This year’s St. John Arts Festival was a great success, starting with Children’s Day on Saturday, which featured the unique and lively 12-piece, steel pan band the Love City Pan Dragons, under the direction of Elaine Sprauve, who played some very melodious pieces with intricate, syncopated rhythms – both fascinating and flawless.
Immediately following was a charming concert of children’s voices led by Kristen Carmichael-Bowers in front of a crowd of admiring parents and visitors. The children, ranging from grades K-5, were from Julian E. Sprauve School, Christian Academy, Gifft Hill School and home-schooled, forming the St. John All-Island Children’s Choir — a program of the St. John School of the Arts.
Keeping the pot boiling, was a series of old-time quadrille dances performed by children in traditional Caribbean dress from Sprauve School under the direction of Evans Williams, who is also a veteran quadrille dancer from the former St. John adult group. It was a joy to see the old island traditions being kept alive with today’s children, who in turn will pass it on as they grow up.
Finally, on Saturday, a new group of children, the Dynamic Dancers, under the direction of Loraine Richards, gave a lively series of dances and performed gymnastics to the more modern calypso rhythms.
The sun shone brightly and the rain showers held-off for all the performances to the end of the festival, and, as a colorful back-drop, this year’s Caribbean Arts, Crafts and Food Exhibition was complemented by exhibitors in colorful traditional Caribbean dress.
On Sunday, there was a Gospel Concert organized by Faye Fredericks, with choirs from the St. John Methodist and Nazareth Lutheran churches, echoing the hymns that were sung back in the days of the founding of the churches. Following the concert was a similarly spiritually-uplifting series of hymns sung by the St. John Women’s Ensemble, which was directed by Kristen. Rounding off the day’s performances was several quadrille dances by the St. Thomas Heritage Dancers in their colorful traditional dress.
Monday was the highlight of the five-day festival, starting with dances by Marcella in the African tradition and phasing into Koko’s Sunshine Band, a scratch band, playing calypso-style songs and rhythms as a preamble to the Caribbean Ritual Dancers from St. Thomas, directed by Diana Brown, with children performing Bamboula dances and with moko jumbies from St. John by Cooper Penn.
In the evening, as a special event, Marcella performed several “fire dances” with hand-held arrays of naked flames, dramatically emphasizing her movement in the darkened park and enthralling the spectators.
Tuesday reached-out to South American neighbors with Latin-American music by Rich Greengold’s Sambacombo. Then, in the evening, a remarkable film, “Vanishing Sail,” was shown at the St. John School of the Arts by filmmaker Alexis Andrews. The auditorium was packed to capacity and the film, which showed the building and racing of the last Carriacou wooden sloop, was more than a documentary – it was an outpouring of the passion and determination of the island boat-builder, Alwyn Enoe, in making his last boat and having the satisfaction that, through the film, the craft would not die. Both the film and the address given by Alexis Andrews were moving and inspiring.
Wednesday was the last day of the festival and, as always, Visions, the St. John reggae combo, played under the direction of Jupiter, brother of Grasshopper.
Also, running through the whole week, was an excellent exhibition of children’s art on the second floor of the Market Place, organized by Rosemary Richards of Gifft Hill School, using the windows of empty stores.
Cash prizes were awarded to the exhibitors with 1st prizes for: traditional dress, goods displayed, and singular attendance for the five days to: Dahlia Smith (dress), Randolph Morten (wood carving) and Esther Frett (traditional dress/dolls). The 2nd prizes were awarded to Mode Laguerre (St. John produce), Joseph Degazon (wood carving) and Daniel Mead (carved calabash). The 3rd prizes were awarded to Enrique Palmer (assorted jewelry), Andrew Eusebe (basket weaving) and Ecelma Sprauve (baked goods).