St. Augustine Chamber Orchestra presents Classics Rule! Movies Rock!

By TriniView Reporters
Event Date: September 23, 2014


SACO/TTYP presents Classics Rule! Movies Rock! in pictures

On Saturday 23rd August, the St. Augustine Chamber Orchestra (SACO) featuring the Trinidad and Tobago Youth Philharmonic (TTYP) graced the stage of the Queen’s Hall to present one of its annual musical concerts. The show was themed “Classics Rule! Movies Rock!” and this year marks the tenth year of production by the St Augustine Chamber Orchestra (SACO), headed by the renowned musical director, Mr. Kenneth Listhrop.

Arriving patrons greeted by Queen's Hall ushers
Arriving patrons greeted by Queen’s Hall ushers

Fans of classical music travelled from across the Trinidadian landscape to attend the show. Mrs. Colette Philip from D’Abadie is a fan of classical music and she was particularly looking forward to hearing the themes from the movies. She mused that the music was from films that she had seen when she was younger and would bring back memories. She attended the concert with her six year old son, Sterling Philip, who attends Victory Academy in Five Rivers, in the hopes of sharing her love of music. Newlyweds Wendell Bhagirath and his wife Ria Bhagirath from Princess Town are also fans of classical music, especially the theme songs of the movies. They expressed that they, too, wanted to experience live classical music in Trinidad and having never been exposed to it locally, it was the first such show they had attended.

Members of SACO and TTYP rehearse before the show
Members of SACO and TTYP rehearse before the show

As the musicians flexed their fingers and tuned their instruments with the help of musical tutor Mr. Heemadh Jahoor before the start of the concert, the theatre thronged with excited patrons who mingled in the lobby. Some members of the Trinidad and Tobago Youth Philharmonic stood at the door with instruments in hand awaiting their parents. Dylan McNicolls was one such individual. A student of the Debe Secondary School, aged seventeen, and a resident of Penal, he indicated that his membership was just one year old. This was his first performance at Queen’s Hall though he previously performed in the National Academy for the Performing Arts and in the Naparima Bowl. His instrument is the flute. Thirteen year old Nathan Walker of the Valencia Secondary School and a resident of Arima plays the cello while thirteen year old Nkosi Nero from Arouca and a student of St. Mary’s College has been playing the viola with SACO for the last three years. All three expressed excitement over performing together in the show. Their collective pieces were Exodus, Chariots Of Fire, My Heart Will Go On and Star Wars. They chuckled and joked as they acknowledged meeting each other through music.

Mrs. Listhrop and her daughter Mrs. Angela Listhrop O'Connor
Mrs. Listhrop and her daughter Mrs. Angela Listhrop O’Connor

On display in Queen’s Hall lobby were compact discs featuring the musical achievements of the orchestra for sale. Mrs. Angela Listhrop O’Connor, sister of musical director Mr. Kenneth Listhrop and who was present at the display table along with their mother, spoke about her involvement in SACO. Born and raised in Trinidad, she migrated to Fort Lauderdale years ago but returns periodically to support her brother in his projects and events. She comes, “…assisting wherever I am able to assist. It’s my brother’s dream so I want to be able to help him fulfill and continue his dream. We have been a musical family for many years but Kenneth was the one who took the mantle and he just ran with it.” She further added, “With an event like this, I would love to see a whole new environment of change for our young people. Music helps to uplift the hearts and minds of individuals and we need to have a variety. . . the different aspects of music, a whole blend of different things, especially this type of music. Children are able to advance a whole lot when it comes to music. Kids who are into music would do a lot better at school, and I would really like to see the whole culture of Trinidad and Tobago change. We have to be able to embrace other forms of music and we have to be able to expose our children to things that are different so that they can have much more mind of what happens not just in calypso and so on, but broaden their horizons altogether. I love to see where my brother is able to take young people and mentor them and he is able to teach them an instrument. These kids, they are doing phenomenally because of the work of what Mr. Listhrop is doing. I really appreciate what he’s doing for the young people of Trinidad and Tobago and I come here to support that. The more you expose these young people [to classical music] it will increase the musical landscape for classical music in Trinidad and Tobago. Classical music is awesome and we have to teach our young people how to appreciate classical music. They enjoy it! Interest by young people in the field of classical music seems to be increasing every year since the workshops have been growing and growing and growing every year. The workshops are held at the SACO school in St Augustine on Baker Street.”

