By: Jenifer Grant
SCEH was proud to send four talented young musicians to the annual Ste. Trinité Music Camp which was held this year at Terrier Rouge, in the north of Haiti. The cost of the almost three week music camp for each musician is only $100 which covers all costs, bed and board. They were able to join a bus engaged by the Ste. Trinité Music School bus at Pont Sondé, about a half hour from Deschapelles. This was the second year that SCEH was able to send Georges Petrix to Music Camp.
By: Jenifer Grant
By: Jenifer Grant
Who would have dreamed that the first efforts of Sister Cities Essex Haiti’s music project in 2012 would result in a first-ever performance in Deschapelles of a classical chamber concert with 6 musicians from the Ecole de Musique from Ste Trinité in Port au Prince? And to a SRO very enthusiastic audience! Castillo Saint Armand, Deschapelles resident, whose passion for the clarinet quickly outgrew the skills of the Fanfare Maestro Abner Achoule, continued to study on his own with additional music brought from the US. He attended the Ste Trinté Music Camp in nearby Cange for two successive summers and is now studying in Port au Prince with the first clarinetist in the Ste Trinité Philharmonic. He energized five of his friends from the school to travel to very rural Deschapelles to actually make this wonderful concert happen!
This was a highlight of the second Sister Cities Essex Haiti music week in Deschapelles this past April. Now, three years after our first trip working with the Fanfare Band, Maestro Abner Achoule has trained 20 additional musicians to be able to read music and play as a band. Both the Fanfare Band and the Beginner Band were delighted that Maestra Paddy (Hurley) would return, bringing music with requested “styles” such as jazz, swing, Bossa Nova. Ann Lander joined Paddy and myself. In addition to playing with the Old Lyme Band Ann also serves as the librarian for all their music, and her skills in that area were greatly appreciated as we juggled “feuilles” (sheets) of music between the two groups. We found that the Beginner Band had been taught excellent skills by Maestro Abner especially in reading music and playing as a group. A rigorous schedule of teaching two groups new music for a short week were demanding, but at the end of the week we delighted to be able to perform a joint concert showcasing the two groups’ new music and having them play one piece together – a first !
This July three additional promising musicians, identified by Paddy and Ann as ready to benefit from more rigorous instruction, will attend the Saint Trinité music camp.
Participating in Music Week in Deschapelles gave the three of us special opportunities to renew friendships, develop new ones, and create music together. To know that our project has inspired one musician to persevere and follow a classical route, that it has inspired Maestro Abner to teach so many budding musicians so well, and to be able to have three of the new Beginner Band qualify to attend the outstanding Ste. Trinité Music Camp is further than we ever imagined in 2012.
SCEH is immensely grateful for all the support that we have received from friends in Essex and beyond who share our desire to be able to respond to the requests from our friends in Deschapelles to enrich their lives.
By: Jenifer Grant
Thanks to the efforts of the Fanfare leader, Abner Achoule, and his brother Fednor who are teaching youth to play instruments, there is now a Beginner Band in Deschapelles. They are using the technique books, stands and musical instruments all donated by individuals and the Musical Fraternity’s SAI People to People program. They have performed for us several times and they are very impressive.
By: Jenifer Grant
We have been very fortunate to be able to bring down requested instruments to the members of the Deschapelles Fanfare Band, thanks to generous contributions from here in Essex, and Sigma Alpha Iota’s People to People Program’s continued support to both pay for and receive contributions of needed instruments. Each member of the band now has a wonderful instrument, and their playing is better than ever. In November 2012, I met with Abner Achoule, director of the Fanfare Band. He informed me that there are now 17 students from 7 years old to mid 20’s who are taking lessons from different members of the Fanfare Band. He had a list of the students and the instruments that were needed. Some were available from our previous contributions, but I realized it would be a stretch to gather up all the additional ones, especially two baritone horns and a tenor sax. At that point most of the students would take a lesson using the existing instrument of the teacher and only be able to play at that time. The very next day, in Haiti, I received an email from Liana Valente with a list of instruments that one of the branches of SAI had collected to donate to the outreach program. Every single one was on the list Abner had asked for. We had to purchase a few other instruments which were paid for by SAI, and now each student will have the instrument of his or her choice and be able to practice to his or her heart’s desire. In addition, a young man, Castillo Saint-Armand who had been taking clarinet lessons for about a year came to play two pieces for me – He has become an accomplished musician within one year, and as he so aptly stated, “I just love the clarinet.”
By: Jenifer Grant
A section of the Fanfare Band rehearsed and played for the “graduation” ceremony of Ecole Flamboyant, one of our EETT participating schools. Logan Floyd, an Essex resident who just graduated from high school, who traveled with us, had a chance to show them different “styles” of music from tapes he had. The Deschapelles musicians would like very much to have us come back and do a Music Workshop similar to the one we did a year ago. There are several requests for additional instruments.
