CULTURAL icon Charles Cadet is well-known in the Saint Lucian folk music sphere. He comes from a family of naturally-talented musicians and his innate talent to create beautiful music has bequeathed to Saint Lucia many outstanding and memorable works.
Cadet’s claim to fame includes him teaming up with playwright, Roderick Walcott, on the music for the play, “Banjo Man”, as well as the musicals, “The Legend of Tom Fool”, “Chanson Marianne”, “The Guitar Man’s Song” and “The Wonderful World of Brother Rabbit”. He has also worked with poet, Mc Donald Dixon, to compose the music for “Tinday” that was performed at CARIFESTA 1992. One of his songs, “Poinsettia Blossoms”, sung by ChesterHinkson and later sung by Lenny Stone, has become a classic, especially during the Christmas season in Saint Lucia.
Cadet’s musical genius has spanned many decades. In fact, when Saint Lucia gained independence from Britain on February 22, 1979, he composed “Mass for Independence” especially for the occasion. He was the first recipient of the M&C Fine Arts Lifetime Achievement Award and was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1987 and the Saint Lucia Cross (SLC) in 2005 for distinguished and outstanding service to Saint Lucia. In 2010, Cadet was named a Saint Lucian icon following the production of a book, “Iconic Saint Lucians”, which paid tribute to outstanding Saint Lucians.
In 1986, Cadet’s “Chanson Marianne” was featured at London’s Albert Hall at a concert there and was performed by 100 schoolchildren. Also, the London premiere of the cantata, “A Dream of Freedom”, which paid tribute to Jamaica’s 25th anniversary of Independence from Britain, was composed by Cadet and Richard Beckford to words by Norman Rae. Moreover, his “Kyrie” was used to analyze the impact of cultural hybridization in the BBC Open University Programme.
Last October, the Cultural Development Foundation (CDF) in collaboration with the Saint Lucia School of Music (SLSM) selected Cadet as the first cultural icon to be honoured at the inaugural concert to be hosted by the recently-formed Cultural Icons Project. Funds from the concert will go towards supporting community outreach programmes across Saint Lucia. The concert will also be recorded and subsequently available for sale on DVD.
Organizers say the principal aim of the concert – dubbed “Ode To An Artist: Celebrating Charles Cadet” — is to pay tribute to Cadet who has dedicated much of his life to the preservation of the island’s culture through his music. Originally slated for December 14, that concert has now been postponed to coincide with next year’s National Arts Festival and Independence (February to March). Organizers say the reason for the postponement was because many other events were being held in December that would have taken away much attention from the concert.
“The concert will be engineered, scripted and centred on the life and work of Charles Cadet,” Drenia Frederick, CDF’s Director of Events and Production, says. “It’s going to be a historic moment for Saint Lucia.”
At the concert, close to 100 artistes will perform traditional and contemporary interpretations of Cadet’s music as well as the premiere of an entirely new work – the Folk Requiem – “La Fin Journee”, arranged by Gregory Piper, who will serve as the concert’s musical director. Artistes have agreed to perform at either vastly reduced rates or for free for the event. Some of those slated for the concert are Royal Saint Lucia Police Band, Saint Lucia School of Music Youth Orchestra, Cecilian Rays, Justus Choir, Cathedral Choir, Shirley-Ann Cyril, ElraErmay, Barbara Cadet, Lenny Stone, Menell, Sarai I’ Shine, Shayne Ross, TC Brown, Ronald “Boo” Hinkson, Teddyson John, Francis John, the Ideals, Associate Professor of Music Composition at the University of North Carolina (Greensboro), Alejandro Rutty and his wife Dr. Lorena Guillen.
CDF’s Director of Business Development and Marketing, Finola Prescott, said Cadet’s contribution to Saint Lucia’s music landscape is immense, adding that his name popped up almost immediately when brainstorming for the selection of an icon to honour at the inaugural staging of the concert began. However, she said, the committee remains open to suggestions for names for subsequent similar concerts.
“We’re very happy that he’s the first on our list. We also want to be able to include people who would have done something very impactful that it makes a huge difference for Saint Lucia. So we’re looking for and are open to suggestions and input as to what people feel should be included as well because this is a national celebration. It has to reflect the feelings of the nation and their need for the recognition of our icons,” Prescott said.
While organizers are pitching the idea of hosting the concert annually, they concede that tapping into the requisite resource channels to fund such ventures continues to be an uphill struggle. Nevertheless, they say they will continue to market the idea to prospective sponsors with the hope of convincing them to buy into the venture. According to Prescott, the project is only fitting for those who would have given themselves and their time to country.
“We would love to do an annual recognition concert,” Prescott said. “But at this point, we are still developing our support for the project. That will depend a lot on what we can handle and the support that we can drum up from our sponsors. There are a lot of people to recognize in Saint Lucia and I think we are all aware that a number of them are in their elder years. So we would like to recognize as many as we can as quickly as we can. But that is going to become a regular feature on the cultural landscape for Saint Lucia.”
Executive Director of the Saint Lucia School of Music, Richard Payne, seemed to suggest that missing the upcoming concert would be synonymous with missing out on the some of the sweetest and most inspirational musical notes the nation has ever produced. Payne, a pianist and composer, said Cadet’s work needs to reach the wider Saint Lucian audience. The concert, he believes, is just one of the means to do so.
“Charles Cadet is a very prolific composer. He’s performed close to 100 pieces. In fact, many of us don’t even know that some of the pieces we know and love were actually composed by him or involved him in some way. In a sense, the purpose of the concert is to help us discover or rediscover Charles Cadet’s music,” Payne said.
Stan Lennie Stone is the original singer and Chester recorded it years later. The song was recorded in the U.K . I remember Lennie told me that he never meet the musicians, a group of men came, pull up their instrument music sheets, play then left. I wish to congratulate the organisation for seeing the need to honor this “ICON” CHARLES CARDET. Congratulations to you sir.