Indeed, the family’s love of music was evident by the physical presence of brother Andrew Listhrop, manager of the St. Augustine Chamber Orchestra (SACO) and his wife Judy who also offer support and assistance in coordinating the event.

Kenneth Listhrop, founder and Musical Director of  SACO, TTYP and Euangelion Singers
Kenneth Listhrop, founder and Musical Director of SACO, TTYP and Euangelion Singers

Mr. Kenneth Listhrop’s passion for music started from an early age. He expressed, “I started playing the piano at around age ten. My father wanted me to play for church services and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for all these years. I guess that at age thirteen or fourteen I picked up the violin. I used to play with a youth orchestra back then but youth orchestras have a way of never being able to sustain; they always break up. So it was always my dream that we’d have a youth orchestra that would be lasting and permanent. I continued studying music and doing the music exams in violin and piano, right up to diploma level. It was 1999 when I started the school with one student and it grew from one [student] to about nine, then to seventeen and then it began growing more and more. So in 1999, we were able to establish the St. Augustine Chamber Orchestra with about twenty-nine students and it was always a string orchestra: only violins, violas and cellos, even our basses. Then in 2006 I think it was, we had a parent who raised some funds for us and we bought some wind and brass instruments. So now we had all the instruments of the symphony orchestra: wind, percussion, brass and strings, and we started what you call the Trinidad and Tobago Youth Philharmonic. So it evolved from SACO; from strings only, playing in small settings, to what we have here tonight.”

Mr. Heemadh Jahoor, musical tutor and Mr. Kenneth Listhrop, music director SACO and TTYP
Mr. Heemadh Jahoor, musical tutor and Mr. Kenneth Listhrop, music director SACO and TTYP

He discussed the hard work and dedication of all participants who engaged in this type of initiative, noting, “This is our 10th annual workshop and normally every year we bring in tutors from Venezuela to run the workshops for us. This year because of the unstable situation in Venezuela we could only bring one because they have all sorts of problems with flights and stuff like that. The workshops run for three weeks, Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. It’s open to anybody. This is the largest programme so we have a sprinkle of students from other schools but most of them [students], like ninety eight percent belong to St. Augustine Chamber Orchestra. Preparations take three months; students come for lessons twice weekly and then classes on a Saturday from six to nine. Once schools close the students go on a break and then before the workshop they are introduced to all the music so that when the workshop comes, it’s very intensive.” Ages range in the orchestra but the youngest member is four years old and she plays the violin.

Trinidad and Tobago Youth Philharmonic rehearsals
TTYP rehearsals

The workshops are always themed and this year’s theme was Classics RULE! Movies ROCK! The programmme had been carefully constructed – Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony was the first half of the show. The second half comprised delightful movie themes/scores which have entertained people over the years, recognizable from the 1970’s right up to the present time. The orchestra has indeed grown over the years and it has evolved greatly from its first year. “Since 2008 we have been doing the original works as difficult as they come,” said Mr. Listhrop. The attendance at the shows vary and, “a lot of people still don’t know about this even though we advertise. Sometimes we have an excellent attendance and sometimes it’s a shame that all this excellent music and the public doesn’t know or maybe they aren’t interested.” The orchestra is over two hundred members strong and there are three different levels: beginner, intermediate and past. Mr. Listhrop added, “In the second half we have the entire orchestra on stage; all two hundred and something students on stage and they do about five pieces. Then the advanced orchestra will take over which is close to one hundred players. This is the largest symphony orchestra in the English speaking Caribbean.”

