A Songbird takes flight: SONGBIRDS…live takes off

songbirds_flyerThe female voice has taken centre stage in the series, SONGBIRDS…live™, produced by Production One Ltd., that culminated on December 02, 2009 with Germaine Wilson. SONGBIRDS…live™ is a concert series featuring female Caribbean vocalists; a performance showcase featuring, on a monthly basis, some of the most notable upcoming and unheralded female voices in contemporary music in the islands with an ear turned to Jazz and World Music.

Germaine followed fellow songbirds, Caroline Mair, Ruth Osman, Candice Alcantara, Brenda Butler and recently, Vaughnette Bigford, who all delivered memorable performance that spoke to the diversity of sound and settings. All have yearned to explore the jazz voice, but these ladies approached that challenge separately creating a live performance with a difference on every night of the series. Adding to the variety was the fact that 17 different musicians were used in all the performances framing each show with a nuanced change that spoke to our need for “something different.”

The SONGBIRDS…live website alerts readers to the notion that, “singing in sometimes new collaborations that offer just enough of the improvisatory surprise that is the hallmark of jazz, these intimate shows from Production One Ltd. serve as a platform for the recording of the performances.” The range, from neo-soul to world jazz to quiet storm, places SONGBIRDS…live™, and the planned CD, in a position far separate from the plethora of jazz gigs popping up around the city of Port of Spain. The musical challenge with genres of music outside the popular soca and other calypso derivatives is the narrow choice of musicians skilled in their delivery. That small cadre can sometimes be reluctant to challenge the status quo. Production One Ltd., to date, has delivered on the promise of its mission: the consistent production of top-quality Jazz concerts. If quality includes variety, they have delivered in abundance.

The SONGBIRDS…live™ experience points to a number of positives in the growth of music locally that is nominally not our own. One scribe reviewing Caroline Mair said:

There can be no looking back to a time when the female voice was relegated to backing vocals. This female voice is interpreting the music in ways that are unfamiliar or even uncomfortable for audiences that chauvinistically hold onto examples that are ironically, not of their making. This individual voice that can both echo a remembered tone and sustain an original searing note has the potential to breach the boundaries of performance spaces globally. It is an identifiable sound that we can call our own.

From Caroline Mair’s “searing tone” to Ruth Osman’s “quiet intensity” to Brenda Butler’s “diva-ness,” this series is a revelation that continues to charm audiences.

Germaine Wilson, whose background has been enhanced by training under the formidable Pat Bishop in the Lydian Singers, continued the trend of unique “live performances with a difference.” Her performance was divided into two sets, “Jazz with me” and “Songs Dedicated to the men in my life” which ran the gamut from Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby” to Irma Thomas’ “Don’t mess with my man” One word for her voice: Phenomenal! With a capital P. Germaine used her multi-octave voice to good use, colouring her take on “Summertime” with a soprano introduction showcasing the true intent of the song/aria as part of a Gershwin opera.

Germaine Wilson with Ruth Osman and Brenda Butler.
Germaine Wilson with Ruth Osman and Brenda Butler.

Germaine’s nascent nervous interaction with the crowd soon contrasted with the demeanour of a seasoned performer who prevailed unhindered over some rough (and inexplicably bad) musical passages by her trio of veteran musicians. Adding to her charm, was her unselfish call to the stage of prior songbirds Ruth Osman and Brenda Butler, who were in the audience, to sing a chorus and harmonize with her on ‘Nappy’ Myers’ “Old Time Days.” This lady has the experience of a performer who has done her work.

This finale augurs well for the promised reprise of the series in June 2010. Great singing, good music, classy production, a perfect time.

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