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Good training ground at Junior Calypso Monarch*

By Lara Pickford-Gordon,

Nine finalists in the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians’ Organistion’s (TUCO) Calypso Monarch finals at the Grand Stand, Queen’s Park Savannah last night (February 28) honed their skills at the Junior Monarch competition.

Two of them, former monarch winners told the Catholic News the junior contest helped them learn to accept disappointment, failure and to grow.

Roderick Chuck Gordon, ‘Chucky’ (IN PHOTO) won the Calypso Monarch 2014–2015. Interviewed on Monday (February 25) as he watched the Junior Calypso Monarch finals at the Queen’s Park Savannah he said, “One of the rules I have for anyone who is performing to develop any craft, in any endeavour is, you have to practise, you have to experience.

“That is the only way you will learn and grow, [through] failure; and this competition allows you to accept failure, to fall down, get up and go again because every time you compete you may not be successful but you get the opportunity to learn and grow which is why it is an important training and development ground.”

Participants gain experience from the different stages of the competition as well as from being in the cast of the Roving Tent. “So you are always performing,” he said. They also learned stage performance and presentation.

This was why, he continued, there were nine former junior finalists—Gordon, Duane O’Connor, 2011 Monarch Karene Ashe, Devon Seale, Erphaan Alves, Kurt Allen, Maria Bhola, 2019 Young King Ronaldo London and 2018 defending monarch Helon Francis—in the adult finals. Gordon noted that even those who have been monarch faced times they did not get chosen for the finals.

Gordon works as a social worker with the Judiciary but said he made time to attend the junior show because it brought back a nostalgic feeling when he was a finalist in the late 90s early 2000. Commenting on the maturity of the young performers on stage he said some of them were probably already performing four to five years.

Gordon has been consistent in the finals at the Big Yard. He said having clarity about what his performance will be was how he mentally prepared. Gordon said on the night of competition “it is just you and the stage”.

From this vantage point in the spotlight he said it was difficult to see the audience and the judges were usually expressionless. The focus is on the “work” which came naturally, he said.

His song ‘El Muro’ (The Wall) came from an idea from Neville Brown, ‘Bunny B’ and they worked on it together. Gordon said he did not like to just sing songs but customise and rework them.

US President Donald Trump’s push to build a wall at the US/Mexico border was chosen because he wanted to do something different from the usual local social and political topics.

“Performing abroad it is difficult to do local socio-political songs,” he added. Gordon said the border wall has received a lot of media coverage so people were “aware” of the issue and the song provides “a nice opportunity to do something on an international topic”.

Gordon sees himself continuing in the tradition of ‘Lord Executioner’ and ‘Roaring Lion’ who travelled and took Calypso to an international audience.

Duane O’Connor, Monarch and Young King 2012 said the junior competition helped performers to deal with disappointment, and prepare for the future. He said his son, Ta’zyah won last year but placed second this year.

He easily named various tutors involved in the competition who helped teach and motivate young performers including “Aunty Thora”—Thora Best, educator and current chair of TUCO’s Junior Calypso Committee.

O’Connor said, “It’s not just a competition, there is a roving tent, workshops to attend. I move from a member of the junior competition to member of the Junior Committee so I was well trained.”

O’Connor felt good going into the finals, “I don’t really have challenges, I am always prepared for competition. I am ready, strong, because of background laid.” O’Connor was confident of placing singing ‘Respect’ written by Gregory ‘GB’ Ballentyne. He said as a Catholic he prayed a lot and called on the angels and saints for support.

Best told the Catholic News via WhatsApp participation in the junior show “fosters camaraderie”. She explained, “Competition is only a small part. They learn each other’s songs and back-up each other. They learn self-confidence and leadership. They set the pace and tone for the band.”

Through being responsible for their musical scores and “basic music”, they learned responsibility. Best continued, “improved memory, diction and pronunciation. I could go on and on”.

UPDATE: Kaisorama 2019 Calypso Monarch Final results

  1. Ronaldo London
  2. Karene Asche
  3. Helon Francis
  4. Maria Bhola
  5. Devon Seale
  6. Winston Peters (Gypsy)
  7. Kurt Allen
  8. Roderick Gordon (Chucky)
  9. Duane O’Connor
  10. Joanne Rowley (Tigress)
  11. Erphaan Alves
  12. Stacey Sobers
  13. Anthony Hendrickson (All Rounder)
  14. Alana Sinette-Khan (Lady Watchman)
  15. Dawren Greenidge (Pharoah)
  16. Alex Gift (Tobago Chalkie)