Diversity at Cayman Arts Festival 2010

Cayman Arts Festival 2010 was a diverse set of concerts featuring local talent alongside world-class international performers, writes Joe Shooman.
 
It all kicked off on Friday 5 February at First Baptist Church with Broadway Comes to Cayman, an event that brought together the vocal talents of Kim Criswell and pianist Wayne Marshall.
 
The pair have travelled and performed together for a number of years, something that was evident in the way that they meshed together stylistically as well as with plenty of personality.
 
Criswell explained the stories behind the songs selected, which were taken from shows by Broadway giants Bernstein, Cole Porter, Kurt Weill and Gershwin.
 
The vocalist was in particularly expressive form, bringing the essence of the songs out even when they were divested of the context of their original shows. Marshall, meanwhile, took centre stage on two separate occasions as he improvised round themes from Porgy & Bess and West Side Story respectively.
 
An undoubtedly skilful pianist, his fast fingers were matched by a fast mind ever-chasing the next cluster of musical explorations. The audience was with him all the way as the intrigue and occasional suspense resolved into different shades of familiarity and creative energy.
 
The songs traversed the full range from loss to love and back again, with a large dollop of humour in there to complete the gamut of human emotion. The evening put down a marker of quality for the rest of the festival, and drew a reasonable but not capacity crowd to First Baptist. Those who were there were genuinely fans of the show tune, and they were therefore delighted by what was presented.
 
Saturday 6 February saw what was effectively a double-bill at the same venue.
 
Firstly, Rita Estevanovich fizzed between costumes and animal characters, providing the rhymes, poses and colourful characterisations of Sans-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals. The Cayman actor was in good form, and the youngsters and their parents in attendance enjoyed her version of elephants, tigers and the rest.
 
The score is usually played by a full orchestra, but here instead festival co-directors and piano duo Glen Inanga and Jennifer Micallef provided the music on two pianos. It worked well, although inevitably some of the nuances of a full orchestral arrangement were slightly lost.
 
The second half of the concert brought Wayne Marshall and John McLaughlin Williams, who sat down alongside Micallef and Inanga for a four-person, eight-handed set of songs. The concept of multi-piano arrangements is a relatively old one, having been a home alternative to the often-unaffordable full concert experience.
 
Pieces have been scored for dual pianos rather than a full orchestra so more people could enjoy them at home – four people on two pianos is a little rarer, but McLaughlin Williams had sourced some great arrangements.
 
The crowd was enthused by the likes of Tchaikovsky’s world-famous 1812 overture – cannon parts played by Marshall and Williams with hefty stabs in the lowest register of their respective pianos.
 
It was sophisticated, full of life and fun not just for the audience but certainly for the players. That always makes for an excellent experience.
 
The new breed of Caymanian talent was given its head on Monday with the Rising Stars concert at Cayman International School. It was a chance for some of the area’s best upcoming talents to showcase what they could do on a proper stage in front of a decent crowd.
 
Stepping up to the plate proved an inspiration to most.
 
Butterfield Young Musician of the Year 2009, steel pan player Azaiza La Pierre, started things off energetically. 12-year old flautist Francella Martin then saxophonist Melanie Ebanks both impressed. A Bob Marley classic, Redemption Song, was taken on by the very talented pianist Beneil Miller Another saxophonist, Zoey Robinson, offered more skill and Dannia Clarke’s vocals topped off the first half.
 
Another sax player, Chantal Martin, kicked off part two before it was the turn of multi-instrumentalist Maxim Kazakov to show he was an adept drummer. Singer Kenroy Milwood had the backing of Beneil Miller before soprano Appolina Bent gave it everything she had. Michael Testori showed why his sax chops won him 2008’s Butterfield Young Musician of the Year and it all ended with  a sax/drums outfit.
 
Rainer Hersch is a musician, comedian and ex-manager of classical artists and his one-man show is billed as ‘All Classical Music Explained’. ACME deals with a series of important questions about what conductors actually do, the importance of the recorder to music and the way that most classical composers nick their best tunes from Abba.
 
He played several gigs during the festival including a very well-received show at Cayman Brac’s Aston Rutty Centre on Tuesday 9 February. He also performed a slightly toned-down show for kids at First Baptist Church on Thursday 11 February, with the full adult performance the following evening at the same venue.
 
Silhouetted in front of a big screen that illustrated (or contradicted) his daft-but-pertinent musings on classical music, Hersch was an animated and very engaging narrator whose obvious love for, and knowledge of, the classical world made for pithy and occasionally hilarious moments.
 
He managed to cover misheard opera lyrics, the connection between Russian composers and the Village People and automatic piano-playing devices. And, lest the vociferous audience forget, he dashed off a couple of truly excellent piano solos under the guise of messing about. Nobody was fooled: he’s a musician of consummate skill and his act is all the better for it.
The finale of the 2010 Cayman Arts Festival showed the power of collaboration.
 
Immaculate Conception High School Orchestra had brought over 50 of their members over from Jamaica to work with around 25 young Caymanian musicians and conductor Steven Woodham to perform a variety of familiar classical pieces and selections from popular movies, including the rather apt Pirates of the Caribbean.
 
Like Rising Stars, it gave the youngsters the opportunity to perform in a more formal context and also attracted the largest audience of all the concerts with First Baptist Church more or less at capacity.
 
There were high points including Ellinor D’Melon Moraguez proving that age is no barrier to talent – the nine year old has a bright future on the violin on the evidence of her solo. To bolster things further, a Cayman Arts Chorus joined in the fun and at the end of the performance there were over 100 people on stage. The atmosphere was very positive and it ended the festival on a suitably high point.

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Rising Stars ensemble

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