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University of Southern Caribbean concert to raise funds for music scholarships

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Andrew Gioannetti  USC's vocal acapella group Identity performing its arrangement of A Christmas Remix with international vocalist Kevin Whalum at TSG 2019. -
USC's vocal acapella group Identity performing its arrangement of A Christmas Remix with international vocalist Kevin Whalum at TSG 2019. -

ANDREW GIOANNETTI

A UNIQUE and diverse group of performers, from seven-year-olds Coryn Clarke and Asaiah Hislop to the more established actor and poet Derron Sandy, will feature at the University of the Southern Caribbean (USC) music department's year-end production, The Greatest Story, Thrill of Hope.

The opening night and gala will take place at USC, Maracas, St Joseph, on December 3 at 8 pm, and a second martinee show on December 4, from 5 pm. The show moves to Shaw Park Cultural Complex in Tobago on December 15 at 6 pm.

The last edition of The Greatest Story (TGS) series was held in 2019 and was themed around Bethlehem, focusing on the biblical journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus.

The biblical narrative continues this year, focusing on the Jesus's life.

Kerron Hislop, chair of the USC's Department of Music and Fine Arts, said the show seeks to "reignite some hope as a society that despite the many obstacles around us, we can rally show love and care for each other," particularly coming out of the hiatus caused by the covid19 pandemic.

"This depiction of the story will (highlight) a little shepherd boy, who is an aspiring musician. Shepherding is the family business, and his family expects him to continue that tradition, but he has other ideas. His dreams are big, but his talent so far is a little lacking, and his family lets him know it," he said.

A reenactment of the Birth of Jesus, Mary played by Kadesha Wilson, Shepherds Shalyk St Juste and Hilton Moore at TGS 2019. -

Hislop boasted about the interesting combination of talents.

Sandy, 2021 National Poetry Slam champion and best actor awardee at the Conch Shell Film Festival 2022, helped write the script with USC faculty member Tracy Hislop and student Ayodele Cudjoe.

Sandy will perform, along with 2007 Digicel Rising Star Kay Alleyne-Meloney, the St Hillaire Brothers, John Thomas, Wayne Harri, Maracas SDA Primary choir, Mt St George SDA drama group from Tobago, and Shurnelle Spencer.

The Tobago event will also include Lucretia "Lucky" Horrell, Sharon Phillips, Junior Archer, The Music Amateurs, Lambeau Anglican School Choir, and others.

Clarke and Hislop (Asaiah) are ambitious children with multiple talents. She is believed to have been the youngest person to publish a book in TT, writing and releasing Chronicles of Coryn: 7 Days of Fun, in 2020, when she was just four years old. She has since published two more books.

Asaiah has been an honorary member since she was a year old as both parents are heavily involved in the operations of the group.

His father, Kerron, described him as an avid reader and animal enthusiast and loves storytelling.

"He even assisted his mom in the writing of the script and excitedly volunteered to be part of this year's cast. He has been a featured speaker at a number of church-related events," Hislop said.

The production will feature a score of all-new music from USC ensembles, including its concert band, steel orchestra, jazz ensemble, women’s chorus, and its award-winning University Choir and Orchestra (UCO).

"UCO, an ensemble unique to our region, is a 100-piece group that features a mass choir and live orchestra performing exciting contemporary music arrangements," Hislop explained.

The primary objectives, it said, are to raise funds to provide music scholarships for needy students and also serves to engage the community in a meaningful way.

TGS was originally inspired by the biblically-based theatre productions of Sight & Sound Theatres in Pennsylvania, USA.

USC said the event concept was developed in conjunction with USC Music's collaborative partners, the Durey & Lesli Foundation, an organisation founded and run by USC alumni.

Singer Kay Alleyne-Meloney performing Do You Hear What I Hear with the USC University Choir and Orchestra. -

"Over the years, our event has been fortunate to achieve many of its objectives, integrating many aspects of the creative arts into a unique annual production that hundreds eagerly anticipate,"

The show has also benefited from collaborations between local talents and international artists, like BET’s Sunday Best finalist, singer Maurice Griffin, Grammy-nominated producer/performer Roger Ryan, and Stellar Award nominee Kevin Whalum.

The first edition of the TGS series was hosted in 2018. The third instalment was due to be held in December 2020 but was forced to be postponed owing to the pandemic.

"Though the pandemic is not entirely behind us, we have learned to live with the virus," Hislop said.