The Catholic News (CN) features some of our Catholic composers of hymns, and songs of praise and worship to find out how their creations were inspired. CN hopes this will generate awareness of the persons contributing to the liturgy and providing form to our many expressions of fidelity, love, thanks, gratitude to God.
Winston Garcia began singing Calypso and Folk songs as a child, trying to emulate his brothers. His family lived in Siparia and in village life then, they entertained themselves performing songs and steelpan music in their yard; he played ‘iron’.
When they moved to Arima, he was still singing and a few people began calling him ‘The Mighty Pepper Fly’; he still doesn’t know where the name came from. Growing up in the 1970s Garcia attended Mass in Santa Rosa. He had a thirst to know more about God.
In the aftermath of the 1970 Black Power revolution, he began having questions about the Catholic faith and the Church. How can he be part of a Church brought by the Europeans, and their role enslaving Black people?
“I began to question everything, Why I making the ‘Sign of the Cross’? Why I receiving Communion? Why I have to go to Confession, go to Mass?…It was not making sense to me at all. And people that I asked about it, I was getting different answers from different people.”
He considered exploring other religions and attended a Seventh Day Adventist crusade but when the altar call came, his feet would not budge. Garcia said he confided to a friend that he could not find God in the Catholic Church.
“My life not changing. I going to church and receiving Communion and in youth group, was the President of the youth group, but I still cussing, still lying to my mother and so on.”
The friend invited him to attend a Life in the Spirit seminar. This was “a life-changing experience”. The date was June 25, 1977, and Garcia said: “It was if a light came on, all the questions I had about God, about life, faith, the Church, just get blown away and I developed this deep relationship with the Lord. I used to cry a whole lot.”
While walking home that night, he says a song dropped into his heart. “Come Holy Spirit and fill us, we want to be more like Jesus; we are seeking the kingdom where Jesus is king, so come Holy Spirit we want to be like Him”. He was 19 years old. The song was spread by prayer groups and was sung at rallies.
Garcia began writing other songs. He is confident that his new relationship with the Lord triggered a gift that was dormant.
Praise the Trinity
‘Praise the Trinity’ came out of rehearsals of the national choir of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal for a charismatic rally. Sr Thérèse Dookeran OP led the choir, and knowing he composed songs, asked him to compose something for Trinity Sunday (June 4). She commented there were no songs specifically for the Trinity.
He agreed to try and prepared by reading about and reflecting on the Trinity. “I went to another choir practice and she asked, ‘you have anything?’ and I said ‘nothing yet’. She said ‘okay, keep trying’” Garcia said.
The chorus came like a “bang” but he decided not to share it with anyone. “I wasn’t sure if it was good enough, if it was perfect. I was trying to put the words in music so it would be perfection, it would flow, it would be beautiful and so on,” Garcia said.
He sang the chorus to himself, feeling pleased with how it sounded. At the next practice, he was again asked by Sr Thérèse and admitted to having only a chorus. “Praise the Trinity/Glorious Trinity/Come in God’s presence rejoicing with singing/ Extolling His glorious name”.
She wanted to teach the chorus there and then. Garcia said he felt very afraid. “I felt if they rejected it….it would affect me really bad because I had low self-esteem in those days.” He traces this back to growing up poor and not having “the normal things most children have”.
The choir learned the chorus quickly and Sr Thérèse urged him to write the verses. A week passed and there was nothing, a second week passed meanwhile, the choir continued rehearsing the chorus.
The verses came as unexpectedly as the chorus. Garcia was late for an outing the choir had at the Asa Wright Nature Centre, Arima. He remembers running on a track through a bushy area to catch up. The words of a verse began coming—“Praise to the Father who dwells in Israel’s praise…”
“The words just started flowing and I could not run anymore, I just slowed down and sing it. I did not have paper but I got the first verse in the bush, and I kept singing it over and over so I would not forget it.”
He caught up with the group but kept to himself as he did not want to talk to someone and lose the words. The first verse was presented at the next practice and it was well received.
Sr Thérèse urged him to write more verses to complete the song. He settled in a quiet place to complete the song, keeping in mind that it must deal with the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and people of God.
“This is Trinidad, this is us, this is our thing. We are people of the Trinity and so on,” Garcia said. The song was first performed at a rally at Jean Pierre Complex, with thousands in attendance.
When Pope John Paul II visited Trinidad February 5, 1985 there was a Mass at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. ‘Praise the Trinity’ was sung for the entrance procession. “I myself couldn’t believe God could use me to do something like that,” Garcia said excitedly, remembering the moment.
Garcia has written several songs although he commented only 12-15 are well known, like ‘River of Grace’ and ‘Come Follow Me’.
Garcia would rate ‘Praise the Trinity’ as his top song because of how it was easily embraced. He sees it as a song not just for a parish but for the nation. He continued, “It was the song that kickstarted and made me known as a composer. In those days I couldn’t read music; I now have a degree in Music from UWI (The University of the West Indies, St Augustine)…so it was just natural ability and inspiration I was able to produce that”.
Praise the Trinity (Praise)
– Winston Garcia
Praise the Trinity.
Come in God’s presence
Rejoicing with singing,
Extolling His glorious Name. (Repeat)
Come, all you people,
This is the day of the Lord.
Great and Mighty is Yahweh,
Greatly and mightily praised.
Praise to the Father,
He dwells in Israel’s praise,
Bringing deliverance and freedom
To all who delight in His ways.
Praise be to Jesus,
Who loved not His life unto death.
By His blood He redeemed us,
His love we will never forget.
Praise to the Spirit,
The Gift of the Father above.
He has filled us with boldness
Power and victory and love.
We are the family of Yahweh,
We are His very own.
Enter the Holy of Holies
In worship before His Throne.