Cayman Arts Festival brings international performers to the Islands every two years. In the intervening years, a smaller version called Cayman Arts Extra takes place. This time around, it’s Cambridge Ensemble and Mozart’s Requiem plus fringe events. An important part of the set-up is the educational component.
Festival director Glen Inanga knows more than most about education given his day job at the University College of the Cayman Islands where he has developed music courses for the Associate Degree, Certificate and Continuing Education Programmes.
“Cayman Arts Festival is primarily an educationally focused organisation,” confirms Inanga.
“This is important because education is the primary means of developing the performing arts amongst our talented young students who are the future.”
Over the years of the festival, a host of world-class performers have not only come here to play concerts but also to interact with and develop the talent on Grand Cayman. An example of this is the continued relationship between Cayman Arts Festival and conductor Ronald Corp. The composer, writer and educator came in February 2012 for A Big Song and Dance, which celebrated local excellence including the Cayman Youth Choir, massed choirs from primary and secondary school, local dance talent, and Butterfield Young Musician of the Year finalists. Ronald Corp founded the London Chorus over 25 years ago and followed with the formation of the New London Children’s Choir and the New London Orchestra. He even composed a new composition, which will have its world premiere at this event. The work was based on a poem by Cayman’s own Kimberly Eccleston, a pupil at Clifton Hunter High School.
“Our choice of visiting performing artists is often based on this education agenda as they design and deliver these workshops as part of their visit to the island,” Inanga continued.
The festival was established in 2004 and quickly the interaction with visiting performers took place. This involved a performance Carmina Burana featuring 30 children from Cayman Prep and High School, plus Cayman National Choir and the Inanga/Jennifer Micallef piano duo.
In 2006, a ‘Top of the Pops opera’ involved 60 singers from Cayman Prep and the Wesleyan Christian Academy plus visiting singers. In 2008, auditions were held and 32 kids were picked to sing La Boheme. At that stage workshops continued as the director and team identified this opportunity for youngsters from different backgrounds to get together and sing.
In 2010, Youth 2 Youth brought 50 kids from Jamaica, which were supplemented by around 25 Caymanian youngsters on woodwind and brass plus 30 singers of an age group from very young to early 20s.
The Cayman Youth Choir was subsequently solidified into a more permanent unit and performed the John Rutter Requiem in 2011 alongside the UCCI choir.
The aforementioned Big Song and Dance brought 14 or 15 schools together with 100 dancers and 300 kids in all, showing the strides that had been taken in integrating with the schools.
This year, says Inanga, a workshop takes place at St. Ignatius on Wednesday, 13 March, from 1.30pm to 3pm. It will involve a baroque trio from Cayman Prep, a flute trio from UCCI and a sax ensemble from St. Ignatius.
“The main event is the masterclass for woodwind players and other instrumentalists interested in chamber music in general,” Inanga explained.
“In this particular case we have an opportunity for our young woodwind players to work with a highly accomplished woodwind quintet from Cambridge University, who are currently Instrumental Award holders at the university. This also represents an excellent networking opportunity for our young students.” Youngsters, confirmed Inanga, can attend the workshop and learn some tips about ensemble playing in general from a young and highly experienced ensemble.