St. Barths Online

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Mar 16, 2000

PACE OF LIFE

The past two months have flown by so fast its hard to believe that this is the laid-back West Indies where time used to move so slowly you didn't even need to wear a watch.
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In the good old days, time seemed to lazily stretch before me, but lately things have been different. All I can attribute it to is the influx of visitors who have a totally different sense of time.
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First of all, they come and go at more or less precise hours so you have to know what time it is just to get to the airport on time. I've found that guests who have just spent most of the day getting here don't like it if you aren't there to pick them up, even though after a few days in the sun and they have also lost all sense of time until they need to be back at the airport in time to make their flights to St. Martin on departure day.
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There's also been a lot of activity bringing guests here over the past two months, starting with the annual St. Barth Music Festival which this year ran a full three weeks instead of the usual two. Organized with dogged determination by American violinist Frances Debroff since 1985, this festival brings some really top-rate musicians to the island for a series of concerts in local churches.
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This year's event kicked off with the venerable Empire Brass Quartet in a lively program at the church in Lorient (the far better of the two churches as far as make-shift concert halls go). The second concert was the high point of the whole thing with an orchestra under the baton of Imre Pallo and the local voices of the St. Barthélemy choristers led by Charles Darden in a surprisingly professional performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. There must be something about the long lazy days in the tropical sun that got these musicians so inspired, but the concert was the talk of the town for days to come. In all, DeBroff hosted over 60 musicians, requisitioning spare bedrooms all over the island and holding dinners for large numbers of hungry altos and baritones.
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At about the same time, island resident David Grodberg was hosting his annual dental congress, with 50 dentists from around the world and their wives filling up the tables left empty by the musicians. Some of the dentists were staying at the Christopher Hotel and if they had looked out at the waves they would have been treated to a great performance by six world championship surfers - Australians Dave Rasstavich and Joel Parkinson, as well as Americans Tom Curren, Pat O'Connell, Ross Williams, and Benji Weatherley - who were chasing the late January waves around St. Barthélemy. Tom Servais, a 20-year veteran of Surfer Magazine, and a cameraman were recording the action for promotional purposes. This can only help St Barth's reputation as a decent surfing spot, something that the island-born French champion Mario Ledee has known for a long time. Jeff Ledee of Totem Surf Shop in Gustavia had the time of his life surfing alongside his idols.
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While all these things were going on more or less concurrently, tom-toms started beating in Gustavia where local groups such as SB Jam began their annual preparations for the Carnival celebration which falls in early March this year. On a hot Sunday afternoon, I took a group of people from New York City who were here for the music festival into the back streets of town to listen to the beat. "This," they said, in appreciation of islanders painted green and parading with large painted drums, "is the realest thing we've seen all week." With the Carnival music in the background, I looked down into the harbor and saw the intrepid little boatbearing local sailors Richard Ledee and Makku Harmela. They were in training for the bi-annual transatlantic race, the ag2r, that will arrive in St Barth sometime in mid-May with teams of top sailors and thousands of people on the docks to welcome them. With Carnival and the transat right around the corner, maybe I better start wearing a watch. I wouldn't want to miss any of the excitement.

More to come,



Ellen Lampert-Greaux


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