The Boite Milennium Chorus 2016
by Gerri Singh
On Saturday 23rd July, a choir of 300 singers assembled on the stage of Hamer Hall in the Arts Centre of Melbourne for a one-off concert. Every year The Boite Milennium Chorus gathers to rehearse for 10 weeks in Melbourne and various regional locations in preparation for this event. The theme this year focussed on the migration from the Caribbean Islands to the UK, and the title, “Windrush”, was the name of one of the ships that made such a journey.
Having previously sung in the Chorus some years ago, I just couldn’t resist the lure of the Caribbean music, and signed up for the rehearsals. The infectious enthusiasm of both artistic director, Geoffrey Williams, and choir director, Stella Savy, made these Sunday afternoon sessions lots of fun, whilst we learnt our respective parts for each new song. A reggae beat as backing to many of the songs kept us moving and grooving throughout until, for the final rehearsals and concert, a four-piece band provided fantastic accompaniment.
The songs reflected three stages…..the traditional music of the Caribbean, including calypso and steelpan, followed by original numbers narrating the brave journeying by boat of migrants to the UK. The final experience of these migrants, as they settled in their new country, brought more songs and different tales to tell. There were uplifting, upbeat, joyful songs, sad heart-wrenching ones and some depicting racism and discrimination. And then there was SKA !!
A highlight of the concert was the performance of the Caribvic Steelband, a new experience for many in the audience, who acknowledged the players with resounding applause. Jigzie Campbell demonstrated her considerable storytelling talents through narration, song and dance, ably supported by her son, Rueben, on percussion. In addition we were treated to the musicianship of Trini-born Alvin Rostant on steelpan as he delivered a Lord Kitchener calypso in style. Further to this a delightful number from Milla Williams, 11 yr old daughter of Geoffrey & Georgina, and the Mini Monas children’s choir captivated everyone. Another versatile musician, Patrick Brooks, aka amancalledlimey, also lent his voice and guitar to several upbeat tunes.
Throughout the entire concert both Geoffrey Williams and Stella Savy conducted, sang and played various instruments with high energy, humour and pathos, when relevant.
The evening concluded with a lively ska number, followed by an encore of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”, leaving us with the message: “ Don’t worry ‘bout a thing,’ cos every little thing’s gonna be alright”