great sound that is "The Lydians". Apart from all this, the Lydians also shared the stage with Barbadian Saxophonist Arturo Tappin, in Barbados for the CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting in May this year. Tapin can now add the Lydians to his extensive list of people with whom he has performed which already includes popular names like Roberta Flack, Monte Alexander, Ziggy Marley and Lucieno Pavarotti.
David Rudder has collaborated with the Lydians for a number of years. The choir has sung back up for him to many of this popular calypsos such as "Bahia girl" and "Hammer" and also sang "Song for a lonely soul" and "Super Island" on the Power and the Glory album in 1989. In more recent times, David Rudder and the Lydians performed for the Inauguration Service of Bishop Rawle Douglin in 1995 at the Trinity Cathedral, at the Jean Pierre Complex for Rudder's concert, 'No restriction', in 1996 and for the Hotel Normandie's 1997 Carnival Concert. Rudder's most memorable performance with the Lydians was back in 1990, when electricity went just before a concert in Queen's Hall, candles were distributed and the choir sang with only the acoustic piano.
During the Lydians' tour of Panama in 1996, they shared the stage with local group Musica Viva, and in fact were hosted by this choir during their stay in Panama.
At the end of June in 1997, the Lydians had a similar opportunity to host the Duke Ellington Show Choir from Washington DC. The touring group comprised musical director Samuels Bonds, 12 singers and chaperones, and its tour of Trinidad included visits to various schools and institutions as well as a major performance at Queen's Hall. This was well received by the audience as the Duke Ellington teens (ages 14-18) performed a variety of Negro spirituals, gospel and popular Mowtown pieces. At home with the Lydians the following night, the bond through music was strengthened as both groups sang "Rock-a-my-soul", "Amen" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" together and soloists from both groups got to show off a little. The fellowship and communion experienced in the joint group that night s a sure sign that the Lydians will soon be performing 'on state' with the Duke Ellington Show Choir.
Trinidad Tour- May 24 - June 1, 2004.
In 2004, The Holy Trinity Cathedral Restoration and Maintenance Committee embarked upon a fund raising venture to showcase The Carnegie Mellon University Concert Choir in collaboration with four local choirs, one of which were the Lydians Singers. The Lydians were chosen to represent a warm welcome to the students of the University through a meet and greet session that was held at the Bishop Anstey High School Hall the night of their arrival in Trinidad. We warmed their hearts with John Jacob's arrangement of "Trini to the Bone", a calypso originally sung by long-time friend of the choir, David Rudder. We then embarked upon a very serious and what we though was a challenging mission: The Lydians were to host a Folk Song workshop with the Carnegie Mellon University Choir, and teach them a traditional folk song arranged by John.
Surprisingly enough, the university choir, which comprised 30 students between the ages of 18-25 picked up quickly and soon became enthused with the prospect of singing the folksong with us before an audience. They expressed sentiments of newfound love and interest in calypso and the more dramatic presentation and actions that were involved in the whole portrayal of the folk song "Ah go tell me mama, don' sen' me down dey." Members of the audience also expressed their pleasure and delight at seeing the two well-loved choruses come together with awe-inspiring harmony and compatibility for both the folk song as well as two other renditions; "Lift every voice and Sing" conducted by Dr. Pat Bishop and "The Hallelujah Chorus" conducted by Carnegie conductor, and eight time Grammy nominee, Dr. Robert Page.
The Carnegie Mellon University Concert Choir is a highly selective ensemble of singers from every college of the university, with the majority of the members' music majors. The ensemble usually has a membership of around 44 singers, depending upon the talent and the repertoire of a particular season. Although the ensemble does not tour extensively, it brings to CMU and Pittsburgh audiences repertoire of distinction and variety. Each year it is the nucleus ensemble of the Carnegie Mellon University combined choirs featured in the annual holiday concert, broadcast live throughout the world via satellite through WQED radio.