Update-April 14, 2012
By: Jenifer Grant
The musicians had an opportunity to play for Sister Cities Essex Haiti Board member, Bob Lamothe, when he was visiting Deschapelles with a group form Yale University as part of a 5-year project of the Yale School of Forestry and Public Health. Bob is an accomplished musician and he and his Band provided the lively entertainment at the Have a Heart for Haitifundraiser on March 2, 2012. He was impressed with their musicianship and looks forward to returning to Deschapelles and being able to spend more time playing with them and expanding their “styles.”
During my visit to Deschapelles, April 1-14, I did not have a chance to visit with the musicians as I was primarily involved with the initiation of the Early Education Teacher Training program. But I did have a wonderful afternoon with Castillo St. Armand who has begun clarinet lessons. We played pieces together from the technique book I brought with me. As the hour progressed, we played some of the duets in the book. He is making very good progress, and he wanted especially to conquer the incidentals so he could begin to play jazz. Although there are no definite plans yet for a future trip, they are eager to continue our collaboration with the opportunity to play as a group under the direction of Maestro Paddy (Hurley), with the opportunity to work with musicians who are facile in playing by ear, with the expansion of their existing skills venturing into jazz, bosso nova, blues and salsa.
Update-October 22, 2011
By: Jenifer Grant
One of my missions on my recent trip to Deschapelles (Oct 16-Oct 22, 2011) was to meet with the Deschapelles Fanfare Band. A newly formed SCEH Music Committee realized that we had not had the opportunity to sit down with the Band following the concert, and we wanted to get more information from them, in order to continue to be better collaborators.
It was my great pleasure to meet with them all for about an hour when I had a chance to ask questions and also listen to their desires.
The instruments we bring belong to ODES. The musicians must sign a contract acknowledging that ownership and agree to be good custodians of the instruments. If anyone ceases to be a member of the band or if they leave Deschapelles, the instrument will be returned to ODES. This assures that the Deschapelles Fanfare Band will always have instruments for their band even if the players go elsewhere. I had the pleasure of reviewing the contract, which a committee of three had drafted.
How did they learn to play? Most had had some instruction in either a music school or in school itself or from someone who played the instrument and was willing to teach.
How did they learn their songs? They learn them by listening to other Fanfare Bands, but mostly by solvege, Leonce Pierrestyle, a talented trombonist, is able to write the notes down when he hears a song and then the others can play the song in their key. They practice as a group and say the practice daily.
Acknowledging our respect for their talent, I asked them “where they wanted to go” with their music and how we could help them. They are are all eager to improve their individual skills. What they would really like to do is to broaden their styles, which would put them a step or two above other Fanfare Bands; Salsa, Bossa Nova, Blues and Jazz.
They would love to have a guest artist come to play and then follow with discussions. And they liked the idea of inviting other Fanfare Bands to come to Deschapelles to have a Fanfare Jamboree,
They asked me to express their deep gratitude to all those responsible for the collaboration and requested that we continue to collaborate.
THE MUSIC PROJECT
In April 2011, members of a Deschapelles band, Fanfare, submitted an application to Sister Cities Essex Haiti for a musical exchange and support for their band. In May 2011, after consultation with ODES and using the criteria established to determine the appropriateness of suggested projects, the Sister Cities Essex Haiti Board of Directors approved a Music Project which commenced with “Music Week” in June 2011.
Many towns in Haiti have local Fanfare Bands. They are hired to play at funerals and they also play for different “occasions.” Deschapelles has such a band. The musicians often march as they play, and they play all their music from memory.
The quality of the music varies often according to the skill level and also the quality of the instruments. The bass drum they have been using was borrowed and had only one head, and that one was held together by tape. The mallet was a stick with a sock at the end. The snares on the snare drum were totally loose. One trumpet was badly dented, with holes in the tubing that were taped, and lacked the buttons for the valves. Nonetheless, the musicians were able to produce joyous music despite the condition of their instruments.
On a trip to Haiti in February 2011, Jenifer Grant, a director of SCEH, mentioned that a friend, a band conductor in Essex, had expressed interest in traveling to Haiti. The Fanfare Group were thrilled, and submitted a project proposal for “Music Week in Haiti.” They were particularly eager that “Music Week” coincide with the annual Hospital Albert Schweitzer birthday celebration and Dr. Mellon’s birthday, June 26th. Fanfare members were eager to augment their musical repertoire, work with a “Maestro,” receive additional instruments, and generally increase their skills.
Concurrently, Karen Birch, the creator of the Oboe Concert, which was held in May 2011 in Essex to benefit SCEH, was in touch with Sigma Alpha Iota, a national musical fraternity which had been given donations for music in Haiti through their People to People Project . They were delighted to form an alliance with Sister Cities Essex Haiti to enable it to purchase instruments, music stands, and music books for the Music Project. Stuart Ingersoll and Face Arts Music in Deep River, Connecticut made it possible for Sister Cities Essex Haiti to purchase the instruments at very affordable prices.
Sister Cities Essex Haiti received additional instruments as donations from Essex-area residents. Over several years Jenifer Grant had delivered two trombones and three trumpets to Deschapelles musicians.
