Smiling through the gray
January 13, 2021
United Nations follows Pope’s lead in declaring international day
January 13, 2021

COVID didn’t void the Fatima voice

By Laura Ann Phillips

Known for imaginative sets, creative costuming and months of musical drills, Fatima College’s annual Gifts of Blue and Gold concert (GOBAG), presented alongside sister school, Holy Name Convent, has been the school performance event for the past 11 years.

In years to come, though, GOBAG 12 may well stand out as one of the college’s truest tests of its motto, Nitendo Vinces, translated: ‘By Striving You Shall Conquer’.

“It would have been easier to cancel it because of the pandemic,” said artistic director and executive producer, Kwesi Noel. “I’m glad that the history books of Fatima will show how we survived the pandemic and that Gifts of Blue and Gold will be an example to many. The virus did not void our voices.”

The 2020 GOBAG theme was Music of Faith, Hope and Joy! – its introductory narrative explaining: “The year 2020 brought death in many ways to many people. Nevertheless, as a people of faith, we hope in a resurrection for us all – individually and as a country. Eventually, there will be good times again and,” for concert viewers, “…there will be Music of Faith, Hope and Joy!”

GOBAG 12 featured local and international compositions, including ‘Don’t Stop Believin’, the 1981 flagship single of the band Journey and ‘Jerusalema’, the 2019 South African gospel song of hope by DJ Master KG that spawned an international social media dance craze.

A vintage kaiso section, featuring student soloists Jeremiah Forgenie Reyes, Asanee Edwards, Liam Gooding and Christian Mendez that highlighted “hope in heritage”, Noel said, was inspired by a conversation with local broadcaster, Dennis McComie.

For several weeks, just under 130 performers—including the college’s junior and senior choirs, pan sides, and other musicians—attended countless Zoom meetings, practice pieces sent to them and, with parental permission after assurances that “all safety protocols were being observed”, said Noel, attended, “lots of physically distanced, mask-wearing rehearsals” at the college.

“This was like starting over,” mused Noel, who is also the Dean of Form 6 at Fatima. “For 11 consecutive years, I have conceptualised shows that incorporate the major tenets of musical theatre, working with casts of at least 250 students. This time… I was forced to learn how to produce a made-for-TV concert!”

That meant, “many takes, re-doing scenes ad nauseum, spending hours recording audio and video,” he said, recalling one Sunday rehearsal lasting 12 hours.

“Performances were shot individually and in very small groups,” he explained. “Using the technology, the footage was edited to appear as though they were all together.”

The performances were shot and edited by Stream Stage TT, a local production house operated by veteran songwriter and producer, Richard ‘Charsu’ Ahong, and aired December 27 on TTT.

Noel thanked Ahong, retired teacher and accompanist, Myrtle Cumberbatch, parents, sponsors, and the concert’s 25-member crew, including associate producer, Dante Gains, assistant sound mixer, Aaron Hackshaw, and Stream Stage’s Luke Samerson.

Hackshaw particularly commended “the dedication of the students”. Along with his other duties, the Lower 6 student was one of the team responsible for “the logistics of organising all the groups” for rehearsals.

Back in August, with COVID-19 cases spiking, Hackshaw feared Fatima’s stage would remain dark. So, hectic as rehearsals were, “the thought of the finished product” and of the “people who have never been to GOBAG” being able “to experience it”, kept him happily committed.

For Noel, the lessons of crafting the concert in a pandemic were precious.

“Talent is a divine gift that we share,” he said, “no matter the situation, to build God’s Kingdom.”

View the concert here