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From Old Yard - Fantastic Interpretation of Carnival In Photography, Poetry and Music

Midnight Robber

Trinidad Carnival is most often associated with pan and calypso music. But on Saturday, April 28, 2012, the characters of the Carnival mas got an innovative and intriguing interpretation through ‘The Old Yard: Carnival Portraits from Trinidad’ which blended classical music, photography and poetry. The Old Yard is a fantastic and ambitious piece that translates the drama, dynamism, myth and mystery that surrounds carnival.

The Old Yard, premiered as a part of the second annual NGC Bocas Literary Festival. While the Bocas Lit Fest had the National Library of Trinidad and Tobago and Old Fire Station as its headquarters, the musical event was held further uptown at the University of Trinidad and Tobago’s Academy of the Performing Arts.

‘The Old Yard’ is the beautiful result of artistic collaboration. The music is composed by Adam Walters for strings, winds and percussion. Each movement is preceded by the poignant, lyrical poetry of Muhammad Muwakil. Then as the music swells, photography by Maria Nunes provides a visual framing. The multimedia project is also very significant to Trinidad and Tobago’s celebration of their 50th year of independence, as it provides a very different lens through which to view one of their most important cultural forms.

Trinidad carnival goes far beyond the “beads and bikini” images that are often purveyed as representative of the event which has earned the title of one of the greatest shows on earth, certainly concretizing its position as one of the world’s greatest carnivals. At the heart of the event are the various characters that make up the mas.

Edward CumberbatchThe first movement was dedicated to the figure of the Bat epitomized through music which evoked thoughts of flight at night. Muwakil provided an intriguing interpretation through his poetry. His haunting refrain “I’m a thing of the night/ silent and light/ nothing can hold me once I take flight” played on the concept of flight as a form of freedom and redemption mingled with the myth of salt as the element that robbed Africans of the gift of flight and the ability to return to our homeland. Indeed, Muwakil’s poetry often tapped into Carnival’s historic role as a form of cultural resistance

The Old Yard included poetic and musical interpretations of the characters Blue Devil, Maco Jumbie, Midnight Robber and Dame Lorraine. Musicians included Deborah Moore and Brian Kushmaul (percussion), Adam Walters (French horn), Aidan Chamberlain (trombone), Jonathan Storer and Eleanor Ryan (violin), Simon Brown (viola), Patrick Jones (cello) and Caitlyn Kamminga (double bass).

The evening, competently hosted by Natacha Jones, began with a suite of songs by Peter Warlock composed for string quartet and voice. The performance was bouyed by the beautiful tenor of Edward Cumberbatch, who was one of the evenings musical guests. Songs performed in this segment included ‘A sad Song’, ‘My sweet little Darling’, ‘Take, O take those lips away’ and ‘Chopcherry’.

The Bocas Literary Festival provided a medley of readings, discussions, performances and films. The event lasted for four days, beginning on Thursday, April 26 and ending on Sunday, April 29.