The Lydians has always been synonymous with spectacular singing and dazzling visuals, with the ability to pack any space in which they perform on every night. Their production of “A Christmas Calabash”, which opened at Queen’s Hall on Thursday, was a demonstration of why that reputation precedes them.
Their first masterful move was in their creative team. From the time the curtains rose, the intricate details of the visuals grabbed your attention. Peter Minshall, with his years of expertise in fashion and his eye for artwork, layered the performers in colors and textures that captivated from the get go and gave great context as the performances came coming. The level of professionalism was apparent. The direction by Wendell Manwarren created a seamless follow-through from beginning to end. Not surprising, knowing the incredible quality that comes out of the 3Canal events. Complimenting both these incredible artists was set designer Gillian Bishop whose scenery created a starry atmosphere aptly suited for the theme of the night.
With all the compliments to the creative team rightly and deservedly given, I turn my attention to the singers on stage. Each performer on that stage was seasoned, their technique was sound and the years of working together showed by how well their voices blended. The first thing I wanted to (and did) do was close my eyes, forget about what I was seeing on the stage, and just indulge in the wave of sound that was washing over me. This was a performance you didn’t need to watch, which seems counterproductive given the praises I just paid to the creative team and their incredible work. This, however, is by all means a compliment. Have you ever had a long day and want nothing more than to do nothing while good vibrations wash over you? This is exactly what The Lydians did on Thursday. This was a performance where you could sit and allow the music to transports you. You could close your eyes and reflect on what you did for the past few hours, or the past few days because the sound was so well crafted. There was no worry that singers would be out of pitch or key or that the orchestra would play too fast, or slow, or too loudly (Thanks to the artful conducting by Lorraine Granderson, Victor Prescod and Carl-Anthony Hines) . It was a cohesive sound all around. This is not saying that I took the hard work for granted, however. On the contrary, my attention was held with every note that left the stage and floated over the tens of rows up to my seat in the balcony. The music was impregnated with tranquility, warmth, serenity and grace. That’s how great the choral work was. Imagine sitting in front of a fireplace with a glass or brandy or whiskey or your choice of beverage, putting on some of your favourite Christmas music and just letting your body melt into the chair. It was that good.
Their second half opened with a chilling rendition of “Wade in the Water” that sounded like it was lifted off the Alvin Ailey soundtrack for “Revelations” and placed on the stage. With just a handful of singers, they were able to encapsulate the essence of negro spiritual where you wanted to chant, dance, cry, praise, and let out any other emotion you felt in that moment. The program that followed included a rousing set of parang to ring in Christmas in true Trini style. While parang is not particularly my taste, their renditions were enjoyable and energetic, getting the audience members who love the style to move and sing. There was also one segment where they took the direction internationally to more popular Christmas songs. It was charming at first, but soon overtones of swing, jazz, tight harmonies, samba and local references were spun into the mix to turn the second half into a cultural explosion and showed exactly what Trini people are capable of when they get their hands on something. As the saying goes, “Trini people everywhere.”
This was a seamlessly crafted production from start to finish.
The Lydians presents: A Christmas Calabash continues Sunday 18th December 2016 , 6PM at Queen’s Hall. Admission: $200
About the Author:
Isaiah is a graduate of the Musical and Dramatic Academy of New York and is a member of the Actors’ Equity Association through its Equity Membership Candidate Program. He is also a member of The Gentlemen; a hip hop dance group based in San Fernando. He has performed extensively in musicals both local and internationally. Credits include West Side Story (Fireside Dinner Theatre), Chicago (Potsdam Music Theatre) and Crazy For You (Queen’s Hall).