By Oscar Wailoo
Last Sunday evening, the Toronto chapter of the venerable La Petite Musicale of Toronto celebrated its 45th anniversary at its annual Christmas concert.
Toronto’s La Petite is the proud offspring of the quintessential Caribbean chorale that was founded in the 1940’s by Olive Walke, musician, composer, folk singer and folklorist, and a woman whose name stands among the best of her nation.
La Petite’s Christmas program is always built around a theme. This year Amah Harris wrote and directed a show she called Out of Struggle; Out of Conflict – A Culture; A Nation.
“Forty-five years is a real accomplishment,” said a totally satisfied Lindy Burgess, La Petite’s musical director for the past 40 years, “so what we tried to do was to connect it to the original La Petite Musicale of Trinidad & Tobago and to Olive Walke, the founder; and so we took our audience from that initial stage to what La Petite has become in Toronto.”
Lindy was serious about starting at the source as his group led off with a chant accompanied by drumming. Then Henry ‘King Cosmos’ Gomez and Tara ‘Macomere Fifi’ Woods, working together as storytellers, kept the show flowing nicely as the choir took us through the life of a nation, with the wonderful folksongs common to all West Indians.
Let’s face it, Caribbean life would be a little poorer without “Mangoes, Mangoes, Mangoes”, and a little less spicy without the complaint: “Every time ah pass, you trouble me.”
With a blend of folk standards through calypso and steelband, the first half gave an excellent history lesson in song with soloists Cheryl Brereton- Pascall, Theresa Gomes, Jean Semper-Igwe and Lynette Prieto giving fine performances.
In the final chapter, Souls of Steel, led by fine young pannist and arranger Andre Rouse, shared the anchor duties with a full-strength La Petite and two wonderful young soloists, Lavonne Cadogan and Justin Bacchus.
Here we were taken from popular Christmas songs to vintage La Petite, ending with a rousing rendition of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.
That moved the audience to a show of loud appreciation and sent them on their way into a winter evening made warm by a memorable evening with La Petite.
Photos by GerardPhoto