Traditional charm adds special touch to Christmas concert

One student sweeps the sand yard.

If you ask most students today what their favorite music is, it’s likely none will immediately say “Quadrille.” But throw in a few old-time instruments, some catchy lyrics and one special music teacher, and you just might have children (and their parents, too), loving traditional Caymanian music.

It was certainly a festive atmosphere at East End Primary when the school held its annual Christmas concert Tuesday night.

The songs of famous Caymanian musicians such as East End fiddler Radley Gourzong and West Bay drummer Aunt Julia Hydes were performed with enthusiasm by the students at the concert spearheaded by teacher Trilby Lingard.

Student Shaquon Jackson, on drums, said it is fun to interact with music.

“It also tells me about Cayman long ago,” he said.

The catchy tunes also drummed up a lot of interest and excitement with other students, who were keen to get dressed up in old-fashioned clothes.

“I feel that these kinds of celebrations where the students are able to put action to the songs are the perfect opportunity for students to learn more about their Caymanian heritage.

“They [get to] re-enact how their parents and older folks celebrated Christmas in yesteryear, instead of just [having] the usual singing of Christmas carols,” said Ms. Lingard.

The children impressed parents with their parts in the musical skit taken from the pages of storyteller Twyla Vargas’s book of Caymanian stories, “Granny’s Back Yard.”

According to Ms. Vargas, who was helping Ms. Lingard with the concert, during Christmas the older folks would use things around the home to make music and play jokes on each other, which was their form of entertainment.

Students act out taking Mr. Bicum’s cow from the pasture.
Students act out taking Mr. Bicum’s cow from the pasture.

The skit tells the story of Ms. Stella raising six children, all with names beginning with the letter “S”: Sixlove, Seagrape, Sickening, Sleepy, Secret and Sevenfathers. She wants them to have traditional Cayman stew beef on the table for Christmas, but she can’t afford it.

Hatching a plan, she contacts her friend Sookie to help her get Mr. Bicum’s cow that is tied up in a cane patch on the Queen’s Highway.

Battling thousands of mosquitoes in the pitch dark, Ms. Stella and Sookie finally get the cow and drag it back home. Next morning they get a surprise: They have taken Mr. Bicum’s goat, resulting in much merriment.

As a music teacher and a pianist at the Bodden Town Church of God, Ms. Lingard has always played an important role in her classrooms when it comes to keeping Cayman’s traditional culture alive, and she loves to sing and share the songs of her childhood.

Born in George Town and raised in Bodden Town, Ms. Lingard worked for Cable & Wireless for many years before following her heart’s desire to become a music teacher.

She has rewritten a variety of school and church musicals which revolve around Caymanian traditions and culture, and in her spare time she teaches youths to play the piano.

While Ms. Lingard did not grow up in a musical household nor an era of thatch rope and land baskets, that is not stopping her from making it her priority to pass along her appreciation for Caymanian traditional music to students in her classroom. She takes the tales and music she’s learned over the years into schools, telling stories through her music of how musicians used such things as bath pans, spoons, washboards, pots and pans, old graters and sometimes a fiddle to make music.

“Music should not be limited just to outside songs. Students can also benefit from opportunities when they can explore and experiment with various instruments and sounds,” she said.

Ms. Lingard credits her upbringing in music to her mother Audrey and to pastor Hyacinth Rose. She learned to play the piano in the Roses’ living room, and on weekends she participated in recitals at the church and spent time on an old piano at home entertaining her siblings and parents.

Ms. Lingard has taught music in three government primary schools for the past 21 years, and she hosts numerous school and church musical events during Christmas and around Easter.

Though this educational program, she said, she is hoping to open doors to the past for the next generation.

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  1. If you missed this concert you missed something great. Everything about it was so Cayman traditional. Asked to be the narrator, this script written by Ms. Trilby Lingard with exerts taken from stories from Granny backyard were hilarious, interesting and funny, identified much about Cayman of the past. I joined Ms. Trilby Lingard in assisting to set the perfect stage, and go all out to make the play a success; portraying the completion of Ms. Stella’s old house, a cow, and goat. Quickly Ms Trilby said we also need to depict Mr. Radley Gourzong band. In no time children were eager to beat the bottom of an old bath pan, spoon up on a coconut grater and a box guitar. We rambled the back bushes of East End searching and cutting old silver thatch leaves to complete a roof on the house, backing a few buckets of white sand and gathering old conch shells to display and line a perfect old time front yard. House curtains were taken down at home and used to perfect the curtain draw for the stage; and surely it brought the house down with a loud sensational applause from the crowd. It was never a dull moment as the eager crowd enjoyed the singing and play acting of the children. I just had to compliment Ms Trilby in her hard work and effort to make this story come alive on stage, as I saw her work tirelessly like a bee getting everything perfect in such a short time. The concert was the best I have ever seen taken place at East End Primary school. It could be seen that all teachers made an effort with their class students to perform to perfection. The children were miraculous, with their sweet singing and performance, a job well done by all. Looking forward to next year to be even bigger and better.