This year marks 38 years of musical excellence of The Lydian singers, and among those years of service in music, the choir has had a long-standing relationship with the Abbey of Our Lady of Exile at Mount St. Benedict, Tunapuna.
While the Lydians have had many collaborative concerts with the Abbey over the years, in 2016, a concert series specifically catered to the Abbey was created, entitled, ‘Lydians on The Mount.’ This Advent, on November 26th 2017 at 6:00 p.m., The Lydians will be hosting its 3rd concert of the ‘Lydians on the Mount’ series entitled, “In Holy Songs of Joy!”
It was in 1991, when then musical director Pat Bishop TC, H.B.M., MA (History), BA Hons. (Fine Art), Hon. D. Litt. (deceased) first took the Lydians “up on the Mount”, invited by long-standing Lydian and Bass vocalist, Selwyn Ragoonanan. Ragoonanan is a member of the laity at the Abbey and has been associated with the Monks at the Abbey for over 40 years.
Mount St. Benedict is the home of the Benedictine monks who live and work in Trinidad and Tobago. It is the oldest monastery in the region, having been founded in 1912. The official abbey website states that they follow a way of life that traces its roots to St. Benedict of Norcia who was born in Italy in the year 480.
In a telephone interview earlier this year, Ragoonanan recalled how Bishop fell in love with the acoustic at the Mount and with its holy serenity, perfect for the lush choral sound of the Lydians.
“The first time we went, she had taken an immediate liking to the church,” he said. “I think we had gone to look at the space for our performance of the Verdi Requiem and I introduced her to the then Abbot Hildebrand Greene,” recalled Ragoonanan.
Greene served as Abbott for 16 years from 1979 to 1995 and was a Benedictine monk known as a strong advocate of inter-religious dialogue. Following that initial meeting in 1991, The Lydians, with permission and in partnership with the Abbey, has performed religious masses, excerpts from opera works, and the music of other classical composers almost every year since.
“She loved (the Mount). One, for the acoustic, and two, for the joy that the Lydians brought to those who attended. Remember, it’s a church not a concert hall, so sometimes people are sitting behind others and they can’t see the singers but the sound is so beautiful, they come anyway,” said Ragoonanan. “They came because of how our music sounded there and the ambiance of the place.”
Community service is a large part of the Lydians’ mission. The group typically donates several major complimentary (non-paid) performances each year for organizations in many communities across the country. For its Easter edition of ‘Lydians on the Mount’, half of the proceeds from tickets sales were donated directly to the Abbey and presented to Abbot John Pereira, OSB.
On November 26th over 65 singers, steelpan players, drummers and musical accompanists will assemble within the holy walls of the Abbey of Our Lady of Exile for “Lydians on The Mount – In Holy Songs of Joy”.
Advent is the season of preparation before Christmas comprising four Sundays observed in expectant waiting for the coming of the Saviour and the celebration of the birth of Christ. It is a period where we keep our lamps trimmed and burning and the light in our hearts alive with faith. For this edition of ‘Lydians on the Mount’, the choir and steel ensemble will celebrate with readings, hymns and songs with joyful anticipation.
Tickets for Lydians on the Mount – In Holy Songs of Joy are only TT$100 and are available from the information booth at Mount St. Benedict and all members of the Lydians. For ticket reservations please call 268-9556, 338-6024 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the Lydian Singers online at www.thelydianstt.com.
About The Lydians
The Lydian Singers organization is one of the premier musical groups in Trinidad and Tobago comprising singers, steelpan players, African and Tassa drummers and treasured creative collaborators. The choir was started in 1979 by Bishop Anstey High School Music Teacher Mrs. Joyce Rawlins-Spence and comprised mostly past pupils of the school and other members. In 1984 Ms. Alma Pierre took direction of the choir and in 1987 Dr. Pat Bishop, TC agreed to take up the baton until her passing in 2011. During her time as musical director, she introduced the Lydian Steel ensemble in 1995. In August 2017, Ms. Lorraine Granderson accepted the role as Musical Director.
The choir has made history and established a global brand for Trinidad and Tobago as one of the few musical organizations in the English-speaking Caribbean to attempt interpretations of major opera, oratorio and requiem works over the years. The choir has also shown prowess at the T&T Music Festival winning over thirty (30) championship trophies over the years and has also achieved one of the nation’s most prestigious awards – The Hummingbird Medal – Gold in 1991 for loyal and devoted service in the sphere of singing. In taking over governance of The Lydians in 2016, the organization’s newly-elected Board of Directors and Management Team continue to guide the group into an even more uplifting future, with the God-given gift of music and in service to the people of Trinidad and Tobago.