January 28, 2008 - #86
St. Barth Music Festival 2008
The 24th edition of the music festival was as lively as past years thanks to interesting, high-quality programming. Over 60 musicians and singers participated from January 11 to 23, with concerts in the island’s churches, including for the first time, the Catholic Church in Gustavia, applauded for its good acoustics. Many of these musicians play with the leading orchestras in the US and in European capitals, yet are happy to come when Frances Debroff—co-founder and director of the festival—asks them to Saint Barth. This large “family” gathers on the island for ten days, playing for a nominal fee. The dozen or so volunteers that make up the festival committee work hard to find housing for all the musicians, quite often in private homes with residents who have developed friendships with the musicians they house every year.
The program ranged from Debussy and Beethoven as played by the Miro Quartet, to Puccini’s opera, La Fanciulla del West (which premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 1910), played by an orchestra of 40 with 11 singers, all under the baton of maestro Steven Mercurio, who usually works with such leading ensembles as the London Philharmonia or the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. The Saturday night gig at Zion Garden combined rock band NYCO with Hawaiian slack guitar virtuoso Makana.
NYCO The leader of NYCO, Ted Atkatz, left his position as the principal percussionist at the Chicago Symphony to form his own rock band with Dave Bowers on guitar, Kells Nollenberger on bass, and Devin Staples on drums. After a recital by the young violinists from the St Barth Harmony Music School, Makana opened the concert with traditional Hawaiian songs and original compositions. In the Hawaiian language, Makana means “gift,” and this gifted young musician is known as one of the best slack key guitar players, an accomplished student of Bobby Moderow and protégé of Hawaiian slack key master Ray Kane. Makana, who has sung in public since the age of 11, “because he enjoys singing for others,” has performed with such stars as Sting, Santana, Elvis Costello, Chris Isaak, Jack Johnson, and Andreas Vollenweider, as their opening act.
MakanaAnd as soon as the concert in Zion Garden was over, he picked up his guitar to play for a small circle of new fans enticed by the poetry of this musician, who expresses himself through his music. Based in Oahu, he also practices meditation and yoga, when not performing slack key guitar at festivals on the various Hawaiian islands, as well as around the world, from Great Britain, Japan, China, and Germany to Canada, Tahiti, Bali, and the US.
Another highlight of the festival was the orchestral concert at the Catholic Church in Lorient, during which the musicians played the premiere of “First Wave,” an original composition by Nicolas Audy-Rowland, a young composer who splits his life between Boston and Saint Barth, where he spent much of his childhood.
The final festival concerts were a piano recital by John Novacek, following by the closing night double header of jazz with two shows by the John Ellis Quintet from New Orleans.
Music fans will be happy to know that the festival is planning to hold two additional concerts later in the season, with the Monty Alexander jazz trio on May 2, and on May 3, a chamber music concert with three festival favorites—Jennifer Frautschi on violon, Eric Ruske on French horn, and Philippe Bush on piano.
New SNSM Rescue Boat, The Capitaine Danet, Christened
Under gray menacing skies, with occasional rain, the new SNSM rescue boat, the Capitaine Danet, was christened on Sunday, January 20. In a display of solidarity, the rescue boats from the Saint Martin and Sint Maarten SNSM stations (French national society for rescue at sea) came over for the occasion. The ceremony took place in Gustavia along the main dock, with the presence of Dominique Lacroix, prefect for the Collectivities of Saint Barth and Saint Martin. Also on hand were Bruno Magras, president of the COM of Saint Barth, vice-admiral Henri Arigano, Yves Lagane president of the SNSM, admiral François Celérier, representing the SNSM stations in the Atlantic and Mediterranean as well as the CROSS Antilles-Guyana. The morning began with a speech by Father Danet, the son of sea captain Théodore Danet, a navigational pioneer on sailing ships and for whom the new rescue boat is named. With Father Numa, the local Catholic priest, Father Danet (who is actually retired) blessed the boat under a steady downpour. The godfather of the boat is French sailor Philippe Poupon, winner of the Route du Rhum and triple winner of the Figaro solo race, and Marie-Jo, the companion of Bruno Magras, represented the official godmother of the boat, Laetitia Halliday. They broke a bottle of champagne on the prow of the boat, according to tradition. The Capitaine Danet then lifted its anchors and went on a ceremonial tour of the island to the accompaniment of foghorns from the yachts in the port of Gustavia. Back on dry land, vice-admiral Henri Arigano spoke, underlining the important role of Ingénu Magras, director of the Saint Barth SNSM station, and thanking all of the volunteer members of the organization.
Organized by dentists David Grodberg and François Chlous, the 14th annual Saint Barth Dental Conference took place on January 21-25, 2008 in the conference room at the Capitainerie of the Port of Gustavia. Fifty American dentists, as well as several local professionals took part. The principal theme of conference was “Recent Innovations in Restorative Dentistry,” with guest speaker Dr. Lou Graham.
More to come