Sharing Musical Skills: Antigua and Barbuda!

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The Commonwealth Resounds is delighted to share musical experiences with young musicians in Antigua and Barbuda. In collaboration with UK conservatoires and specialist music schools, we have supported the nurturing of young musical talent in the islands of Antigua and Barbuda following the devastating Hurricane Irma in 2017.

In 2019, as part of the Commonwealth’s 70th Anniversary celebrations, we created an exciting new training/skill-sharing programme for young musicians with the High Commissioner of Antigua and Barbuda, the Royal Over-Seas League and the Purcell School for Young Musicians.

During the Pandemic, visits to the island were limited; however, we are delighted to be returning with a new generation of musicians in 2023 – watch this space for updates!

Hurricane Irma hit Antigua

6th September 2017
06 September 2017
12:00 AM

Commonwealth Resounds began their first project

September 2017
September 30, 2017
12:00 AM

First meeting of Alison Cox MBE & Karen-Mae Hill, High Commissioner of Antigua and Barbuda

The Antigua project starts to take shape
April 2018
April 02, 2018
12:00 AM

First international musician visits

July 7th -18th 2019
July 06, 2019
12:00 AM

Go Compose Antigua!

July 2019
July 10, 2019
12:00 AM

Pandemic online tuition

2020-2023
Many of the young musicians who travelled to Antigua in July remained in touch with Karen-Mae and ABYSO and continued teaching the young people online.
January 01, 2021
12:00 AM

Return to Antigua planned

2023

The team assembles and begins to plan the first return trip after the pandemic to collaborate with the Antigua and Barbuda Youth Symphony Orchestra (ABYSO)
October 09, 2022
12:00 AM

Project news

Day 4 in Antigua

Day 4 in Antigua

Day 4 in Antigua

Day 4 of our journey in Antigua began on a slightly quieter note, providing a peaceful backdrop to the bustling energy that was soon to follow for the musicians. The calm of the morning was not afforded to our composers who devoted their time to delivering a Continual Professional Development (CPD) session. The location? Antigua All Girls School in the vibrant city of St. John’s.

The session revolved around the vital task of supporting teachers in their approach to composition. This has started with general compositional techniques such as how to get children composing using a minute of silence, body percussion, improvisation. Teaching composition goes beyond mere techniques or theories. It’s about empowering educators to inspire creativity in their students, enabling them to craft their own unique musical narratives. It was a delight to engage with local teachers, and we felt a sense of shared understanding and passion that transcended cultural and geographical boundaries.

With the insightful morning session behind us, we shifted our focus to the afternoon rehearsal. There’s a certain magic that comes to life when an orchestra begins to work together. It’s not just about the notes on the page; it’s about the shared energy, the camaraderie, the silent understanding between each musician as they breathe life into the composition. This is something the Antigua and Barbuda Youth Symphony Orchestra have in bucket loads. We have always been so blown away by the energy and enjoyment that the young people show every time they pick up their instruments.

Our composers spent the afternoon leading a series of workshops. Each participant was encouraged to come up with a 3 or 4 note motif. This motif, simple as it may sound, was then used as the bedrock to develop intricate melodies. The exercise proved to be an engaging exploration into the transformative power of music. With just a few notes, we created a multitude of melodies, each imbued with the composers own character and emotion.

As the day drew to a close, we embarked on a culinary adventure. The evening meal introduced us to a local Antiguan favourite – the ‘Patty’. Made with a flaky pastry crust and filled with a spiced chicken filling, the Antiguan ‘Patty’ is comfort food at its best. It was the perfect end to a day that was as fulfilling as it was exhilarating.

To close our day, we enjoyed the ABYSO Initials and Juniors recital. This younger group has been set up to train up the next generation of musicians for the ABYSO senior orchestra. Having enjoyed an astonishing display of talent, we can tell you that ABYSO are certainly going to be safe and secure for the foreseeable future. The concert finished with the Commonwealth Resounds joining the Junior orchestra to support them as they performed a selection of pieces.

This day has taken a little longer to write up than usual, you’ll find out why soon!

Day 3 in Antigua in  pictures

Antigua day 3

Day 3 in Antigua

Hello once again from Antigua!

Day 3 opened up a plethora of thrilling experiences and a hint of local delights. Starting the day with a bang, we marked our presence on ABS TV’s popular breakfast show ‘Antigua and Barbuda Today’, a fantastic platform to showcase our musical journey and the incredible work we’ve been accomplishing. Ellen spoke on the sofa alongside the incredible Clarita from ABYSO and together they described the journey that everyone had been on already and highlighted the exciting concerts which will be taking place. Including the Junior recital tomorrow (July 11th) at 6:30 at Dean William Lake and the concerts later in the week with ABYSO which we have been rehearsing hard for. Our string quartet, Emily, Rebecca Peter and Emmi performed What a Wonderful World as a musical highlight.

As an entirely new event, Reuben, Ka Youn and Alison led professional development for music teachers on the island. The aim being to support composition teaching within the island and give teachers the confidence to approach creativity within composition too.

Over at the Sir Vivian Richards stadium, the morning transitioned into the afternoon rehearsals and a composition workshop  led by the trio of Reuben, Ka Youn and Alison. They introduced us to the concept of graphic scores, an innovative notation method using visual symbols to convey music. For the members of the Antigua and Barbuda Youth Symphony Orchestra (ABYSO), this represented a novel approach to musical interpretation. They took to it admirably, and their debut performances using a graphic score were indeed an aural treat.

Following the composition workshop, we divided into our respective sections. Maestro Reuben guided the wind players while violist Peter took the string section. The objective was to refine our collective sound and explore the creation of ‘colours’ in music through the careful manipulation of bow speeds and pressures. It was a deeply engaging exercise that underscored the nuances of orchestral performance.