By June 2011, Sister Cities Essex Haiti was either given or was able to purchase another trombone, an alto sax, two more trumpets, two clarinets, a flute, a bass drum, a snare drum and a baritone, all instruments that were requested by Fanfare. It also obtained technique books for each instrument in the band, sheet music, twenty music stands, and clothes pins to hold the music on the stands when the wind blew.
In June 2011, five musicians from the United States travelled to Deschapelles with the musical instruments: Maestro and trumpeter par excellence, Patricia (Paddy) Hurley, founder of the Essex Community Music School, creator and conductor of the adult New Horizons Band (for adults who either wanted to learn a musical instrument or get reacquainted with their instruments), and a teacher of music for her entire career; Roger LeCompte (alto sax) and Jenifer Grant (clarinet), each members of the New Horizons Band; and three youth; Alec Goodrich (trumpet) and Nick Smith (trombone and percussion) from Essex; and Jenifer’s grandson Reid Kellogg (trumpet and percussion) from Boulder CO. Tom Briggs, of the Community Music School, orchestrated two pieces for the group: Home on the Range, to evoke Dr. and Mrs. Mellon’s time in Arizona, and a medley of “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” and “Amazing Grace.”
Sister Cities Essex Haiti had been told that the musicians could all read music. As the musicians gathered together the first morning, they were not sure how this was all going to work. Only Jenifer had heard the band previously. Everyone set up stands, distributed music, put the drums together, and began playing a few rudimentary scales and exercises from the technique books. It was a bit like first day in school – getting to know each other and becoming familiar with the different groups’ expectations and hopes.
Patricia quickly ascertained that their skills were generally good and their ability to read music was strong enough to move along quite quickly. Rehearsals took place every morning from 8:00 to 9:30 and sometimes in the afternoons. After two days of rehearsals, the SCEH musicians attended a Fanfare performance and became acutely aware of Fanfare’s competency. They all wondered what they thought they were doing, thinking they could augment Fanfare’s skills.
By the end of the week, however, the SCEH musicians had exposed Fanfare to quite a few new skills: reading music; being able to play a piece of music which had many different parts played by the different instruments; how to read the “road map” of a piece with repeats and first and second endings; how to play “piano” and “forte” (Fanfare bands specialize in “forte”);and how to follow the tempo set by the “Maestro” including retards at the end and changing tempos within a piece. The Fanfare musicians also learned to play in several different keys augmenting their one key repertoire. The combined group was able to play five pieces at the Saturday concert. A remarkable achievement, considering the fact that they had only six days to prepare.
Most importantly, Sister Cities Essex Haiti and Fanfare established personal relationships with one another, participated in the 55th annual celebration of the founding of Hospital Albert Schweitzer, and fulfilled the mission of Sister Cities Essex Haiti, to build a mutual long-term relationship between the citizens of Essex CT and the people of Deschapelles, their extended communities, and Hospital Albert Schweitzer, located in Deschapelles. Furthermore, it is a long term sustainable project as Sister Cities Essex Haiti has been invited by Fanfare to return to continue the musical collaboration.
Reflections from Patricia Hurley
(Patricia was the “Maestro” of the Music Project. She is a founder of the Community Music School in Essex, creator and conductor of the New Horizons Band, trumpeter, and spent her career teaching music to youth and adults.)
My Haiti Experience: June, 2011
I tried to prepare by reading the biography of Jenifer’s mother and stepfather, “Song of Haiti”, which provided background on Jenifer’s life as well. I had supported the Sister Cities Essex Haiti project and was aware that several Essex people had begun projects in Deschapelles, including establishing a library, but was a bit dubious about the music project: that is, until I met the musicians…… To continue to share Paddy’s reflections, please click here. She concludes by saying: I have to say that the week in Deschapelles was one of the most rewarding of my teaching career. The experience of working with talented, eager and grateful musicians in what some often consider as a third world county was unique, and I think that we all came to respect and appreciate each other’s gifts through the music that we shared. We urge you to click here to learn more!
Vignettes from Jenifer Grant, June 2011
(Jenifer is a founder, director and Secretary of Sister Cities Essex Haiti. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of The Grant Foundation, which operates Hospital Albert Schweitzer, and the daughter of Gwen Mellon and stepdaughter of Larry Mellon, the founders of Hospital Albert Schweitzer.)
Stéphane Thierry Jn. Louis, 21 years old, is a percussionist. He joined us as snare drummer. We quickly observed that he needed to hold the music in one hand, close enough to see it. We managed to get him an appointment at Hôpital Albert Schweitzer with the Ophthalmologist. We learned along the way that he lived in Port au Prince until the earthquake when he moved to Petite Riviere, just across the Artibonite River from Hôpital Albert Schweitzer. We did find out that he still has family in Port au Prince, but the full story of why he relocated to Petite Riviere, following the earthquake, like so many in Port au Prince, is yet to be learned. Despite his difficulty in seeing the music, once he read the beats, he then proceeded with his good memory to put down the music and play with both hands.
To read more of Jenifer’s Vignettes about the Deschapelles musicians, please click here.