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A family of musicians

By Kaelanne Jordan

Music is a common thread in the Roberts’ household. Kern has been involved in a church choir his whole life playing drums, even playing for cultural shows while at Rosary Boys’ RC, while wife Jo-Ana enjoyed singing as a child in the Sacred Heart Girls’ RC choir.

Though neither of them has been formally trained in music, the Roberts are part of the inception of the Raising Every Voice in Victory and Love (REVIVAL) choir at St Mary’s RC, Mucurapo which was formed 16 years ago.

Both sing, and Kern plays the guitar and drum while Jo-Ana plays the tambourine and other percussion instruments.

Jo-Ana, 32 and husband Kern, 34 have been married for eight years. They met as teenagers in the church during Confirmation 17 years ago.

Jo-Ana is a Mathematics and Pure Mathematics teacher at St Anthony’s College and Kern, is a Quality Control Technician at Caribbean Bottlers.

Kern has been a parishioner at St Mary’s since birth through his mother Charmaine Roberts and Jo-Ana has been with the parish for almost 20 years.

“I first started off as an altar server then joined the choir,” she told Catholic News.

She added, “Kern and I have always loved music since we were children. I loved singing from a young girl… but I was very shy. I would always be singing at home and listening to music. My father’s family in particular love music and my aunts and uncles have great voices. I never formally learned music per se, but I’ve picked up a few skills along the way.”

Kern has also been involved in choir since he was a child with his parents. He learned to play the drum from friends and family and from the Kilimanjaro School of Arts and Culture based in Cocorite. He taught himself to play the guitar with the help of some past choir members.

“Music is a daily part of our lives. We listen to music all day and sing all day,” Jo-Ana said.

She described her choir mates as “family”, though none are formally trained in music, “but we do what we do and commit ourselves every Sunday to assist with the liturgy through song and love”.

The choir comprises Samantha Ramsaran-Alexander, coordinator and guitarist; siblings Marina Padia, Victoria and Matteui Mohan, who are also nieces and nephew of Ramsaran-Alexander. The siblings sing in the choir with Matteui on the drums; Dayna Douglas, percussionist and singer; Arianne De Gannes, singer and Deon Clarke, cousin of Kern Roberts, singer.

Then there are the other two members: Jace Roberts 7, and Nikolai Roberts 2, drummers.

The youngest members

According to their mother Jo-Ana, the boys learned to play drums from watching their father.

“They naturally picked it up,” she quipped. Jace even played at a school Christmas concert with his father, grandfather, and uncle when he was three years old.

Jo-Ana mentioned, “At first I was a little scared to let Jace play at Mass because I’m thinking, he so small and I don’t want anybody to say, ‘the little boy just making ah set of noise in the church’.”

She shared she initially did not take her children’s passion for drumming “seriously” until she observed they could play certain rhythms for Mass.

“But Fr Ashton Pierre and Fr Emmanuel Pierre both said, ‘if he wants to play let him play. He’s contributing’.”

According to Jo-Ana, the congregation always enjoy seeing the boys involved in the Sunday liturgy. “They are both very talented and enthusiastic and enjoy what they do,” she said.

Jo-Ana recalled when the boys were born, she would place them in the car seat in the pews during Mass. “As soon as they could sit properly and hold a drum, he was drumming in the choir, which was since he was two or so…and Nikolai just followed suit and he did the same thing.”

She continued, “I’m very surprised, I really didn’t expect Jace… Because the second one (Nikolai) is just following suit because you know ‘my brother playing so I want to play too’. He wants his own drum. I was surprised Jace took into it so

much. And when it had Covid, he would actually ask to go to church to play the drums. And he gets to be a part of the Mass and now he’s making First Communion, he knows certain things, because he knows when to stand, when to sit…They will know now I have to play this part of the Mass, so he gets to understand how the Mass going along.”

While the “best part” of their music ministry is working together as a family, the most challenging part, Jo-Ana added, is “keeping the two-year-old quiet for Mass. Sometimes he becomes restless, but other than that, it’s great. Everyone on the choir helps with them and are very supportive of each other.”

The boys do not rehearse ahead of the Sunday liturgy. “They play by ear because we have practice at 7.30 [on a Thursday] and they are usually asleep by then. If there is a song that maybe challenging, then Kern might give Jace a little run through of this is what to do and that’s it…but Nikolai, he just plays his own thing…They just do their own and it works out,” Jo-Ana said with a chuckle.

The Roberts family loves to sing and enjoy a variety of music, but the boys in particular enjoy Parang music. Nikolai likes ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘Alleluia’.

Ministry, Jo-Ana underscored is a natural part of their lives. “It’s almost weird not to do it. It doesn’t seem like something extra, it feels natural. We love taking long drives and listening to music while getting pizza and ice cream and of course we love playing music at home. The boys drum all day on everything: buckets, tables, anything.” Jace now plays the pan, and the family has a keyboard at home. “I don’t think they will stop actually.”

With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Roberts’ family had to adjust how they conducted their music ministry. “It was difficult for Jace because he missed playing for Mass and even going to church. At first, we had to leave them home for safety reasons and then it was difficult at first deciding even to carry them to Mass for safety reasons as well. Nikolai was born during the pandemic so for him going to church was strange at first, but he quickly adjusted and looks forward to it,” Jo-Ana said.

Her advice to families is to get kids involved at an early age. “Don’t be too scared. I was scared. Just encourage them and let them do whatever they like. Let them express themselves…in whatever capacity,” Jo-Ana said.