In the midst of these musically intense activities, we also managed to hit the airwaves once again. Peter, Ellen, and Connor made an appearance on the popular radio programme ‘We the People’. Their lively discussion and shared experiences added another dimension to our ongoing engagement with the local Antiguan media landscape.

To top off an eventful day, we were introduced to a local favourite – Ting. This traditional Antiguan drink, a fizzy grapefruit soda, proved to be a delicious hit among the team! It offered a refreshing escape from the tropical heat and left us all eager to explore more local culinary delights.

Looking back at Day 3, from sharing our music on national TV, delving into detailed workshops, engaging with the radio audience, to sipping on delightful local drinks, we’ve truly resonated with the vibrant pulse of Antigua. We’re buzzing with anticipation for what Day 4 will bring!

Day 2 in Antigua

Day 2 in Antigua

Day 2 in Antigua

Hello from Antigua! Day 2 greeted us with a stunning sunrise, the perfect remedy for the lingering jetlag that had everyone up and about by 4 a.m.! Luckily, the soothing blues of the Caribbean Sea were waiting for us. After an early morning dip, the aroma of a delightful Antiguan breakfast wafted across the beach, fresh mango is definitely the perfect start to a day.

As we bobbed and swam in the crystal-clear water, we soon discovered we had company. To our delight, we spotted a stingray, gliding with a gracefulness that was captivating to witness. Nearby, a Caribbean cushion starfish lay on the sandy floor, its bright colour a striking contrast to the pale seabed, serving as a wonderful reminder of the vibrant and diverse life beneath the sea’s surface.

Revitalised by our morning swim, we redirected our focus to the day’s musical exploits. In the afternoon, our driver Charles ferried us to the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, a place usually echoing with the excitement of cricket, but today, it hummed with a different kind of rhythm. The Antigua and Barbuda Youth Symphony Orchestra (ABYSO) was deep into their rehearsal when we arrived, their dynamic music filling the air with an electrifying energy.

We dispersed into our respective sections – strings, wind, brass, and percussion – each group dedicated to refining their parts, the stadium reverberating with the harmonies of each instrument in practice. The high point of our afternoon was a composition workshop led by our own Reuben and Connor. Their knowledge and enthusiasm for music were contagious, guiding us through the intricate process of composing and fine-tuning a musical piece. We were introduced to an experimental piece by the innovative composer, Pauline Oliveros. This immersive, exploratory composition tested our boundaries, and performing it together fostered a deeper connection amongst us and with the music.

As the afternoon sun cast longer shadows, we reconvened as a full orchestra, prepping for the forthcoming concerts. Under Maestro Roland’s baton, we practised for the performances on the 15th of July at the grand Weatherills Estate and the 16th at the Fisheries Complex on Barbuda. The orchestra is evidently in excellent shape and eager for the grand finale performances just a few days away.

Upon our return to the hotel, our string quartet assembled to prepare a special performance for the breakfast TV show ‘Antigua and Barbuda Today’ on ABS Television the following morning. It’s a thrilling chance for some of our string players to put together something fresh and new. Tomorrow also sees the first ever teacher CPD event for composition within Antigua. We’re looking forward to sharing more about these exciting developments tomorrow!

Day 1 in Antigua

Day 1 in Antigua

Antigua and Barbuda Day 1

Today was an exciting day for the 21 musicians travelling to Antigua with The Commonwealth Resounds, an organisation dedicated to the promotion of music and musicians across the Commonwealth, as we set off on a cultural exchange to the captivating island of Antigua.

Our day kicked off at Gatwick Airport, with the group meeting in person for the first time, full of anticipation and excitement. Instruments in hand and spirits buoyed, we were primed to embark on our adventure. We would like to pause to thank British Airways for their help getting all our instruments onto the plane.

On touching down in Antigua, we were greeted by Claudine and Karen Mae, The High Commissioner of Antigua. Their warmth and hospitality radiated through the welcome, we’re very grateful for their warm welcome and look forward to sharing our musical cultures.

The pace immediately picked up as our wind quintet was ushered to Pointe 99.1fm, where we had the opportunity to join the Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, on his well-known evening programme, Browne and Browne. Alison and Reuben spoke at length on the station about our plans and excitement whilst we are here. Discussing all things music with Colin O’Neil the conversation was positive and he really emphasised the power that music can bring to all our lives, be that academic, social or just for our own pleasure. It was amazing to hear about all the musical opportunities that the island offers and shares with the world. This platform offered us more than just an introduction to Antiguan society; it was a precious opportunity to share our musical passion with the nation.

With the group struggling to fit into the studio. Our wind quintet, just one small component of The Commonwealth Resounds group, enchanted listeners with a captivating Disney medley.

As the programme closed, we were introduced to King Goldie, a Barbudan who plays a fabulous home-made instrument. Using waste materials he created a banjo like instrument out of a butter tin and shaft of wood found nearby, a wonderful way to use music as an environmental power for good. He performed the popular redemption song to which the entire studio sang along with joy.

Prime minister, Gastone Browne, thanking the group for their performance just hours after stepping off the flight from London.

During the programme, the Prime Minister spoke about his support for the arts, a sentiment that was heartening to hear. The arts are a bedrock of any society, and knowing they hold a place in the island’s leadership discussions underscored the significance of our cultural exchange.

We’ve hit the ground running with our cultural exchange. The maiden day perfectly encapsulated the mission of The Commonwealth Resounds. It showcased the power of music and culture to build bridges, foster understanding, and resonate with the shared spirit of humanity. The warm reception we’ve received matched the weather and the evident appreciation for the arts have set the tone for what promises to be a deeply enriching journey ahead.