Mr. Heemadh Jahoor, musical tutor and members of  St. Augustine Chamber Orchestra (SACO)
Mr. Heemadh Jahoor, musical tutor and members of St. Augustine Chamber Orchestra (SACO)

Mr. Heemadh Jahoor, musical tutor in the workshop, agreed with this sentiment. He took a few minutes to chat about his role in the concert, sharing that he had migrated forty years ago from Trinidad to Venezuela but has been visiting Trinidad for the last twenty eight years in his capacity as music tutor. He lauded the efforts of the students saying, “There is always room for improvement but they have done a lot.” He voiced the opinion that, “the public have to experience what it (classical culture in Trinidad) is all about. The kids have a very good idea, but the audience [are] not accustomed to this sort of thing, and they should be very proud of what is happening with this kind of music. I think there is no other Caribbean country with this project. Usually I bring ten teachers with me but this year it is just me alone.” He described the work as “Fantastic!”

Mr. Kenneth Listhrop
Mr. Kenneth Listhrop

Kenneth Listhrop, founder and Music Director of St. Augustine Chamber Orchestra (SACO), Trinidad and Tobago Youth Philharmonic (TTYP) and Euangelion Singers, was born in Santa Cruz and his musical upbringing has been heavily influenced by his father. As such, he noted that his father’s love of classical music has marked him deeply in his life. He shared that his father sent three of the children to music lessons. While his other siblings made music a hobby, he made it a profession. “My dad, he loves classical music. He took us to London and we had a chance to visit the libraries. He bought LPs for us and that’s where my love of classical music began. The Florida Symphony Orchestra was my first experience of hearing a live symphony orchestra and afterward the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra came to Trinidad and performed right here in Queen’s Hall. That was incredible!” Those experiences shaped what he wanted a local orchestra to become. His first concert was played on the 5th December, 1999, in the International School. “That was the launch of the Orchestra; the inaugural performance.” His musical roots run deeply in Trinidad with regard to how he has invested himself in the development of musical talent locally. He believes that music can be a form of rehabilitation and cited the Venezuelan model which has successfully taken half a million children off the streets with the use of classic music. He admitted that the idea would certainly take some initiative in Trinidad but perseveres in his own personal contribution to the field of classical music through engaging with the youth. He expressed gratitude for the assistance of those who support the endeavour, particularly Atlantic LNG and The National Gas Company. He also signaled that his early commitment to service in the church is still strong today, disclosing, “We do gospel concerts and every year I run a Christian Ministry in St. Augustine called The Liberty Teaching Fellowship.”

St. Augustine Chamber Orchestra (SACO)
St. Augustine Chamber Orchestra (SACO)

The show opened with an orchestral rendition of the national anthem with musical director, Mr. Kenneth Listhrop in the role of conductor. The first half commenced with Symphony No. 5 in E minor which began with a flourish as the philharmonic presented a great work in harmony. The pieces played were –

  • Adante, Allegro con anima
  • Adante cantabile, con alcuna licenza
  • Valse: allegro moderato
  • Adante maestoso, Allegro vivace

The appreciation of the audience was evident as the music soared from instruments plied by practiced musicians with steady hands. However, the second half elicited greater enjoyment as the theme of the concert made its appearance with the presentation of musical themes from a wide variety of movies. The selection presented were –

  • Universal Studios Movie Introduction
  • The Magnificent Seven
  • Star Wars
  • Chariots of Fire
  • Titanic
  • Exodus
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Game of Thrones
  • Lord of the Rings
  • The Pink Panther
  • Camelot
  • The Godfather
  • Chronicles of Narnia
  • Shaft

Members of SACO and TTYP with music director Mr. Kenneth Listhrop
Members of SACO and TTYP with music director Mr. Kenneth Listhrop

Mr. Listhrop successfully concluded this year’s contribution to the creation of a classical orchestra tradition in the local cultural landscape. The humble spark that was one student in 1999 has grown into a movement. Music aficionados can look forward to a continued tradition of music ranging from the modern to the classics from the orchestra.

SACO/TTYP presents Classics Rule! Movies Rock! in pictures:

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