Talent on show at Cayman Arts Festival

 The Cayman Arts Festival 2010 wound up on Saturday 13 February  and the first three events showed the range of talent drawn this year.
   On Friday 5 February, the  opening night at First Baptist Church was notable for the link-up of singer Kim Criswell and skilful pianist Wayne Marshall.
   Billed as Broadway Comes to Cayman, the concert showcased Criswell’s impressive pipes and performance skills as she led the audience through selections from Broadway shows written by Bernstein, Weill, Cole Porter and Gershwin.
   Highlights included an amusing Island Magic, a plaintive Love For Sale, a sexy I Can Cook Too and a jazz-tinted A Foggy Day.
   Marshall also came to the fore with two spectacular solo improvisations based round themes from first Porgy & Bess and then West Side Story.
   The duo were fizzingly-suited to each other and the performance was full of personality, fun, the occasional tear and plenty of classy flourishes. For any fan of the musical, this was a treat althoug the crowd was a little less than capacity.
   Saturday saw more piano pyrotechnics, beginning with Cayman Arts Festival directors Glen Inanga and Jennifer Micallef on dual pianos for Laurent Sans-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals.
   Rita Estevanovich skilfully zipped between a series of different animals  using different clothes, poses and voices. She energetically inhabited each persona, all the while entertaining adults and kids alike with the rhymes and rhythms of each animal’s particular verse as written so memorably by Ogden Nash.
   Re-scoring an orchestral piece for two pianos is never going to capture all of the timbral representation and joyous musical satire of Sans-Saens’ original score, but the piece as a whole was engaging, lively and excellently-received from a crowd that ranged from tiny kids to their big kid parents.
   The second half of Saturday’s concert comprised the eagerly-awaited debut of 2+2=8. Wayne Marshall and John McLaughlin Williams joined Micallef and Inanga for the eight-handed set, and it was a programme that absolutely shimmered with excitement.
   The visceral nature of the multi-player experience was something to behold and with regular explanations behind the music from the protagonists, the audience was drawn into the world of these familiar pieces.
   Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture is a culturally-ubiquitous piece but the insight into its blending of La Marseillaise and traditional Russian folk song God Preserve Thy People was a welcome one.
   On paper, taking on such an enormous piece that in its full score features a massive orchestra and cannons could have been asking for trouble. But these are intensely-talented people, and the piece was powerful and triumphant.
   There was just time for an encore of a Khachaturian piece so frantic that manuscript paper was flying in all directions before an upbeat and exhilarated crowd bounced out into the scented evening air.
   Monday’s Rising Stars gig at Cayman International School’s Arts & Recreation Centre showcased local youngsters whose talents were given the respect of a decent stage with a good sound system and an audience made up of parents, friends and interested onlookers keen to spot the next big thing.
   Butterfield Young Musician of the Year 2009, steel pan player Azaiza La Pierre, opened it up before Francella Martin – only 12 – showed her flute playing. Saxophonist Melanie Ebanks played with sass before the hugely-gifted Beneil Miller coolly ran through Redemption Song. Another saxophonist, Zoey Robinson, had the crowd bopping before Dannia Clarke’s vocals took things into the break.
   The second half was opened by sax player Chantal Martin, then Maxim Kazakov fired out some exciting drum rhythms. Kenroy Milwood then teamed up with Beneil Miller to sing an original number, followed by soprano Appolina Bent.
   2008’s Butterfield Young Musician of the Year Michael Testori showed sax skills to end the solo section, before a quickly-assembled sax/drums ensemble sent the audience home happy as the first half of Cayman Arts Festival came to a close.

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