Cayfest ends on a high note

After five weeks of comedy, dance, film and photography, Cayfest 2011 ended on Sunday with Music Unplugged, an upbeat recital that had audiences asking for more.

Organised by the Cayman National Cultural Foundation, Cayfest showcases local culture as it is evolving and as present-day performers pay tribute to tradition.

The Cayman Islands Folk Singers were on stage for most of the show along with drummers Randy Chollette and Damion Thaxter, guitarist Gordon Solomon and violinist Nayil Arana. Not easily seen were pianist Noel Wallace, who also directed the singers, and Paula Scott on the grater. Instrumentals provided several changes of pace and a chance for the singers to catch their breath. More importantly, they gave listeners an opportunity to focus on and appreciate the blending of strings and percussion.

Poems and seamen’s letters provided context for some of the songs, while lively movement and fluid re-groupings by the singers kept their audiences involved in the mood evoked or the story told.

One lively, well-known song, Munzie’s Boat in the Sound, became even livelier when Wardley Connolly and Rita Estevanovich added a little reel.

Another ditty was dramatically reinterpreted. Years ago, Aunt Julia Hydes wrote Cardile Gone a Cuba and chanted it while accompanying herself with enthusiastic drumming. The folk group sang an arrangement by Peter Ashbourne, one of Jamaica’s foremost composers: the addition of harmony and change in time signature created a beautiful romantic ballad.

Saturday’s programme at the Harquail Theatre included two hymns by the Savannah United Church Choir and a pre-recorded song by Quincy Brown with the reflective refrain, “I’m drinking from my saucer ‘cause my cup has overflowed.”

Also pre-recorded, but on video, was a brief interview with Aunt Julia, whose uninhibited responses had both nights’ audience guffawing.

Mike and Steve McTaggart made guest appearances, delighting everyone with their original song, Come Back Home to Your Island. Mike, the composer, played guitar while Steve sang the lyrics he wrote. Their song is gaining popularity, partly because of its sentiment and partly because the chorus makes people want to sing along.

Everyone on stage, behind stage and front of house could be proud of Music Unplugged. The successes of both evenings have given them bragging rights, so the next show of this kind should attract wider publicity and bigger audiences.


Wardley Connolly and Curtis Mason enact the role of bargemen on the Rio Grande.
Photo: Carol Winker