Antigua day 9 – Barbuda Concert!

Antigua day 9 – Barbuda Concert!

Day 9 in Antigua

First ever Barbuda concert

There are days that remain etched in memory, not merely for the events, but for the spirit and resonance they carry. Day 9 on our journey was one such day; Barbuda witnessed its inaugural concert. The task was formidable. With no existing arts infrastructure on the island, every instrument, equipment piece, and a sizable crew had to be ferried over on a 90-minute boat journey. As if nature wanted to test our resolve, weather-related delays briefly threatened to throw a spanner in the works. But the TCR team, ever efficient and adaptable, sprang into action. And, just as the final touches were put in place, the arrival of the Governor General to open the concert seemed like a sign from the universe that all was aligned.

The national anthem heralded the ABYSO’s debut performance on Barbuda soil. It was an historic moment, signaling not just the ensemble’s rightful embrace of the name “Barbuda” but also the island’s broader commitment to nurturing its musical roots. The earlier efforts of our team, helped initiate a string teaching programme and the recorder ensemble, bore fruit. The young recorder ensemble’s performance, featuring a fresh composition crafted in collaboration with Dan Swanni, was an aural treat. The palpable growth in the fledgling musicians’ confidence over mere days was nothing short of inspiring.

Speeches were given by Karen Thomas, ABYSO’s Barbuda Coordinator and Her Excellency Karen-Mae Hill. High commissioner of Antigua and Barbuda. Her words to the parents of the islanders were full of hope, but also the reminder that it takes a team to make a difference. Everyone can play their part and everyone can achieve something incredible. With everything coming together in this concert, The ‘Create, Perform, Inspire’ programme certainly hits all three of those points.

Nature had its own dramatic encore in store for us. As we rendered ‘Under the Sea’, the heavens opened, almost making the song’s lyrics a reality! The downpour saw a scramble for cover, a brief pause, and a fervent hope for clearer skies. Once the storm abated, the concert concluded with one final performance of Abba.

Post-performance, a new challenge awaited – the race against time to pack up and board the boat. Battling the tempestuous sea again, the team’s spirits remained undeterred, taking pride in the monumental feat achieved.

We know that the future of music on the island is just starting, but wow did it start strong! At the end of the stay, 20 musicians returned elated, but tired to the Jolly Beach Hotel.

Antigua day 8 – Concert day!

Day 8 in Antigua

First concert

The eighth day of our journey heralded a day of anticipation, excitement, and magic. With the pristine backdrop of the Wetherills Estate, the talented ABYSO took to the stage for their very first concert of this expedition. There’s a unique thrill to performing al fresco, a raw and immediate connection between the performers and nature. The shifting acoustics of the outdoors adds another layer of challenge, demanding particularly keen listening from the students. Each note carried differently, and often vanishing off to somewhere different.

The grounds of the estate slowly filled, as an eager audience, bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun, settled in. Their excitement was palpable, a mix of anticipation and pride. As the first strains of music wafted through the air, it became abundantly clear that the efforts of these budding musicians had borne fruit. The response was overwhelmingly positive, with applause reverberating through the evening air. It was evident: the performance wasn’t just appreciated; it was adored.

As the evening drew to a close and the lingering notes of the concert faded, we joined our new friends, the senior tutors of ABYSO, in a different kind of symphony: one of laughter, shared experiences, and culinary delights. We dined at The Larder, where the menu tantalised our taste buds as much as our music had delighted our ears. Over a scrumptious meal, conversations flowed effortlessly, stories were exchanged, and it became evident that the bonds forged during this journey extended beyond the realm of music. Tomorrow something special will be taking place!

Emily reflects on Barbuda

Emily reflects on Barbuda

Emily reflects on Barbuda

Daniel Swani, Peter Banks and I had the pleasure of travelling to Barbuda for a few days during our trip with The Commonwealth Resounds. I was very excited to be travelling to Antigua’s sister island but little did I know just how life changing the experience would be!

Our aim for the trip had been to teach recorder to a few students- preparing a short piece for the ABYSO’s concert there on Sunday- while also teaching violin to Karen and Zoe (who were going to take on the role of tutoring students on the island).

Upon arrival we made our way to Holy Trinity primary school where Daniel taught a recorder session. We had a group of pupils, all with very little recorder playing experience, learning the basics of the recorder. As a non-recorder player myself, I found the session very interesting – learning where the notes were and learning breathing technique alongside the students.

One of the things that struck me during this time – and our time on Barbuda as a whole – was the work ethic of the kids we were working with. It is not easy learning a new instrument in such a short time, let alone putting a piece together, but they definitely rose to the challenge! A few of the students even kept trying to learn more notes and techniques – excited to learn the range of the recorder. Their enthusiasm was infectious and I look forward to seeing how they progress in the next few years.

The violin session was run by Peter and I at the Fisheries near the famous Barbuda lagoon and where the ABYSO will be playing on Sunday. The aim of the session was to run over the basics of the violin and its maintenance long term with a few of the tutors who would be teaching string instruments to children on the island. They had all been learning about various bits of the instrument in sessions prior to our arrival but we had brought over the instruments they would be using. It is an incredible feat to learn an instrument so quickly – with some of them taking their grade one in just six weeks.

When we weren’t tutoring in Barbuda, we were having the most amazing tour of the island by our host – Karen Thomas. In the evening of our first day we were treated to lobster pasta at Uncle Ronnie’s – a renowned restaurant on the island. The restaurant also kept a few tortoises outside which they let us feed (a bucket list moment for me!!) On the morning of the second day we were taken to Princess Diana beach where we could see the sand’s famous pink hue. Paddling along, we were able to spot a stunning, small sting ray in the water before heading off to the final recorder session.

To top off the whole trip we were taken to the Frigate Bird Sanctuary by a lovely man named George. He took us on a speed boat round the lagoon to see the island’s famous birds and explained their history.

My experience on Barbuda has been one of the most musically rewarding experiences of my life. Seeing the kids get so stuck into the music and how much they achieved in just two days is incredible. I am excited to see how much the classical musical life on Barbuda flourishes in the coming years!