Tue | Jan 22, 2019

Educators, entertainers use concert to teach culture

Published:Sunday | October 22, 2017 | 12:00 AMStephanie Lyew
Actor-comedian and educator Owen ‘Blakka’ Ellis speaks passionately about culture and youth at Sts Peter and Paul Preparatory’s heritage day concert.
Dub poet and reggae musician Sheldon Shepherd shares a moment with Alana Thomas, a kindergarten student at Sts Peter and Paul Preparatory during the heritage concert.
Stephanie Lyew Chrysann Bernard stays in character of a 'South Parade Peddler' as the audience reacts to her rendition of the Louise Bennett poem.
Students of Sts Peter and Paul Preparatory do a skit to show unity of between Norman Manley and Alexander Bustamante and their political parties.
Sts Peter and Paul Preparatory’s acting principal for grades three and up, Claudia Nugent, shows off her bandana outfit.
Teachers of Sts Peter and Paul Preparatory concentrating on getting kumina dance moves correct at the school's heritage concert.

Saints Peter and Paul Preparatory School recently hosted a compelling Heritage Day celebration.

The event, under the theme 'Embracing Our National Heroes and Heroine in Concert', featured performances from the student body, the teaching and administrative staff, as well as guest performances by local entertainers.

Owen 'Blakka' Ellis, in spite of his fight with laryngitis for over a week, acted as the MC for the evening. He admitted that his original plan was to make the organisers aware of the condition of his voice then leave, but the actor/comedian decided to carry out the duties afforded to him, saying: "Where I am from, you live up to your word. if it is one small thing your body can do that signifies that you are not just ambitious but dedicated, is to just get up, dress up, and show up."

And that is what everybody did, dressed up in traditional bandanna fashion with an attitude that the show must go on. It commenced with a rhythmic drumming piece by members of the school's music club, followed by students of the kindergarten department performing a poem titled Do You Know the National Symbols?

The poem was transformed into an entire choreography of drama and dance, and though engaging, was inaudible to members of the audience seated a little way from the stage due to a few technical glitches. However, the toddlers were not distracted by the lack of microphone feed that resulted in the absence of sound almost halfway through the theatrical display.

The goal of the concert was to teach children about the fundamentals of Jamaican culture in a way that would allow them to participate and understand noting that the event is a prelude to the graded assessments to be given after the students return from the mid-term break.

Ellis, who is also known as an educator in theatre arts, language and literature, acknowledged that the topic of Jamaica's heritage could be used to create an organic curriculum to teach other subjects apart from social studies and not just last for the short celebration period, adding to the performing artist's reasons to stay for the duration of the concert.

In addition to dramatisations of the lives and works of past revolutionaries, a brief tribute to literary icon the honourable Louise 'Miss Lou' Bennett-Coverley, performed by Chrysann Bernard, enhanced the evening's activities. The grade-two student did a flawless interpretation of South Parade Peddler, written by Miss Lou, engaging parents, teachers, and their guests in a theatric walk through the audience and not hesitating to repeat the performance when an encore was solicited.

"When students are stakeholders in the pieces or items performed, it becomes more meaningful and strikes a cultural nerve or eureka moment that makes sense to them," said Francine George-Brooks, a teacher at the school.

The event closed with guest performer, Sheldon Shepherd, dub poet, reggae musician, and actor known for his role in the 2011 film Better Mus' Come sharing a collection of poems from his book In the Morning Yah after capturing the attention of the students with a question-and-answer session about dubpoetry and its place in Jamaica's culture. The concert lasted about four hours and seemed to capture the young audience's attention for the entire period.